I’ve been in a long term relationship with anxiety. We are practically common law married now, my anxiety and I. You see, I have been feeling anxiety since I was about 16, but I’ve been dealing with anxiety since I was in my 30s. (Ignoring it isn’t dealing. Looking at you 20s Kendi.) Since I’ve learned to not only identify when I’m feeling anxiety (that’s the first step) I’ve also learned a two tricks that help me alleviate it on some level pretty instantly.
Anxiety can make you feel even more out of control and with everything that’s going on in the world anyways, it’s hard not to let that feeling take over. I read somewhere that anxiety is the overestimation of a threat and the underestimation of an ability to cope. Doesn’t that feel spot on for today? Even writing that sentence I tense up a bit. But anxiety is our brains way of telling us to change, cope or deal with something. You don’t want to ignore your anxiety but you do need to work through it. Of course the very first step in doing that is calming down and while anxiety lives in our heads, using your body to start the process of calming down can help. Here are my two instant relief tips for helping calm anxiety.
Ground Your Feet
I learned this trick from a doctor back in my 20s and it has helped countless of times, especially in the recent days of the unknown. Here’s how it works: many times when you are feeling anxious you start feeling like you are floating higher and higher with worry and anxiety. The trick is to plant your feet to the ground firmly, without locking your knees if you’re standing, and to literally feel your feet being grounded. Plant your feet and feel how connected to the ground you are. Do it right now (it’s not like you are doing anything else, amirite?) Stand up, plant your feet to the ground and push down with your feet — really feel connected to the ground. Actually feel it in your feet and how comforting it is to be stranding still and strong. If you are outside, even better. Nature has a quirky way of helping anxiety on its own. I like to imagie it like a ballon that was floating off has been caught and tied back down. Keep this motto in your head for when you are starting to feel like your anxiety is about to take off: ground your feet.
Breathe Slowly and Deeply
Next take deep breathes slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s how they tell you to breath in yoga class basically. You don’t have to count your breathes or the seconds your are doing it— sometimes counting can feel like a chore or a countdown when you are trying to calm your mind — but just be conscious of the action of breathing. Be mindful of breathing in through your nose and then let it all out. Don’t hold your breath, keep your shoulders down while breathing. Breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly using your diaphragm not your shoulders. Keep it slow. You don’t want to have the quick up and down breaths that almost feel like you are drowning or as if you can’t catch your own breath. (Because that starts to look and feel like panic doesn’t it?) Instead, you want slow and controlled breathing. Keep your feet planted and your breaths slow and deep. Concentrate only on these two things. Let everything else disappear in your mind — you can do this. I promise. Only focus on your feet being planted and your breathing being slow and steady. Do these two things until you feel better or more in control.
Sometimes I close my eyes to do this. Sometimes I look out the window and focus on one thing. Or I find something in the room to focus on. My other trick is a mind trick. I like to remember a memory or a place that brings about a physical response in my body. For instance, I love summer and summer makes me feel warm and when I feel warm I feel better. So for me thinking of swimming in the summer or a really nice vacation we once had can actually bring about a feeling of warmth to me. It’s an instant calm.
Using these two tricks can help you in the moment of anxiety. This isn’t a cure all but more of an approach to help you calm down in order to work through your anxiety. It’s always worked for me and I hope it can help you too.
If you have any tips that help curb your anxiety, please leave them below! We are all in this together.