If anxiety has you overwhelmed, you’re not alone — struggles with anxiety are on the rise across the United States, particularly for children and young adults.
As insurmountable as your anxiety may seem, the fact is you CAN take active steps to reduce your suffering. Read on for our go-to tips for managing anxiety that anyone can practice right now.
1. Be present
Anxiety takes you out of the here and now, whisking you into hypothetical situations or future scenarios that you have yet to face. Hit the brakes and come back to today.
A simple way to practice being present is to focus exclusively on a single task. It could be your current work project, doing the dishes, or getting coffee with a friend. Whatever it is, be really in it instead of multitasking or allowing your thoughts to drift into other things.
Deep breathing also helps you be present; just be careful to breathe slowly and avoid shallow breaths that can actually fuel anxiety. Grounding exercises such as intentionally using each of your senses to connect with your present environment can also be useful.
2. Make yourself more comfortable
Anxiety can be a very physically uncomfortable experience. You might notice yourself feeling lightheaded, restless, and sweaty, with a racing heartbeat or a tight feeling in your chest.
Make life a little easier on yourself and ensure that there’s nothing else unnecessarily adding to your physical discomfort. Check in with yourself on whether your body is satisfied with the basics — enough rest, enough water and nutritious food, and clothing that is appropriately warm or cool depending on the weather.
Avoid sensory overload by reflecting on any factors in your environment that may be subtly getting on your nerves. Lower the brightness on your phone or computer, wear sunglasses outside if it’s a really sunny day. Consider what electronic bells and whistles you can turn the volume down on or silence, and think about using ear plugs if there’s a lot of noise around you that you can’t control.
3. Get still
Stop rushing around so much and spend some time actually physically at rest. Sit down or lay down and focus on dialing back the level of energy in your body. Let that anxiety “buzz” inside you quiet down. Soon enough your breathing and heart rate will slow down and your thoughts will follow suit too.
Visualization can be helpful in getting you to that still place, particularly if you’re not practiced in meditation or similar contemplative activities. Rest your eyes and imagine yourself being still in a peaceful place. It could be somewhere real — like the home of someone who makes you feel safe — or an imaginary place in your mind — like a beautiful, lush forest.
4. Use your voice
A common piece of advice for managing anxiety is listening to music, but in many cases this strategy doesn’t work, or works because it’s accomplishing a different anxiety management method — eg: drowning out irritating sensory experiences or helping to visualize a calm place as a means of creating stillness.
Creating music is a more effective approach — using instruments if you have them, or using the more universal instrument of the human voice. The body vibrations you create through singing or humming have a calming “reset” effect on your nervous system. This helps bring your anxiety down from the body-based level.
5. Let go of control
Paradoxically, a key component of managing anxiety is accepting that you can’t totally manage your anxiety. Fighting away or trying to ignore what you’re experiencing often ends up making your anxiety even stronger. Accept that your current anxious emotional state is happening — and even though it’s uncomfortable, you can handle it, and it will pass.
Getting more support
Need more support with managing your anxiety? Meeting with a therapist regularly can help you practice anxiety management skills, identify stressors and triggers, and take steps to resolve any difficult life situations you are going through. We can help you think it over — click the button below to schedule a free initial consultation. We can chat about your journey with anxiety so far and discuss how therapy can give you a much-needed boost.