If you can get yourself into a natural environment quickly and easily, nature is shown to reduce the stress response. Touching things like stone, the grass, water, or just feeling a breeze can center you and soothe your frazzled psyche.
If you can control your breathing, you can control your state. Ever notice how your breathing gets short and quick when you’re anxious--close to hyperventilating? Well, taking control of your breath by forcing yourself to take long, slow, deep breaths literally changes your physiology to reduce anxiety. Deep breathing oxygenates your cells more effectively to bring your rational mind back on line.
If you struggle with chronic or acute anxiety, learn some breathing techniques ahead of time so you can use them to soothe your mind and body when anxious feelings arise.
When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, do your best to visualize a scene that makes you feel at peace. Picture yourself in your bed, on a beach--whatever your happy place is.
When we visualize, the feelings we associate with that scene arise in our physiology. If you were to visualize an experience that scared you, you would feel a rush of adrenaline and all the classic signs of a stress response--sweating, a rise in blood pressure, and racing thoughts. It wouldn’t matter if you were in a perfectly safe environment--just the visualization would change your state.
When you visualize a scene that you associate with peace and calm, your physiology changes to soothe instead of excite your body--no matter the present circumstances that are making you anxious. The stronger and clearer you can make the image in your head, the more you’ll feel it.
If you’re in a setting where you can lay down, try doing progressive muscle relaxation techniques. One of the ways anxiety manifests in the body is through muscle tension, so doing your best to relax your muscles can help you feel less anxious by tackling one of the classic symptoms of anxiety.
There are tons of videos and guides out there for muscle relaxation. It’ll give you something to focus on other than how you feel, distract you from your anxious thoughts, and diminish your muscle tension.
Take your mind off of your symptoms and anxious thoughts by distracting yourself with the environment around you. The great thing about this technique is that you can do it anywhere, so if anxiety strikes in the middle of the grocery store or alone in your house, this can be a go to path to relief.
When you start to feel anxious, use the 5-4-3-2-1 method to distract and ground yourself. List 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You’ll be surprised how well you can stop the anxiety spiral by doing this right when you start to feel anxiety rising up.
Dealing with anxiety can be overwhelming, but know that you are not powerless! There are many strategies that can help you regain your calm when anxiety tries to steal your peace. Try these out, and you’ll be amazed by how much shorter and less intense your anxiety attacks become. Getting in the habit of doing these things regularly--not just when in crisis--will help prevent anxiety attacks too, and make you more practiced and prepared when you need to use them.