At some point, we all feel overwhelmed or stressed. When this happens, it feels like you’re drowning underwater -- which can lead to nervousness, tension, a racing heartbeat or a panic attack. Thankfully, when you do experience these feelings there are simple ways to help you calm down and relax right now.
“The first thing to do when you get anxious is to breathe,” said Tom Corboy, MFT, the founder and executive director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, and co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD. The reason? It’s a fast and simple way to release the body’s relaxation response.
“Try slowly inhaling to a count of 4, filling your belly first and then your chest, gently holding your breath to a count of 4, and slowly exhaling to a count of 4 and repeat several times,” recommends Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC.
2. Take a time-out.
Stop what you’re doing and step away from the problem to clear your head. During this time meditate, listen to relaxing music, or go for a walk outside.
3. Regain control of your thoughts.
This may be the most challenging when struggling with anxiety. But, it is possible by trying out techniques like:
Reeling yourself back into the present by asking questions like “What’s happening right now?” and “Am I safe?”
Relabel what’s happening by reminding yourself that what you’re feeling is harmless and temporary.
Fact-check your thoughts by challenging your fears and determining if they’re real or not.
4. Practice self-care.
Self-care doesn’t always involve going on an expensive trip to a spa. You can do this at home by taking a hot bath, smelling soothing scents like lavender, drinking herbal teas, or massaging your hand.
5. Write it out.
Writing down what’s making you anxious gets there thoughts out of your head. More importantly, it lets you see if they’re rational or now. If they are, then you can write down what’s trigging these thoughts and what you can do to solve them.
You can also write down what you’re grateful for to help change your perspective.
6. Stand up straight.
"When we are anxious, we protect our upper body -- where our heart and lungs are located -- by hunching over,” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety.
For immediate relief. Chansky suggests that you “stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest.”
7. Stay healthy.
Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid alcohol and processed foods. Exercise at least for 30-minutes five days a week. And, get plenty of sleep.
Clutter, whether at home or work, can make it difficult for you to relax. Set aside specific times to clean and organize your living areas and work-spaces.
9. Play around.
If you have children or pets like a dog, play and cuddle with them since this releases oxytocin and lower cortisol. What if you don’t, or they’re not around? Then embrace your inner child by coloring, doodling, playing a relaxing game online, or going outside and shooting some hoops.
Another simple way to get out of this negative loop is to play the 5-5-5 game where you:
Look around and name five things that you see.
List the five sounds that you hear.
Move five parts of your body.
Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Watch your favorite sitcom, comedy, or YouTube video that puts a smile on your face.
11. Chew gum.
Studies have found that those who chewed gum had a greater sense of well-being and lower stress since it’s a quick and easy way to reduce cortisol levels to ease stress
12. Visualize something positive.
“When confronted with anxious thoughts, take a moment to visualize yourself handling the situation with calm, ease, and clarity,” writes Giuliana Hazelwood. “Try not to pay attention to the current mental state; just focus on the feeling of smooth-sailing through the storm. The technique is called ‘guided imagery’ or ‘guided visualization’ and can help reduce feelings of stress.”
13. Find a mantra.
When feeling anxious, use a mantra like “This too shall pass” or “All is well” to hell calm you down and bring you back into the present.
Take a break from social media or watching the news. Instead, spend some time alone reflecting. Even better, do something that you actually enjoy instead of getting consumed by all of the other negativity in the world.
15. Talk to someone.
When you’re feeling anxious, talk to a friend or family member. Even if you don’t express your feelings, it’s a distraction. However, if anxiety is interfering with your life, work with a mental health professional for additional coping strategies.