Fear is a natural emotion that we are all born with, but it can narrow our ability to focus and become increasingly difficult to function when it turns into anxiety. Even within anxiety there is a spectrum that one must recognize to begin to tame it. Most importantly, anxiety is very contagious and is easily mirrored by children and peers. With that being said, try not to get pulled down by the crowd, and work to tame your anxiety with some of these strategies that have helped me.
Your first step is always, NAME IT. If you are in anxiety and can identify on a scale of 1-10 where you are at, you are on your way to finding the best strategy to respond with.
Physical approaches to Anxiety Relief
If you are experiencing anxiety between a 6-8 following physical approaches are your best bet for taming your anxiety. Just like when I used to swaddle or hug my children tight while they cried themselves to sleep, physical strategies have a great way of calming the nerves.
Exercise – putting your muscles to work allows for the stress hormone to be released as endorphins build inside your body. If you aren’t able to get out to walk, jog, run, then Progressive Muscle Relaxation works just as well.
- lay in a comfortable position, tense up all of your muscles and hold for a slow count of ten and then relax. Start with the entire body, then work slowly through the body.
Touch– Touch releases oxytocin (feel good chemical). Pet your animal, hold your loved ones close, place a weighted blanket on your body. It is important to soothe the nervous system when you are in anxiety, and touch is an important physical approach to comfort.
please honor the government’s Six Feet Apart rule for anyone outside of your close family home.
Humming- chanting ‘OM’ or anything with an ‘mmmm’ sound stimulates the vagus nerve that passes through the vocal cords and inner ear which can influence your nervous system
Breathe– Your breath and breathing is the only automatic function that you have direct control over. Inhales stimulate the fight-flight-or freeze response while the exhale stimulates the actions of a body at rest. The breath helps the body come back to homeostasis; lowers stress levels, improves heart rate, alleviates anxiety and stress, lowers blood pressure.(Quick Meditation)
Cognitive Approaches to Anxiety Relief
The following Cognitive approaches are great when you are feeling anxiety between a 4 or a 5. Within this stage, one can rationalize and even reason a bit.
Catch the Chatter– This is similar to ‘name it, to tame it’. Set a timer to go off. When the time goes off, jot down all of the thoughts/chatter that is taking up space in your brain. Once you have them all on paper, you can decide…
- Do I have enough data to be anxious or worried?
- Will being worried help this situation?The answers are usually ‘NO’ and you can get rid of those thoughts.
- (advise from the amazing Brene Brown)
Manage the ‘What ifs’– When you are in a ‘threat mode’, your brain starts to process through the ‘what ifs’ as if they were actually happening.
What if this ‘stay-at-home’ never ends?
What if I never get to go back to work?
What if my kids don’t get to play with their friends again?
What if we run out of toilet paper?
When your body is in a relaxed state, your brain is aware of what is actually happening. When you realize you are starting to create these scenarios, you are in anxiety– tame it through relaxation techniques.
Worst Case, Best Case– Create a trifold and label … Worse Case/ Best Case/Most likely.
First, list all the best case scenarios in progressive order from the adversity/worry. Identify a percentage of likelihood of each.
Do the same for the Worst Case and Likelihood.
From this list, create an action plan. (GoZen.com has a great PDF)
5 Senses and Nouns- This technique helps your body sssslllllooooowwww down. A great technique to relax is to name 5 senses.
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch or feel
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
This technique just takes a few seconds, but it helps the body, heart, and breath slow down.
Remember that anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions. If more than one person is feeling it in your home, it is very likely that you all are. Try not to mirror the anxiety, instead meet that emotion with a slow, calm and relaxed state.
These techniques are strategies that I have used throughout my experiences with anxiety. I do not promise all of these or any of these will work for you, but these are safe strategies that have helped me.