Anxiety can be triggered by almost anything, from a passing thought to a present danger. All of us have experienced some degree of personal anxiety in our lives. This is especially true in recent times as the global pandemic delivers uncertainty, and we are more likely to share a collective sense of anxiety.
Amidst uncertain times, it is normal to feel anxious about the future. You may find yourself asking common questions: How can I stay healthy? What can I do to protect my family? Is my role at work secure? These are all common concerns that many people feel anxious about.
The silver lining is that there are plenty of ways to reduce the anxiety from your day-to-day experiences. For example, you may practice mental health exercises or choose to consult a licensed psychotherapist if your anxiety issues become difficult to manage on your own. The more you can do to reclaim your peace of mind, the better off you will be. As you develop an awareness of your own feelings, you will gain a lasting understanding of how to best manage your anxiety.
We’ve put together a list of anxiety reduction techniques to help you reclaim your peace of mind and a sense of control.
1. Observe your thoughts
When you catch yourself in a series of what-if questions, allow yourself to hit pause. The same goes for any fearful thoughts about what might happen in the future. Our brains are wired to analyze threats to our well-being, whether they are real issues in front of us or imagined, possible threats. If you find yourself worrying about a possible future state that makes you anxious, try to catch yourself and observe your thoughts without judgment.
2. Call out your anxiety
At its core, anxiety is an emotional reaction to an imagined version of the future. Once you recognize that your mind is playing tricks to help you prepare for the future, you can call anxiety out. Accept this feeling as uncomfortable, but temporary. Exposing anxiety for what it is can help your mind rationalize and accept, rather than trying to deny or eliminate its existence, which can make it worse.
3. Reclaim your breath
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class or experienced a mediation session, you’ve likely been asked to focus on your breath. Also known as conscious breathing, the technique relies on following your breath as it enters your lungs. Doing so lowers your diaphragm and enriches your blood. This is a powerful anti-anxiety technique that triggers your body’s relaxation response, like a primary antidote to stress.
4. Focus on the present moment
Part of the reason breathing exercises and meditation are so useful in countering anxiety is their ability to help us focus on what’s happening in the moment. Since anxiety usually involves a worry about the future, it is powerful to focus on the present moment instead. As simple or quiet as this technique may be, it is very helpful at combating anxiety.
5. Write it down
Some people find it useful to write their worries down. If you try this exercise, remember to write quickly without judgment. Seeing your worries in ink can help take away their power. Somehow, on the page, they look fragile and manageable. Sometimes, just the act of writing them down will get your brain working on potential solutions.
6. Catch negative self-chatter
Similarly, it can be helpful to catch and write down your negative thoughts. Typically, we allow negative thoughts to run on a loop through our minds, unfounded and unchallenged. Once you start to catch them and write them down, it is much easier to expose them for the troublesome lies they are.
“I’m not good at my job,” for example, is probably not true. While there may be areas you’d like to improve upon, there are surely many in which you excel as well.
7. Go easy on yourself
When you are experiencing anxiety, it is more important than ever to be kind to yourself. This might mean taking extra walks, listening to a favorite podcast, or just generally taking time to put your self-care first. This includes replacing negative self-chatter with conscious, positive thoughts.
8. Get active
It’s widely known that exercise helps to lower stress-related hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Beyond the physical benefits, exercise can provide plenty of mental health benefits too. Whether you prefer gentle movements such as walking or yoga or like to crank up the intensity with running or biking, your mind will surely benefit from the distraction and effort of exercise.
9. Give your mind something to do
Sometimes anxiety needs to be forced to the back burner. Conscious breathing, meditation and physical exercise do just this, as they force your brain to take a bit of a break. A thoughtful activity can do the very same thing. Try a hobby or task that requires your full concentration, like a crossword puzzle, a challenging home project, or a new hobby such as knitting. These activities will force anxiety to take a break, even for the time being.
We hope this list of anxiety reduction techniques gives you a few ideas to get started as you gain a sense control over the present moment. Remember, if you continue to struggle, be sure to reach out for help from a trusted mental health professional.