Your heart starts racing and you can feel your muscles tense. Even though your hands feel cold, they start to sweat. Your body starts tingling or going numb. At best, a sense of uneasiness washes over you. At worst – sheer panic and feeling like you are going to die.
Anxiety can be difficult to deal with, but luckily there are ways to bring it down to a manageable level. Everyday lifestyle changes like eating balanced meals, exercise, and getting enough sleep can help you develop a relaxed and healthy state of mind.
But what are you to do when your anxiety is going past that point where you know it’s too much? How do you reduce anxiety?
Here are 7 ways to reduce anxiety and find peace.
1. Identify the Meaning
One of the beautiful things about being human is experiencing emotion and using our brains to understand why we feel the way we do. Understanding emotion not only helps us evolve as individuals, it also helps in developing compassion for others and what they are experiencing.
Emotions are signals for us to listen. Anxiety doesn’t feel useful when it is happening, but it can help us realize something in our life isn’t right.
If there isn’t an immediate threat, it can be more challenging to determine why anxiety is popping up. Are you holding on to a value, belief, or relationship that no longer serves you in your personal growth? This can be a lot to unravel and understand, so write down your thoughts and feelings to see if there is a pattern.
One of the quickest ways to reduce anxiety is to refocus your attention. Meditation is a great tool for this.
The next time you experience anxiety, try this exercise:
Lie down and get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths.
In your head, count every inhalation and exhalation. So for ‘1’, breathe in and out. For ‘2’, breathe in and out, and so on.
Do this until you count to 10, and start counting back down.
If your mind starts to wander, start from where you remember leaving off, or start again from 1.
If you are having a hard time focusing, there are many guided meditations available online.
3. Talk to Yourself like a 5 Year Old
If a child came to you because they were anxious, would you say “get over it!”, “you’re being silly/oversensitive”, or “it’s all in your head”? I sure hope not.
Why are you not giving yourself the same compassion? You were 5 years old once. Image your adult self comforting your 5 year old self. Tell him or her that you can overcome the stress. You’re not being silly, you just need time to process your emotions. You are just as worthy as anyone else to receive understanding.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is when you focus on your muscles one at a time and relax. You can do this by saying in your head, “my toes are now relaxed”. Once you relax your toes, move on to your next body part.
Another form of progressive muscle relaxation is to tense a specific muscle and then release. Taking the toe example again, curl your toes and count to 5. Release, and take note of the relaxed sensation. Keep moving to different regions of your body until your whole body is relaxed.
Visualization can be a great tool for distracting your mind from negative thoughts and calm an anxious mind. Here is a practice that a therapist gave me once:
Picture the last time you felt relaxed and at ease. Describe the scene in your head. What were the sights? Was there anything that stood out to you?
Think of the weather and how it felt on your skin. Were there pleasant smells?
What were the sounds that were present? Listen to them.
Note the textures. Did you touch anything? What did it feel like?
Mentally walk through that scene, and remember how relaxed and at peace you were.
Massage therapy is great for when you are feeling anxious. Deep tissue massage (or Swedish massage if don’t want a ‘work the knots out’ type of massage) will relax your body. Just as a tense mind can cause a tense body, a relaxed body can signal your mind to relax too.
7. Don’t Fight It
When you are having an elevated bout of anxiety, it is only natural to want the uncomfortable sensations to go away.
The more you ignore it, though, the more it tries to get your attention.
Try leaning into it. Describe your symptoms to yourself and focus on them. If you heart is beating fast, put your hand on your chest and breathe deeply. Feel it slow down. If your muscles are tense, try progressive muscle relaxation.
Remember to be gentle with yourself. You’ve felt anxiety before, but you’ve also been at peace before. So, you can find peace once again.
With all my love,