We all worry and get upset from time to time. It’s a normal part of life. But sometimes anxiety takes over, and you can’t calm down. A few strategies can help you when you’re feeling anxious. Here are some helpful, actionable tips you can try the next time you need to calm down.
Accept that you’re anxious
First of all allow yourself to say that you’re anxious. When you label how you’re feeling and allow yourself to express it, the anxiety you’re experiencing may decrease.
Breathing is the number one and most effective technique for reducing anxiety quickly. When you’re anxious or angry, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths. This sends a message to your brain, causing a positive feedback loop reinforcing your fight-or-flight response. That’s why taking long, deep calming breaths disrupts that loop and helps you calm down. There are various breathing techniques to help you calm down, take one deep breath in and then exhale fully while paying attention to your body. Practice these techniques while calm so you know how to do them when you’re anxious.
Stand up straight
For immediate relief from anxiety, stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest. Then breathe deeply. This posture, combined with deep breathing, helps your body remember that it’s not in danger right now, and that it is in control, not helpless. If you can’t stand up just pull your shoulders back and open up your chest. The most important thing is to stop hunching and breathe deeply.
Yoga may be a particularly beneficial form of exercise for anxiety. yoga decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone involved in the fight-or-flight fear response. Having too much cortisol in the bloodstream can exacerbate anxiety. It also reduces levels of molecules called cytokines in the blood. The immune system releases cytokines in response to stress.
Distract yourself from situation
Leave the situation, look in another direction, walk out of the room, or go outside. This exercise gives you time for better decision making. You don’t do your best thinking when anxious; you engage in survival thinking. This is fine if our life is really in danger, but if it isn’t life threatening, you want your best thinking, not survival instincts.
Watch a funny video
Watching a clip of your favorite comedian will help you stop feeling anxious fast. Because you can’t laugh and stay anxious at the same time, physiologically. Your body relaxes after a bout of laughter in a way that gets rid of anxiety. Plus, laughter brings in oxygen-rich air, which stimulates your heart and lungs, and spikes your endorphins.
Listen to music
If you’re anxious grab some headphones and tune in to your favorite music. Listening to music can have a very calming effect on your body and mind.
Use visualization techniques
When experiencing anxiety, your mind may focus on the worry, the worst things that can happen and other cognitive distortions that only add to your sense of fearfulness. Visualization works to expand your ability to rest and relax by focusing your mind on more calming and serene images. Visualizing peaceful scenes promotes a state of relaxation.
Get some fresh air
The temperature and air circulation in a room can increase your anxiety. If you’re feeling tense and the space you’re in is hot and stuffy, this could trigger a panic attack. Remove yourself from that environment as soon as possible and go outside. Not only will the fresh air help calm you down, but also the change of scenery can sometimes interrupt your anxious thought process.
Stay in your time zone
Anxiety is a future-oriented state of mind. So instead of worrying about what’s going to happen, reel yourself back to the present. Ask yourself: What’s happening right now? Am I safe? Is there something I need to do right now?
Write it down
If you’re too anxious to talk about it, grab a journal and write out your thoughts. Writing helps you get negative thoughts out of your head. You can take it one step further and make an action plan to continue staying calm once you’re done writing.
Challenge your thoughts
People with anxiety often fixate on worst-case scenarios. Remember that thoughts precede feelings. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors. To combat these worries, think about how realistic they are. Record your thoughts periodically. Pay attention to when you feel stressed out. Write the feelings that accompany the thoughts. Think one-word responses, like frustrated, angry, worthless, defeated, etc. Challenge your current version of reality. If you commit to recording your daily thoughts and feelings, along with reality testing, you’ll see that many of your negative feelings are created in your mind and not based on reality. The good news is you created the negative thought, and you can un-create it.
Play the 3-3-3 game
- Look around you and name three things you see.
- Then, name three sounds you hear.
- Finally, move three parts of your body.
Fuel your body
If you’re hungry or not properly hydrated, many of these techniques won’t work. That’s why it’s important to slow down and get something to eat even if it’s just a small snack.
Reduce caffeine, sugar, and processed foods
Caffeine can cause heart palpitations if you ingest too much. Caffeine also can trigger panic or anxiety attacks, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also cause palpitations. Sugar acts as an adrenal stimulant and can cause anxiety or even panic attacks. Other offensive foods include those containing refined flour products and even wheat, since this causes inflammation.