Take a breath. When we get anxious or stressed, our bodies often go into fight or flight mode, and our breathing gets quick and shallow. Slowing your breathing sends the message to the rest of your body that you don’t need to prepare for battle. Try inhaling to the count of four, pause, then exhale to the count of four, and repeat four to 10 times.
Scan your body. We often hold anxiety in our muscles, especially our forehead, jaw, shoulders and stomach. When you notice increased feelings of anxiety, take a moment to scan your body, head to toe. Where do you notice feelings of tightness? As you notice tension, exhale and let those muscles relax. You can do this on the go or combine this exercise with deep breathing.
Stay in the moment. Mindfulness exercises are great for anxiety and don’t have to mean meditating in a quiet room for hours. Bring yourself back into the present moment with a quick, five–senses exercise. Wherever you are, take a moment and notice one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, one thing you can smell, one thing you feel, and one thing you can taste.
Practice healthy habits. Anxiety is undoubtedly emotional, but is also influenced by physical things we may not even think about. Increased use of caffeine, alcohol consumption, and a poor diet might seem like ways to cope with stress in the moment, but may actually make anxiety worse. Physical activity can reduce feelings of anxiety, particularly cardiovascular exercises. See if skipping the second cold brew and taking a brisk walk brings your anxiety level down.
Consult the pros. If anxiety is interfering with your life more days than not for several months or more, it might be time to talk to your healthcare provider or mental health specialist. Working with a therapist is a great way to identify sources of anxiety and determine the best ways to manage it effectively.
By // Kate L. Jansen, Ph.D.