An anxiety disorder can bring out the worst of us. No one performs or acts their best when they have a heart palpitations, high stress levels, anxious energy, high blood pressure, negative thoughts, and high cortisol levels. It’s easy to say get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths, and watch your panic attack float away. However, to feel calmer, it’s often a multiple step system to get us to feel the calming effect of breathing exercises. In this article, we’re going to share all the ways you can calm anxiety.
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How to Calm Anxiety: 15 Tips to Manage Anxiety
1. Practice Deep Breathing
So, you know when you’re in the middle of a panic attack and you’re hyperventilating. Your heart is beating so fast, you start freaking out even more. Am I about to die? Well, I have two pieces of good news for you. First, people don’t die from anxiety attacks. So let’s cross that worry off the list. And second, when your body is breathing really, really fast during a panic attack, a little trick to make it stop is to force yourself to breathe in slowly and deeply. You can try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise where you breathe in for four counts, hold for seven and release for eight. When you’re feeling anxious your breathing speeds up and becomes very shallow. When you do deep breathing, you’re doing the opposite of that which helps you regulate how you feel using your own body.
2. Rewrite Your Story
Our brain is so damn powerful at collecting and sharing information with us. Unfortunately, sometimes that means our brains can be bullies. Telling us we’re not as good as we think we are, making us second guess ourselves, and scaring us with our worst fears. When you find your brain “filling in the gaps” for you, just take a moment to rewrite the scenario. For example, say you texted your partner three hours ago and they didn’t respond. Your brain will cue in the “well, you probably shouldn’t have said that.” Take a deep breath and stop catastrophizing. Don’t assume the worst, think about realistic situations that could cause delays in texts. For example, stuck in meetings, running errands, driving somewhere, misplaced phone, they didn’t know you were expecting a response, spending time with family, etc. By thinking of realistic alternatives you can help calm anxiety.
3. Look for Evidence
One of the most important steps when learning how to calm anxiety is to find evidence for your beliefs that negatively impact your overall mental health. For example, if you feel like you’re in danger, what evidence is there that you’re actually safe and what evidence is there that you’re actually in danger. For example, if you live in a building with security, that’s some good evidence for being safe. When it comes to evidence for how you’re in danger, being suspicious of someone isn’t enough evidence. Did they contact you? Or did someone harass you? Did someone threaten to harm you? If you have a factual piece of evidence then you can add that to your list. But often times, our anxiety does get the best of us and there’s a lot more evidence showing that we’re safe than that we’re in danger. However, if you have evidence that you’re in danger and it’s giving you chronic stress, seek medical, professional, and police help. Anxiety and stress that warn you of danger helps you survive, but if it’s always triggered it’ll be harder to protect yourself when the threat is real.
4. Change Your Environment
Now, before you become a permanent drifter, you can’t spend your whole life running away from your problems and fears. But the truth is, sometimes making small changes to your environment can make you feel a whole lot better. Other times, changing your environment altogether, especially if it’s a triggering one improves your daily life. If you’re having anxiety at work, you might want to spend some time looking for new jobs after hours or freelancing so you can work from home instead. So if you’re looking to calm anxiety, changing your environment can help you lower anxiety and feel safer. Sometimes, anxious thoughts are just there to tell you what to get rid of.
Your daily shower can be a mental health cure. Seriously. During periods where you feel like crying in private, you can just hop in the shower to cry and you’ll come out looking fresh. And no one will know a damn thing. Of course, we don’t want you to hide your sadness or frustrations, but sometimes it feels great to have a good cry to let out all the pain. Showers can also help you calm your anxiety. Hello lavender shampoo, conditioner, and soap. If you have a panic attack, inhale some lavender essential oils or products. Seriously, that lavender scent is actually proven to reduce stress and it’s super calming. For soap, Ivory has a lavender scent and for that shampoo and conditioner combo try OGX products. They cost more than bulk bottles, but what you get back in relaxation pays for itself ten-fold. It really is your mental health in a bottle. Not every generalized anxiety disorder treatment is found at a pharmacy.
Anxiety disorders can destroy your sleep. Sleep is the most important thing you need, to calm anxiety and improve your mental and physical health. And for those of you who suffer from nocturnal panic attacks or nighttime anxiety, I imagine you know that already. But sometimes when your anxiety creeps up, you’re too afraid to fall asleep but also afraid of staying away. It can be really stressful to experience that. You can try melatonin to help you fall asleep. Cutting out carbs also makes it easier to fall asleep at night. Alternatively, remembering that nightmares are just the brain processing information can help desensitize yourself to the fear of them. When you wake up from a bad dream, say out loud “processing information.” Meditating before bed can also help you ease into sleep. Alternatively, you can read positive (not scary or exciting) books before bed to help you feel drowsy.
7. Switch to Decaf
If you want to increase anxiety drink coffee, if you want to calm anxiety drink decaf. Your caffeine intake plays a role in your anxiety levels. Especially, if you’re suffering from hallucinations from sleep deprivation caused by your anxiety. Quitting coffee doesn’t make the anxiety go away overnight. But it really does help reduce the magnifying of your anxiety. Like coffee, alcohol can also increase anxiety so cutting out could also do you some good. That doesn’t mean you need to give it up for life. But maybe focus on your health first before pulling out the cabernet sauvignon. The hardest part of coffee and alcohol withdrawal comes in those first couple of weeks. But once you’ve made the switch to decaf or tasty virgin drinks, you likely won’t notice the difference anymore. You can always drink green tea which has some caffeine but nowhere near as much as coffee to see some significant improvements.
When you experience regular anxiety, you’re often in fight or flight mode. And if you take a look at those two words carefully, they both involve… well, exercise. If you’re fighting you’re doing cardio and if you’re running away you’re also doing cardio. So even though you might not want to put on your workout gear in the middle of an anxiety attack, you’d be doing what your body is telling you to do. Plus, you get those awesome endorphins flowing through your veins to make you feel good… or at least a bit better. If you live in an apartment or condo, climb your building’s stairs. The pain of stair climbing up 30 flights of stairs usually makes you forget you were scared. Plus, it makes you stronger.
9. Talk to a Friend
When you want to calm anxiety, sometimes the best option is to talk it out with a friend instead of a healthcare professional. A friend can offer you support, share their coping strategies, listen to your needs, or make you laugh. If you invite a friend over to bake cookies and chat, it usually helps distract you a bit because you’re doing something fun together which can help calm anxiety. But then when you’re ready to chat together (and enjoying some delicious cookies) you can have a productive conversation about your struggles and get the help you need for support. If you discuss your needs in statements like “When I experience (activity), I feel (emotion). I really need (fill in the blank) to get myself on track again.” Your friend will have a better understanding of your stresses, your feelings, and your needs. This will make it easier for you to get the support you need.
10. Do Good Deeds
During periods of extreme anxiety, it’s always a good idea to do an act of kindness. The kind act doesn’t need to be drastic or expensive. You can leave a kind message in a Facebook group about something someone said in a post. Or you can make sure that every day you check your the daily birthday of your Facebook friends. You can also write gratitude cards for your coworkers to let them know what you appreciate about them. And by doing all these good deeds for others, you’ll start to get out of that head of yours and into the… present moment. You’re helping others. You’re doing good work. And eventually people will do kind things for you too. By making others feel good, you’ll start to feel better about yourself too.
11. Be Mindful of Triggers
Anxious people always have triggers. And unfortunately, sometimes you can’t avoid them. You have to accept that triggers will be all around you and find a way to live life normally without being tormented by them. You can take small actions to help minimize a trigger’s impact, such as staying over at a friend’s house to feel safe, scheduling a meeting with a psychotherapist to learn coping strategies, or joining Facebook groups for people who suffer from similar triggers to get specific advice from others. But you can’t make lifestyle changes to avoid all triggers. Life is meant to be lived, you can’t hide in your safe space and avoid the human experience forever.
12. Decorate Your Home
A fun way to calm anxiety is to decorate your home. This usually works well in the colder and darker months when you start decorating for Christmas. But you can also decorate for Valentine’s Day or Easter too. In homes that have cold designs or feel a bit dark and dingy, decorating your home can help you create a safe, positive environment where you can feel cozy, warm, and protected. If you’ve left to work in the dark only to return home from work in the dark, it’s a good idea to get those decorations up to feel festive. Who says you can’t celebrate holidays year round? It’s also a good way to take your mind off of stresses and invest them into positive moments. It’s a simple way to improve your environment to alleviate anxiety symptoms at home.
13. Practice Exposure Therapy
Our anxious thoughts increase the more we avoid our fears. Sometimes, we have to expose ourselves to our greatest fear to help us overcome or at least better manage them. Of course, you don’t want to put yourself in dangerous situations if your greatest fears are dangerous. But taking small baby steps can help you calm anxiety and face your fears. If you have a fear that something will happen to your children if you leave the room, you can practice leaving the room while another person is in there supervising them. And with time remove the supervision and allow them to play in an unsupervised room. More often than not, you’ll see that they’re safe and doing okay. The more you practice exposure to your fears, the better you become at managing your anxiety. Feeling anxious doesn’t mean that you’re fears are right or logical. That’s why exposure therapy helps you reduce anxiety over time to improve your well being.
14. Try A Meditation App
One of the best ways to calm anxiety is to meditate for anxiety. Meditation is all about living in the present. And anxiety is about living in the future. By meditating, you help bring your mind to the present and change your relationship to the feelings of anxiety. Declutter The Mind is a free guided meditation app that you can use to calm anxiety anytime. You can practice a loving kindness meditation which helps you build empathy and compassion towards people you are positive to, negative to, and neutral to. Or you can focus on a mindfulness meditation for anxiety where you place your attention on your breath instead of your fears. Or you can try a body scan meditation where you scan your attention down the body to find where your anxiety lives.
15. Talk Medication
If your stress hormones are too high, a medical professional may recommend a medication for you. Medically reviewed prescription drugs can help you get the support you need immediately as you need it. Sometimes, people don’t like medication because it takes time finding which medication works best to treat your symptoms without causing other issues. Be vocal with your doctor and medical professionals to ensure you receive the best treatment possible for the sake of your well being. You can relieve anxiety with medication, especially if you suffer from a diagnosed panic disorder. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment for your mental and physical symptoms to reduce anxiety for good.
So you’ve now learned how to calm anxiety. You may still feel anxious from time to time, but you can try some of the coping strategies we’ve outlined above to help you manage anxiety. Always remember that humans from the dawn of time have always felt anxiety. It’s what’s helped us survive for so many generations. So whenever you feel anxious, don’t forget to tell yourself that you come from a long line of survivors. And that feeling anxiety is normal, healthy, and the reason you’re alive today. Some days managing your anxiety can be tough, check out these videos to help manage anxiety.