It’s time to learn tangible tools to control your anxiety, so that it stops controlling you!
Feeling anxious is uncomfortable, painful and difficult to manage in every which way.
Your body is on overdrive.
You can’t think straight.
Everything feels like it’s crashing down at any moment and you just can’t stop the chaos.
The truth is that anxiety is a symptom of some deeper stuff within you – stuff that you may or may not be aware of when the anxiety sneaks up and grabs you.
Yet, while you’re feeling these obsessive worries of the unknown and the inability to breathe, all you want is for the uncomfortable feelings to go away.
You don’t need to know the root cause of your anxiety while you’re in the height of it. You need relief.
In fact, trying to “figure it out” is working against you by increasing your anxiety. So instead of trying to think your way through it, use a tool or two that decreases your symptoms first. You can explore the root causes later, if needed. The following tools are designed for just that…to alleviate some of the pain of your anxiety.
You can try one or more and record what helps you most, so you know what “remedy” you need in future moments of stress, anxiety or panic.
1. Look Down:
Neuroscience has proven that looking up activates your nervous system more than looking down. So, if you have anxiety aim to keep your gaze at or below eye level, still keeping your chin parallel to the floor. Additionally, for most people looking up or looking down with a tucked chin results in compression of the cervical spine and constricts the breath, which increases activation of your central nervous system.
2. Get Embodied:
This means not just generally moving, but rather getting connected to your body in conscious and mindful ways.
- One simple way to do this is to stand up without shoes on, feet about hips width distance apart and slight bend in your knees.
- First, feel the floor beneath your feet.
- Then, as you ground through your feet, consciously lift your toes up, keeping all three corners of your feet pressing evenly into the floor (big toe mound, little toe mound and heel) and ankles staying aligned with shins.
- Notice the sensation in each part of your foot (sole and top of foot), then each toe, then move up your to ankles, lower legs and upper legs. Feel your body from the inside out.
That’s all it takes!
3. One-Two Breathing (with visualization):
Many of us are mouth-breathers. Breathing in and out through your mouth increases the activation of your central nervous system. Try this breathing technique, that’s proven to calm your system waaaaay down.
- Close your eyes and sit or stand tall in your spine with your chin parallel to the floor.
- Seal your lips gently and soften your tongue, separating your top teeth from your bottom teeth.
- Now, simply breathe in for a count of 3 and on your exhale let it take 6 counts to fully release your breath. Keep breathing like this, counting your inhale at 3 and your exhale at 6, all through your mouth. Feel the breath moving through you and visualize it ballooning your lungs and expanding your rib cage and feeling your belly.
- Do at least one minute or maybe more like this. If this 3 to 6 ratio feels like too much, then cut it to 2 counts on your inhale and 4 counts on your exhale. The most important things are that the breath is going in and out through your nose, that your exhale is double the amount of your inhale and that you are visualizing the breath moving in your body.
4. Look at Fractals:
Science has proven that looking at repeating patterns (also called fractals) in nature, art or architecture can create a calming effect on your brain, thereby calming your body. Try taking 20 minutes in an environment with visuals of snowflakes, repeating swirls in a painting or ocean waves all help to take you away from stress. There are tons of these online and you can just flip through them, noticing your body shifts as you focus your attention on the movement of the photos.
5. Ground your Body:
Laying on the floor and feeling the firmness of the floor supporting your body can help to reduce anxiety. Stay present to your body – noticing which parts of it are touch the floor and which parts don’t. Consider doing a brief mental body scan to notice what sensations are in each part of your body or try the breathing technique listed above. Even better? Put some weight on top of you while you lay down (a weighted blanket, a sandbag, or a yoga bolster) to increase the calming effect.
6. Take a Forest Bath:
As strange as it may seem, being near trees and plant-life has been shown to enhance your mental health and reduce anxious feelings. People who walked for approximately 20 minutes in woodsy areas were shown to have lowered stress hormones. While you’re at it, you may want to try a walking meditation like this one.
7. Do Something Creative:
Refocusing your attention on creative activities that use your hands helps to reduce the obsessing that anxiety can often induce. The activity you choose might be something traditionally creative like drawing, painting, or writing…or you may choose something less traditional like cooking, craft-making, molding things out of clay or coloring in and adult coloring book. All of these creative activities help to reduce your mind and responses to anxiety.
8. Get present to RIGHT NOW:
Notice if you’re playing what I like to call the “If-Then Game.” You’re 10 steps ahead of the present moment and spinning about things that may or may not happen (if this then that and if that then this…and so on). These are made up scenarios that aren’t grounded in any reality. They are grounded in your fear. However, your brain doesn’t know this and it sends signals to your body to go into high danger alert mode.
- When you catch yourself doing this, pause and take a big breath.
- Then, ask yourself – “What’s true for me right now, in this very moment?”
- Next, answer your question. First checking in with breath and body, than moving to environment around you, using as many senses as you can.
- For example: What’s true for me right now is that I’m sitting on a chair in my office with two feet on the ground. I’m breathing a little more constricted than normal and it feels heavy in my chest. My heartbeat seems a little fast right now. I feel the smoothness keys below my fingertips on my keyboard as I type and I can hear the keys clicking. I see the sun outside and some clouds. I smell my tea next to me. There are the faint sounds of horns honking. I’m safe. Doing this exercise helps to ground you back into what’s real right now and creates a calming effect on your body and mind.
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P.S. Did you know I offer private sessions both virtually and in person? Learn how to listen to your internal wisdom with a trained MindBodyWise therapist. Learn more here.
P.P.S. Wondering if you’re in-tune with your mind-body connection? Take the free Mind-Body IQ quiz here. Wondering where you can connect with other people that are similar to you? Join us in the free, private MindBodyWise Living Room group on Facebook!