When you struggle with anxiety, dealing with daily life can be almost impossible. Things can be business as usual but even something super tiny can trigger a spiral, and when anxiety takes over, sometimes we all need something or a few things to help calm us down. These are things I do when the anxiety I’ve been learning how to handle over the past 10 years decides it wants to stop what I’m doing and make an appearance.
Remind yourself to breathe
Sometimes all I can do to get through an anxiety or panic attack is remind myself to breathe. I have a tendency to hold my breath when I’m talking to people because I don’t want them to hear me breathe, which is totally irrational but the idea of someone hearing me breathe really makes my anxiety spike. So when I find myself holding my breath or feel my heart and thoughts racing, I have to tell myself to focus on my breath. I literally think “breathe in, breathe out” until I feel steady again.
Find a quiet place
Sensory overload is real and it’s not always when there’s a bunch of things going on, sometimes its because two people are talking and there’s an echo and you can’t focus because your thoughts aren’t loud enough to compete with the conversation next to you. Other times you’re in public or at a party and there is a ton going on around you. Whatever the case, sometimes you need to find a quiet place to help quiet your racing thoughts – or to let the anxiety run its course or feel safe during a panic attack.
Connect with your surroundings
Have you ever heard of the rule of 5? It helps you connect your five senses to your surroundings as a way to cope with anxiety. You find five things you see and name them out loud, four things you can feel and say them out loud, three sounds, two smells, and one taste and say them out loud. Anxiety can take you away from your present moment so one way to fight back is to force yourself to be present and grounded in your current surroundings.
Recognize what triggered your anxiety
Figuring out your triggers is one of the biggest things you can do to gain control over your anxiety. Recognizing what triggers your anxiety will help you also recognize the initial build up such as, in my case, my heart starts skipping beats and speeding up, my head feels foggy and I feel mentally disconnected from body, I start to get dizzy and sounds change, I experience slight tunnel vision and feel like I have something around my neck. Knowing those feelings and connecting them with my anxiety has helped me work through it when I can’t avoid the situation and it’s allowed me to excuse myself from situations I could avoid.
Get outside or look outside
I said this before, but anxiety can take you away from your present moment and make you feel disconnected from the world around you. Going outside where there’s a lot of space and fresh air can help you feel like you can breathe and not as confined if those are feelings you experience when you get anxious. Nature is grounding and that’s huge when your anxiety takes over.
Focus your thoughts
Racing thoughts can be hard to manage, but you can focus your thoughts as a way to overcome your anxiety. This takes a lot of work sometimes and can feel impossible but I’m telling you that you can do it. Start by focusing on breathing, narrow your thoughts to one thing at a time, and make the decision to work through each thought rationally until you’re able to calm your mind.
Write out your thoughts
As a writer, I find that writing out my anxious thoughts has helped me realize where my anxiety stems from because somehow, no matter what the trigger was my mind goes back to a handful of things. This can also help you to focus and pull yourself out of the anxious headspace and into a creative one.
Remind yourself that you’re okay and that you’ve gotten through this before
Odds are that you’ve experienced an anxiety or panic attack before now, tell yourself that. Tell yourself that you have been in this headspace before and gotten through it. Sometimes all you need is the reminder that you have gotten through things to feel confident that you can do it again.