Updated: Jun 24, 2021
Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of fear or worry, often accompanied by unpleasant physical sensations such as increased tension and heart rate. The focus of anxiety is usually on the future and on what will or could happen. It is not uncommon to feel anxious from time to time. It is most likely to occur in new, stressful, changing and uncertain situations. Some examples include: writing an exam, meeting someone new, becoming a parent, financial issues, health issues, and mourning the death of a loved one.
Below are three ways to help calm anxiety.
Breathing is one of the simplest techniques to use to cope with anxiety. When we are feeling anxious, our breathing can become rapid and shallow. This can lead to increased heart rate, dizziness, difficulties concentrating, and other unpleasant sensations. By slowing down and taking a couple of deep breaths - it can create a calming effect.
Deep breathing tells our brain and body that we are okay, safe, and can relax.
The next time you feel nervous or anxious, take a minute to focus your attention on your breath. Take slow deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
You can take it even a step further by doing a specific breathing exercise. An example is square breathing (or box breathing).
Inhale for four counts,
Hold for four counts,
Exhale for four counts
Hold for four counts
Repeat four times.
Anxiety can sometimes be caused by worrying about the future. In other words, we are thinking about what could happen. When we practice mindfulness, we bring our focus to the present moment, the here and now. The intention is to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgement.
Mindfulness is not just meditation practice. There are many other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your day. The main goal is to focus on what you are doing at the moment while limiting distractions. This can mean turning off electronic devices such as your phone or TV. This can also mean spending time alone and away from others.
Mindfulness when working out or doing physical activities: What do you see, feel, hear? Mindfulness when eating a meal: What does the food look, smell and taste like? What is the texture?
Mindfulness when first waking up: Take your time waking up. Don’t check your phone right away. Fully enjoy your morning routine - having a shower, getting dressed, having a coffee.
Challenge Negative Thoughts and Beliefs
Anxiety often leads to thinking of the worst-case scenarios. To lessen our anxiety, we can challenge those thoughts gently. You can do this either on your own or with someone you trust, such as a friend or family member.
Is there evidence to support (or contradict) my thoughts?
Can I look at this from a different perspective?
What would my friend or family member say about my thoughts?
How likely is it that this scenario will happen? Has it happened before?
Is there a way to cope with the outcome if the scenario happens?
If you are experiencing frequent, intense or persistent fear or worry that negatively impacts your day-to-day functioning, please consider seeking support. Chronic anxiety is best managed long-term through a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.
Box Breathing Technique | Maimonides Emergency Medicine
5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life | Mindful.org
Challenge Negative Thinking | Anxiety Canada
Twenty Questions to Help You Challenge Negative Thoughts | Northeastern Ohio Universities
7 Ways to Deal With Negative Thoughts | Psychology Today