5 Helpful Strategies for Anxiety

1. Mindful Breathing

Anxiety can cause you to breathe faster and more shallow than usual. Deliberately slowing your breathing by counting to 3 as you breathe in, holding for 1, and then counting to 3 or 4 as you breathe out can assist you to slow your breathing down and regulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn can slow your heart rate, decrease muscle tension, lower your blood pressure and increase a feeling of calm. Another way to get your breathing under control is to set a timer on your phone for one minute, then count how many breaths you take in that minute, and try to do less the next minute. See if you can slow you breaths each minute till you get to between 12 – 16 breaths per minute – or whatever feels comfortable for you.

2. Eating Well

Even if you feel like you can't stomach food right now, something small and light such as a banana can help. Low blood sugar can contribute to anxiety!

3. Challenge Self-Talk

Ask your inner voice if they are being helpful right now? If you're feeling anxious already but your brain insists on thinking all sorts of worrying things it is not very helpful at all! Even if something is important to think about at some point, ask your brain if that needs to be right now, and remind it that you are anxious and need a chance to centre yourself before you can think about this issue any further.

4. Exercise

Numerous studies have indicated that regular exercise is associated with reduced anxiety. Aerobic exercises could include anything from fast walking or jogging to swimming, dancing, or biking. If this type of exercises is unsuitable, lower impact exercise such as yoga can also help to reduce anxiety through the combination of physical movement and mindful breathing.

5. Grounding

There are so many grounding techniques! Essentially these all aim to assist you to pull away from challenging emotions and refocus on what is happening in the present moment. Techniques can be as simple as placing your hands under water; warm water first, then cold and try focusing on the feeling the difference and maybe even trying to describe it to yourself. More detailed grounding techniques include those such as "5 Things", where you move through some of the senses listing five things you are aware of for each. For example for the sense of sight you might say "five things I can see are the table, a book, the light, my chair, my feet". Sounds could include traffic, yourself breathing, a clock ticking, and so on. Senses such as smell and taste are likely to be more difficult, so sight and sound may be enough to focus on. This technique helps you to sync up with your sensory experience of the moment, and distract you from the thoughts your brain is having which are not always linked with your sensory experience at present.

(Image from Unsplash by Thomas Rey)

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