8 Calming Techniques for Anxiety
July 05 2022
How to Handle Anxiety and When to Seek Help
If you or someone you love is experiencing severe anxiety or depression, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Everyone deals with stress and anxiety throughout our lives. Occasional anxiety is totally normal. However, for caregivers and those who are ill, anxiety can be made even more difficult, especially when it becomes frequent, intense, excessive, or persistent.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Common symptoms and signs of anxiety include:
- A sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- An increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Trouble sleeping
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
What to Do When Anxiety Bubbles Up
When you notice your anxiety beginning to bubble up, start by taking some deep breaths. After some deep breaths, allow yourself to say that you are anxious or angry. When you label how you feel, you allow yourself to express it and then decrease those feelings.
Next, challenge your thoughts. Part of anxiety is having irrational thoughts that don’t make sense. When you experience the “worst-case scenario” or “what if,” ask yourself some of these questions to reframe your thoughts:
- Is this likely to happen?
- Is this a rational thought?
- Has this ever happened to me before?
- What’s the worst that could happen and can I handle it?
Once you get control of racing thoughts and initially calm yourself down to a level where you have some control, you can further calm your anxiety through a variety of calming techniques. These techniques can be used in the moment or be practiced daily to help keep your anxiety from getting out of control in the first place.
Calming Techniques for Anxiety
Here are some calming techniques that can help you relax as part of calming your anxiety.
1 This simple yet powerful technique helps you take deep, slow, and calming breaths. This allows you to gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations as you breathe. This technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult or heart failure.
2 This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. You begin with several minutes of deep breathing, followed by focusing on one part of the body at a time, mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. A scan of your body can also help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection and create more awareness of your body even when you aren’t doing a body scan. This may not be a good technique for those who suffer from body image issues.
3 Mindfulness meditation involves sitting comfortably and focusing on your breathing while bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting to concerns about the past or future. This form of meditation has also been found to be helpful not just for people with anxiety, but those who suffer from depression and pain as well.
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong
4 These exercises combine rhythmic breathing with a series of movements. The physical aspect can offer distraction from racing thoughts while increasing your flexibility and balance. If you are not normally active, have health issues, or painful or disabling conditions, these techniques might be challenging. It is important to check with your doctor before starting one.
5 Other exercises, especially going for a walk, can engage you in physical activity that can distract your mind. It also releases serotonin, which is the chemical that makes us feel better and happier.
6 This technique has you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences to help you relax and focus. There are many free apps (such as Calm) and online recordings of calming scenes that can make it easier. This technique can also help reinforce a positive vision of yourself, but can be difficult for those who have intrusive thoughts or find it hard to conjure up mental images.
Listen to Music
7 Listening to your favorite music can help you tune out racing thoughts and worry. It can also have a very calming effect on your body and mind.
8 The sheer act of writing or journaling can help you release your thoughts and anxiety. Don’t worry about writing complete sentences or punctuation–just write. Not only does it help you get negative thoughts out of your head, but it can help you to formulate an action plan to help you remain calm once you are done writing.
When to See a Doctor
When your anxiety begins to negatively affect or interfere with your daily life or if you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it is important to seek help from a medical professional. Your doctor can prescribe medications to help get your anxiety under control. A licensed therapist can also help you work through any issues that may be contributing to your anxiety and teach you calming exercises for when your anxiety increases.