Anxiety can make life difficult. But the answer isn’t powering through your anxious feelings. There are several methods for how to calm anxiety, make it more manageable and improve your life. This article will describe some of those methods, giving you the tools you need to calm down the next time your anxiety feels out of control.
How Anxiety Affects Your Mind and Body
Anxiety can have severe effects on your overall health. While short-term stress can help us respond to danger and boost our immune system, long-term stress is detrimental to our mental and physical health. Elevated levels of stress can trigger heart attacks, contribute to unhealthy weight gain and negatively affect female fertility.
When you are in a constant state of stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can damage your brain by shrinking your hippocampus, which is the area of your brain in charge of memory and emotions. A shrinking hippocampus can decrease your memory and ability to regulate emotions.
Constant stress also affects our digestion. Stress can trigger acid reflux, leading to nausea, diarrhea and stomach inflammation.
How to Calm ANXIETY
Now that you know all of the ways constant stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your system, what can you do about it?
Whether you are suffering from a full-blown panic attack or find yourself dealing with chronic anxiety, these techniques should help you lower your anxiety levels.
Mindfulness and Breathing Meditations
Being mindful and using body awareness meditations are some of the most effective ways to learn how to calm anxiety. Meditation is designed to help you detach yourself from your racing thoughts so they don’t have as much of an effect on you. Several studies have found that meditation helps treat depression.
Meditation helps calm anxiety by allowing your brain to develop new pathways and thought patterns. Over time, these pathways help create mental detours away from the mental triggers which lead to anxiety.
Our nervous system is also largely controlled by our breath. By practicing deep breathing meditations, you are helping your body produce endorphins, which are hormones that elevate your mood. Try this quick breathing meditation from Spire when you need to calm down in a pinch.
When learning how to calm anxiety, grounding techniques are effective. They force you to focus on your surroundings instead of getting wrapped in worries about the past or the future.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique
A common grounding method is called the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. This technique starts by having you practice deep breathing. Breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and then exhale for five seconds. Once you’ve done this at least five times, then follow the steps below to tune into the present.
- List five things you can see. It can be as simple as the floor, the ceiling or a pet.
- List four things you can touch, and touch them as you are listing them.
- List three things you hear, and make sure these are things that are happening in your environment, and not just things that are happening in your head.
- List two things you can smell. If you aren’t in an area that has any smells, find a place with some scent or find a perfume or soap.
- List one thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like?
Going through this exercise forces you to use all of your senses to become aware of what is going on around you.
Other Helpful Grounding Techniques:
- Trace the outline of your body with your hand
- Write in your journal
- Smell something strong, like a tea tree oil
Going to a therapist on a regular basis can provide you with methods and techniques that will be useful in times of high anxiety.
Therapists are trained to help people with a variety of anxiety disorders find relief and manage their symptoms. Sessions will help patients identify the things that make them anxious and find ways of dealing with them instead of simply treating the symptoms.
Several medications have been shown to be effective in dealing with anxiety, both in the long- and short-term.
Benzodiazepines help your muscles relax and your mind calm down at the same time by increasing the effectiveness of certain neurotransmitters. These have been proven to be especially helpful in managing severe anxiety because they usually work in 20 to 30 minutes.
Antidepressants are also a common treatment for anxiety as they help regulate your mood. Your best bet is to see a psychiatrist and work with them to find what works best for you.
Exercising helps you create new brain cells which release a neurotransmitter that helps reduce anxiety. Physical activity also helps your body find an outlet for stress hormones and adrenaline so that they don’t interfere with daily life.
Exercise is also an effective physical distraction that forces you to think about what you’re doing instead think about your worries. It has also been shown to help improve body confidence, which is a powerful way to feel better about yourself.
Hobbies can go a long way in improving your inner self if you are anxious. The more occupied your brain is, the less mental power you have to obsess over things that make you anxious.
Hobbies are also a great way to force yourself to be present. Whether you take up knitting or photography, having an enjoyable distraction is a simple way to relax and manage anxiety.
Fifty-three percent of anxiety sufferers say that being outside helps them feel better. The outdoors provide a change of scenery, fresh air and sunshine. Taking a stroll can help you get out of an area associated with stress and clear your mind.
Even being outside for five minutes can boost your mood. If you can, find an area with greenery, like a park or a nature trail, so that your brain can enjoy the effects of being in nature.
Take One Step Forward
Stress may seem insurmountable, but you can take the first step toward reducing anxiety by simply trying one of these techniques for how to calm anxiety. Even if the first thing you try is not effective, don’t give up. Keep experimenting with different techniques until you find one that works best for you.