Anxiety can impact your mind and your health on physical, emotional and cognitive levels. But it is possible to manage your anxiety so you can feel relaxed and avoid the overwhelming pull of anxious thoughts.
One thing you can do when anxiety comes up is take a moment to think about what it is that is making you so nervous. Anxiety is usually linked to worries about something that may happen in the future, or a memory of the past.
Many times we get upset about an event that’s already occurred, continually thinking about it for a long time afterwards. An anxious mind also generates worries about potential threats and difficult scenarios that could occur in the future.
Whatever the case, try to be mindful of the present moment as much as possible. Anxiety loses its grip when you clear your mind of worry and bring yourself back to the present moment.
One method that many have used to overcoming anxious feelings is called grounding. When your mind is racing, grounding brings you back to the here and now, which is so useful in overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Knowing how to calm anxiety is beneficial, especially when we feel like our anxiety is taking complete control of our life.
The objective with grounding is to bring your focus to what is happening now to calm you down. What’s the science behind it?
When we get anxious and stressed, a section of the brain called the amygdala goes into action. This part of our brain is responsible for emotional responses, especially fear. While it functions to prepare us for emergency events, it also sometimes kicks into action and detects a threat when there really isn’t any.
When the amygdala goes into action, it initiates changes in our body such as increased muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and faster breathing. Eventually what is created is a vicious cycle where our brain interprets these body changes as further evidence that something is wrong, which just makes us more anxious.
By refocusing your body and what you’re physically feeling, you can get out of your head and calm feelings of anxiety and stress.
Here’s one example of a grounding technique that can help you calm anxiety:
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed or trapped in an anxiety attack, here’s something you can do.
Sit down in a comfortable chair. Place your back against the chair you’re sitting on and put both feet flat on the floor.
Place a hand on your belly. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly for the count of three, and then back out. Inhale through the nose so your belly expands. Think about how your body feels sitting in the chair.
Can you feel the contact between your body and the chair’s surface? Now push your feet into the ground. Imagine the anxious energy draining from your mind, down through your body and out through your feet into the ground. Wiggle your toes. Take a deep breath again.
Another effective thing you can do to calm anxiety is to talk with someone you like and trust. This is something you can use if anxiety strikes when you’re around your friends, say at a public event.
Tell your friend that you feel anxious and explain what you’re feeling. Talking with people who are empathetic can keep your mind of anxiety symptoms and reassure you that you have the support of someone who cares.
People who wonder about how to calm anxiety often think about if there is a process you can use to control negative thoughts. There is, and I’ll share one example with you. To get a detailed walk through of what you can do when anxiety strikes, download our free guide on 3 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Panic Attacks.
When you feel anxious, you can go through a checklist of questions to analyze the experience. Anxiety attacks can cause the mind to spiral into negative thoughts, but a lengthy mental checklist can help you gain a more realistic perspective of the moment you’re in.
Here are some questions that you can include in your anxiety checklist:
Our brains can only think one thought at a time. So you can essentially interrupt negative thoughts by asking empowering questions that shift your focus to a more positive and solution-oriented mode.
Here are some other things you can do to calm anxiety:
Take a time out – Make time for yourself to relax and recharge your batteries. Take a walk outside or grab a cup of hot chai tea and focus on the aroma of the spices. Do something to end the focus on anxious thoughts, and refresh yourself.
Limit alcohol and caffeine – both can increase your level of anxiety. When dealing with stressful days or anxious times, you may be tempted to have a glass of wine or a beer to calm your nerves. Having a drink might seem like a good way to ease anxiety, but you may be doing more harm than good.
Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. Caffeine can also aggravate and trigger panic attacks, since the jittery effects of caffeine on the body are similar to those of a frightening event.
Address any anger you may feel – Anger is an intense emotion that causes high levels of anxiety and often leads to behaviour we later regret. Even if you feel that someone treated you unfairly, remember that your anger harms you as much as others, whether you bottle it up or lash out. Write down your feelings on a piece of paper, then do the brave thing and rip that paper up.
Eat well and exercise daily – do not skip meals and try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Food like yoghurt, pumpkins seeds and fatty fish can help calm your anxiety, and this article lists other great options. Exercise is also a great way to take your mind away from negative thoughts while decreasing levels of stress hormones within the body.
The above tips are good ways to calm anxiety the next time it strikes. Learning how to calm anxiety will help prevent you from sinking into an anxiety attack.
But more than relying on coping skills, you can learn ways to end your
anxiety and the ‘fear of anxiety’ that contributes to the ongoing problem.
Download our free guide on 3 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Panic Attacks which will show you both how to calm anxiety and how to find a long-term solution.
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