Earlier this week a friend told me that she was having panic attacks at work whenever she had to confront her boss. She had a meeting scheduled for later that day and asked if I knew of any exercises she could do to prevent her anxiety from getting the best of her. I taught her a simple breathing exercise to use before going into her meeting. The next day she told me she had done the exercise and was able to go to her meeting feeling completely at ease and felt that she was much more confident and able to get her point across to her boss. This made me so happy! It’s no secret that I struggled with crippling anxiety for many years. It still acts up at times, but it no longer runs my life. The only difference is that I’ve developed a toolkit full of different ways to manage it. Anytime I start to feel anxious, I reach into my anti-anxiety toolkit and use one of my tools. I am usually able to get back to my calm and zen way of life shortly after. I wanted to share my top 5 tools to stop anxiety, in hopes that it can be helpful for some of you too!
1) ONE MINUTE BREATH
The breath is always the first tool that I use when I feel myself starting to get stressed out. This is because it’s something that is always available to us in any situation. When we feel anxious and panicky, it’s usually a sign that we are not breathing adequately. When we are anxious, we often take short shallow breaths, which sends a signal to our body that it is not getting enough oxygen. This causes the panic response to increase even more. By focusing on our breath and slowing down our breathing, we can trigger a relaxation response in our body. My favorite breathing exercise is called the 1 minute breath. When you start to feel anxious, bring your attention to your breath. Start to inhale slowly for 5 seconds. Then hold your breath for 5 seconds. Finally, slowly exhale your breath out for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 more times, or until you start to feel the anxiety fade away.
2) GO FOR A WALK
Going outside for a walk usually does wonders for my anxiety and general disposition. Not only is fresh air healing, but moving our bodies is too! Changing our environment helps us to refocus and take a breather from whatever is causing us stress. A short 5-10 minute walk can reset our mood for the rest of the day. Next time you feel stressed, head outside for a walk! As you walk, start to really take in everything around you. Take some deep breaths and really breathe in the fresh air. If you need a little extra boost, you can grab your headphones and listen to some fun music or a motivational podcast on your walk.
3) SHOWER MEDITATION
This is a new tool that I’ve been using lately when I don’t get enough sleep and wake up feeling cranky and stressed out. Get in the shower and grab your favorite shower gel or essential oils (I like to use lavender or frankincense when I’m feeling stressed). Lather yourself up and as you stand under the shower imagine that all of your stress and anxiety is being washed down the drain. Watch the soap being rinsed off your body and envision it carrying anything that’s bothering you along with it. Focus on the sensation of the shower rinsing all of your troubles away. When you are done, you can get out of the shower feeling completely light, clean, and free of worries!
Sometimes, anxiety can be a sign that we are not processing our feelings. I’ve started a habit of journaling regularly, especially when I notice that I’m feeling a bit anxious. Set aside a few minutes each day to write in your journal. Get in a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed and start to write down whatever is on your mind. You don’t need to censor or edit yourself, or try to solve your problems. The purpose is simply to get your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto the paper. Write until you have nothing left to write anymore. Chances are you’ll start to notice that whatever was stressing you out no longer feels as major after you give it a chance to be expressed.
5) 5 SENSES EXERCISE
The 5 senses exercise is something that you can do in the moment as soon as you feel that panic and overwhelm are starting to kick in. Simply stop whatever you’re doing and focus on your five senses. Look around and say out loud 5 things that you see. Next, tune into your hearing and list the things you hear. Take a deep breath and notice what you smell. Then, focus on your mouth and notice if you taste anything. Finally, focus on what you feel on your skin in this very moment. By stopping the mental chatter for a few moments to focus on your 5 senses, you give your mind a chance to reset and shift the focus from whatever was bothering you.
Bonus tip: If you notice that you are feeling extra stressed and anxious for a few days in a row, watch your sugar intake! Sugar does wacky things to our bodies and can actually increase our stress response. Try to limit sugar when you are feeling anxious; it will make a big difference!
The best way to keep anxiety at bay is to take a proactive approach to it. You can start practicing any of the steps I listed above right now, even if you are not currently feeling anxious. The trick is to be consistent and make these activities into habits. Bring them into your daily life and you will start to have a more calm and centered way of being.
I hope you find these tools helpful! What other ways do you manage stress in your life? Please let me know! I’m always looking for new tools to add to my anti-anxiety toolkit! 🙂
Wishing you a calm week ahead.