We all have had those overwhelmingly anxious moments… you know those moments that feel like your world is ending and you aren’t sure exactly how to fix it. This may be caused by some outer circumstances or come up for seemingly no reason whatsoever. These thoughts and feelings don’t feel good, so we tend to try to push them away, which only makes things feel more hectic as you desperately try to get rid of them. You may even feel like you are losing control of your thoughts and your body as you become more and more anxious. Next time you feel this way, try a few of these following 7 activities to help bring you back to a calmer state of mind. Each of these activities will help you notice your feelings, and move through them instead of away from them. By acknowledging your discomfort, you regain control of your thoughts and your body again.
1. Make Yourself Feel More Anxious
Our immediate reaction to bad feelings of anxiety is to get rid of it, but that resistance only makes it more difficult and gives that feeling control over you. Instead, lean into your feelings of anxiousnesses. Anxiety serves a purpose, but only if there is an actual life or death threat. Anxiety without the actual threat is just awful discomfort. There is no threat at all. Try telling yourself that the feeling isn’t going to kill you, but it will feel uncomfortable, and that’s it. Then, try to become even more anxious than you already are. It sounds crazy, but you would be surprised at how well this works because now you are now in control, not your anxiety. Lela does a great job of explaining this in more detail as well as referencing some other techniques you can try:
Writing is a fantastic way to understand your feelings. When you write about what you are experiencing, it allows you to see an objective view of your circumstances. I have come to many revelations just by writing through my thoughts and feelings. It can help you understand why you feel the way you do, and what to do next. Writing is very therapeutic because of this.
3. Tapping – Emotional Freedom Technique
Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is a psychological acupuncture intervention used to unblock emotional barriers. Using techniques from traditional acupuncture and acupressure, It uses the body’s meridian points to tap into your own energy and healing power. Acupuncturists use hundreds of meridian points along the body and it takes years to master, whereas EFT tapping can be learned by anyone because it only uses 12 meridian points. Putting pressure on these points by tapping on them restores your energy balance and helps you accept and let go of any negative emotions. As you focus on your fear, anxiety, pain, etc while completely accepting it, tap 5-7 times on each of the 12 meridian points. You may find this immediately dissipates any anxious feelings. Here is a great video by Julie Schiffman on how to do EFT tapping on yourself:
There is a countless amount of evidence proving that meditation reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Even just sitting in silence for 5 minutes every day can significantly help reduce negative emotions. Meditation is a simple concept, yet many people have much difficulty doing it because it requires you to be alone with your thoughts and no distractions. Here is what you can do right now to meditate: Find a quiet spot, sit up straight (do not lay down – we aren’t taking a nap here!), close your eyes or find a spot to focus on, set a timer for 5 minutes, and sit in silence. The key here is to not resist any thoughts or emotions that come up during meditation. (Notice a common theme here? Acceptance is key!) Here are some things you can try during your meditation session:
- Breathe deeply and count your breaths if you find that helps you. Notice how the breathing makes you feel – how it fills your lungs as you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Notice your body and how it feels in the space you are in.
- Repeat a mantra. (Inhale positivity, exhale negativity, for example).
- Notice any feelings or thoughts that come up and do not resist them. Instead, look at them objectively. Imagine they are clouds that are just floating by, and you are just an observer.
- Imagine your body has an outline that is slowly being erased until you are completely one with the air around you.
- Find a podcast or youtube video with a guided meditation to listen to.
Meditation takes practice until you can feel your mind is completely clear. But it is something you can do right away when you feel anxious to help reduce those anxious feelings. Even just closing your eyes and breathing deeply for 30 seconds at your desk at work is an act of meditation.
5. Breathing Techniques
By changing your breathing techniques, you can reverse any physical symptoms that an anxiety or panic attack brings on. During anxious moments, our breathing becomes shallow and comes from our upper lungs. These techniques will help you breathe out of your lower lungs in order to restore your mind to a calm state. Try this breathing technique next time you find yourself feeling anxious:
- Breathe in deeply through your noise, filling your lower lungs then upper lungs.
- Hold your breath for 3 counts.
- As you breathe out, release any tension being held in your body. Start with your forehead, then move down to your jaw, neck, shoulders, back, stomach, arms, hands, legs, and then your feet.
This technique has proven to help me personally feel less anxious and even fall asleep quickly at night.
- Inhale through your nose for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale out of your mouth for 8 counts, keeping your tongue at the ridge of your gums behind your upper front teeth and releasing any tension in your body.
Prayer can be very powerful. You can pray to God, the universe, or whatever you want to call your higher power. If you do not believe in a higher power, prayer can still be powerful as thoughts to your higher self. When you pray, be completely honest. Say what you’re feeling. If you feel angry, express that! If you feel frustrated or sad, express that too. Ask for guidance and for relief. It might feel difficult, but it is also really helpful to express what you are thankful for and the love you have for God. This does wonders for your mind. You can also try breathing prayers or mantras. While you inhale, imagine you are being filled with the holy spirit, universe, higher power, etc. and as you breathe out, imagine any negativity and darkness exiting your body.
7. Listen to Calming Music
Calming instrumental music can be very comforting during anxious moments. If you are intentional in listening to each instrument, each sound, and each note, this can be an almost meditative experience. Your focus is suddenly elsewhere and no longer fully on your anxious feelings. There are several instrumental music playlists on Spotify or YouTube that you can listen to. Lyrical music can be helpful as well. We have a whole Spotify playlist of Songs for Comfort which you can listen to here. Lyrical music with comforting lyrics can be helpful because you realize that you aren’t alone in what you are feeling. Listening to comforting songs can make you feel more connected to the world.
These are only 7 of many things you can try to calm your anxious mind. Try creating your own list over time! Every time you find yourself enjoying something, write it down so you can reference it when you are feeling anxious or sad. Eventually, you’ll have a whole list of anxiety reducing activities to do!