- Mental Health
10 Ways for how to Calm Down When Anxiety Strikes
Anxiety is a terrible feeling. Your heart races. Your mind races even faster. You feel like all of the problems that have been hovering at the back of your mind suddenly need to be dealt with all at once. You imagine terrible things happening even though there's no good reason to think that they are. You panic.
How can you deal with this awful feeling when it creeps up on you. Here are ten ways to help yourself calm down when you're feeling anxious:
- Identify the true cause of your anxiety. Most of the time, there's something that we're worried about that lies beneath the thing that we think is causing us to be anxious. If you are skilled at figuring yourself out then you might be able to determine what's really going on. For example, you're sitting by the phone waiting for your boyfriend to call and you're feeling completely anxious and you're sure that something horrible has happened to him or he's out on a date with someone else or ... that's what you think is causing the anxiety but what is really causing the anxiety could be that you've been feeling unsafe in this relationship and you're not sure where it's going. Although there's still a problem to be dealt with, you are able to recognize that it needs to be dealt with in a different way and that it's not the phone call that you're anxious about. This can reduce the immediate feeling of anxiety.
- Exercise. Sometimes we can't talk ourselves down from that feeling of anxiety. It's just too strong. We can't think clearly. All of the emotions are coming at us. We feel like those surface problems are the real problems. Now what? Exercising is a good way to get out of your head and into your body for awhile. Do something that gets your heart pumping. Do something that's physically challenging so that you can focus on your muscles and your lungs instead of whatever it is that is making you feel crazy.
- Breathe. There are going to be times when you feel anxious and you need to get out of your head but you can't just go for a run. You might be at work or at school or in a courtroom and you need to sit still. You can still get focused on your body by focusing on your breath. Take deep breaths, inhaling to a count of ten and exhaling to a count of ten. Or inhale give, exhale six, inhale six, exhale seven, etc. until you can't go any higher. Focus on how your breath feels in your chest and your nose. This will help get your mind off whatever is making you anxious so that your body can calm down a little bit.
- Ask yourself what's the worst that could happen ... and how you'd handle it. Often we end up anxious about something because we are scared of it. If we can identify exactly what the worst thing about it would be and come up with some sort of action plan about how we would handle it then the anxiety may ease up. For example, you're anxious about an upcoming test. What's the worst that could happen? Even if you fail out of school and end up in a totally different career path, you're still going to be alive. Try to focus on the worst thing that could realistically happen. Pay attention to how this makes you feel, though. Some people go off the deep end into their fears and this exercise makes them feel worse instead of better.
- Stop and smile. You can make yourself feel better just by acting like you feel better. Smile. Attend a laughing yoga class. Have someone tickle you. As the muscles in your face act happy, your body's limbic system will actually respond and you will feel a little bit happier. You'll feel calmer. Some of the anxiety will ease.
- Analyze the extent of your anxiety. Ask yourself what your anxiety feels like. Don't focus on your thoughts. Focus on how tight your chest feels or how fast your heartbeat is. Try to rate your anxious feeling on a scale of one to ten. Simply taking at a look at your anxiety and recognizing it for what it is can sometimes help to reduce its impact.
- Read a soothing book. Your brain needs to be taken away from whatever is causing it so much stress. A soothing book can be a great way to get away for a little while. Some people read the Bible, others read books of affirmations, others read uplifting quotations. Read something inspiring and lighthearted. If your mind is still racing with anxiety, try reading aloud.
- Write a list of everything that is okay about your life right now. We are usually okay in the moment even though our anxiety would have us think we aren't. Making a list of all of the things that are going right and that feel safe can help us to realize that. Your health might be good, your sister might be in town, your clothes might fit great ... whatever is right in any way should go on your list. Don't think about the "buts"; just count your blessings.
- Talk about what's going on. Talking about what's happening and what you're anxious about can sometimes make the feeling go away. The trick is to make sure that you talk to someone who isn't going to exacerbate your feelings or dismiss them. Choose someone who is a good listener. Let them know in advance that you just need to vent and you don't need advice. Or if you're looking for someone else to give you a little bit of perspective about how realistic your fears are then ask for that. You might consider talking to a friend who you trust but who isn't enmeshed in your every day life. Alternatively you might consider talking to a mentor or older family member. You might even think about talking to a counselor depending upon the extent of your anxiety and how long it's been happening.
- Take medication. For many people, anxiety isn't just a passing thing that can be controlled with breathing and positive thoughts. Many people have real medical issues with anxiety that they need help with and medication can provide that help. If you can't get a grip on your anxiety on your own then you might want to consider speaking to a psychiatrist. These other tricks will still work for you once the medication has brought things down to a more manageable level.
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