Everyone deals with anxiety. Even being excited is a form of anxiety. However, when it becomes pathological and interferes with our daily lives, it can cause serious issues. But here are six simple tips you can try when your anxiety gets too high:
1. Look around the room and name everything of a specific color. First the blue, then the red, then the white… You get the idea. It distracts your mind and makes you focus on something concrete, drawing attention away from your anxiety.
2. Tune into your senses. Close your eyes. What do you feel? Run your finger along your pants and anything you can touch. What is the texture like? Focus on these questions:What can you hear? Are there any background noises? Voices speaking? Running water? Tuning into your senses can help ground you.
3. Find support. Text a friend, family member, or loved one. Talk about your anxiety. Have a few people you can go to when you are feeling especially overwhelmed.
4. Pet your dog or cat. Studies have actually shown that having physical contact with a pet can lower blood pressure and other autonomic functions, like breathing and heart rate. This can distract you from your overwhelming anxiety.
5. Biofeedback. This a therapeutic technique in which you work to slow your autonomic functions, such as your heartbeat and breathing. A trained therapist can go over this more in depth with you, but the essence of it is working on slowing down your nervous system.
Tune into your heartbeat. Feel it. Instead of getting more anxious about your heart racing, focus on the beats. Focus on slowing them down. One beat, two beats, deep breath. I know everyone says to breathe deeply, but they say it because it really works. Slowly inhale for four seconds through your nose, hold for four seconds, and exhale for as long as you can through pursed lips. This is your body. You can do this.
6. Deep Pressure. This is a technique you may have heard discussed in treating children with autism. It’s a concept thought up by Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who made a huge impact in the industry and went on to get a PhD despite having autism. A big, safe hug or wrapping something (a blanket, your arms, a jacket) around yourself in a very tight manner can help decrease your anxiety and calm you down. You can also have your pet rest on top of you if that is possible. The more pressure, the better.
We all struggle with anxiety at times. For some, it is more severe than others. Everyone does experience it, though. It may not be pathological in your case. It may just show up in nervous habits like nail biting and leg jiggling.
But for those of us with pathological anxiety (meaning the anxiety is so severe that it is a mental illness), anxiety is the voice in our head that never shuts up. It’s the what if’s and the worst case scenarios.
It’s worrying. It’s worrying so intense that it overtakes every other thought we have and all we can do is worry. It is a racing heart and labored breathing. It’s an overwhelming feeling of panic rising from our stomach up into our chest, where it spreads like fire.
Like everything in life, there is a spectrum of anxiety. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, try these tools next time you are feeling too anxious.