Anxiety is a normal physiological process, protecting us from real and imagined threats. When alerted, our bodies respond with anything from vague discomfort to a pounding heartbeat.
When your body is alerted and does not begin calming, or when you can’t calm enough to focus on work or sleep, you need tools to cope. When there is no acute threat, your body is almost always responding to concerns about the past or future, and things that feel out of your control.
If you are feeling anxious, focusing on the present and the things you do have control over can be helpful. Try the following techniques.
Sit comfortably and upright with your feet firmly on the floor. Gently press your feet into the floor noticing your legs tighten a little and then relax. Let your shoulders relax. Pay attention to how the ground and your seat are supporting you.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1”
Think of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch (and touch them), 2 things you can smell or like the smell of, and take 1 slow, deep breath.
Imagine you have a straw in your mouth and make a small opening to breathe through. Breathe slowly through your mouth and imagine the air is being drawn down to your belly button. Slowly breathe out. Repeat 6 times. As this becomes easier, pay attention only to your breath. If possible, schedule a time to practice this each day.
Often, just having a plan helps lower distress. Write down what actions you can take to address a specific problem. Identify which actions are feasible and when you can do them. Decide when you will do these.
Make a list of 3-10 things you can do to take your mind off what is upsetting you. Do at least one of these. (Drinking and drug use should not be on this list!) You can take a walk, listen to music, or watch your favorite movie.
Call a friend, family member, counselor—any supportive person you trust—just to talk.
If you are prone to anxiety, it is important to attend to your self-care. Before seeking medication to cope with anxiety, ask yourself the following: Am I sleep deprived? Is my diet okay? Am I getting any exercise? Am I overusing substances, including caffeine? Do I need a medical evaluation?
Check out our Resources for Well-Being to find more great tips to successfully manage your mood.