I’ve dealt with anxiety for my whole life.
I remember when I was 7 or 8, playing netball on the weekend and having what I think now was a minor panic attack. Somebody passed me the ball, and the scene around me became like a slow-motion movie. My hands gripped the ball so tightly that I felt like they were glued to it, my heart was racing, my breathing was erratic and my arms and legs were shaking.
As I grew up, anxiety remained a part of my life, and I was so used to the constant feeling of nervousness and fear, that it was actually normal to me. After Jack was born in 2010, my anxiety came to a peak, and manifested as a total inability to leave the house alone, panic attacks, and a constant sensation of fear from the moment I woke up in the morning to the minute I fell asleep.
Thankfully, I have learned ways to cope with my anxiety. Today, I am aware of the situations that make me particularly nervous (hello, public speaking!) but on the whole, anxiety doesn’t play a huge role in my daily life.
Overall, that persistent base-level sense of worry and fear is gone. Gone. To me, that is a little miracle.
Self-care, meditation, counselling and medication are the big contributors to my recovery, but I also use little techniques that help to ease the worry if it does crop up.
When anxious feelings do arise, I use a combination of these five techniques to find inner calm in an instant:
It might seem simple, but controlling the breath is the quickest way to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Simple breathing exercises can instantly help to alleviate feelings of anxiety, by calming the parasympathetic nervous system.
The breathing exercise that I most commonly perform is simply, inhale deeply for four counts, hold for two counts, exhale for four counts, pause for two, then repeat.
The best thing about this strategy is that you can try breathing this way anytime, anywhere! I used to feel extremely anxious taking my kids on the bus. I now do deep breathing as I wait for the bus, and once we’re all sitting down on the bus, I repeat the exercise if I can feel my anxiety rising.
This one simple step has drastically changed my experience of catching the bus, as well as many other activities that I once found stressful.
2. Go for a walk
Exercise is the perfect antidote to anxiety.
When you get moving, happy hormones called endorphins coarse through your body. In fact, exercise is like a natural antidepressant as it helps to regulate the levels of neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine) that synthetic antidepressants target.
Stepping into nature, and taking advantage of the benefits of exercise, is an amazing way to ease anxiety and clear your mind.
3. Acknowledge and normalize the feeling
This is something that my psychologist encourages me to do for all types of negative thinking.
Being aware of my moods, and keeping negative feelings in perspective, really helps me to stop worry in its tracks.
When I feel worry or panic starting to bubble up, I make a point of silently telling myself “You’re feeling anxious. But you’re safe and it will be pass soon.”
I acknowledge the feeling, and remind myself that it is normal and temporary. This helps to bring me back into my body and stops me from getting caught up in the intensity of the moment.
4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
The Emotional Freedom Technique is something that I learned from Cassie Mendoza-Jones when I completed her incredible e-course Cleansed.
To be honest, I was actually quite skeptical about the benefits of EFT, but once I tried it I found it to be extremely helpful for releasing anxiety and stress. EFT, or Tapping, is a technique that involves tapping on specific pressure points on the face and body, while repeating a mantra.
The mantra is usually a variation of “Even though I feel (anxious/stressed/overwhelmed), I deeply and completely love myself.”
There are thousands of videos on YouTube that talk you through the process, and show you the correct points to tap. Once you try it for yourself, EFT is a form of stress-relief that you can use anytime, with ease.
5. Drinking tea
I find the action of making a cup of steaming tea to be relaxing in itself. But there are certain varieties of herbal tea that have been proven to relieve symptoms of anxiety.
Camomile tea and licorice root tea are two calming brews. I love a cup of camomile tea before bed – it’s soothing for the stomach as well as for the nervous system.
So those are my five favourite stress-busting techniques. I hope you try some of them and find some instant calm the next time you need it!
Have you experienced anxiety?
Which of these techniques will you try the next time you’re feeling anxious?
Please leave a comment below!