Anxiety symptoms take many forms: It’s the knot in your stomach as you navigate through the demands of your day, the racing pulse that rings in your ears as you interact with your friends, your family, or your partner; it’s even the feeling of unease for no reason at all.
According to a study from 2015, approximately 34% of Americans will fit the criteria for an anxiety disorder. That means one in every three people you meet – someone at work, in your classes, in line for coffee – will have lived or is living with anxiety symptoms. Even those who don’t experience persistent anxiety are vulnerable to feeling the effects of stress and discomfort.
So – what do you do with that feeling you have when you’re anxious?
While there are so many things you can do to get through anxious moments, it can be hard to recall these strategies when you’re ‘in the thick of it’. Here are three simple and memorable things you can do to help with your anxiety symptoms.
Breathe Through Anxiety
Okay, you might be thinking, “If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to ‘breathe’ when I was anxious or stressed, I’d be rich.” Fair enough. But intentional breathing can be one of the most helpful strategies in feeling more grounded. One technique that can help ease anxiety symptoms, known as square breathing or box breathing, combines mindfulness with paced breathing.
To practice square breathing, you can imagine (or really try it) drawing a square as you breathe:
- You inhale for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for four.
- Breathe out for a four count.
- And then hold it again for four.
- How quickly you count your fours is entirely up to you.
Go on vacation
I don’t mean that you should drop everything, board the next plane to Hawaii, and hit the beach as soon as you get there. Instead you can try these more realistic options to minimize anxiety symptoms:
- Take a mini vacation – that could be as simple as getting up from where you are and walking somewhere new.
- If you’re in a place where that’s not possible, picture your vacation moment. Is there a memory you have of being with those you love – maybe you’re by the water or in the mountains – and you’re completely in the moment? Close your eyes, and go there. This focus can help calm your anxious feelings.
- Is there a time you were totally at ease? Thinking about that moment can help draw you from the current uncomfortable moments you’re experiencing and replace them with more comfortable emotions.
Relax & Focus on Self Care
If you regularly experience anxiety symptoms, odds are someone close to you has suggested that you “just relax,” but when we’re anxious, that feels virtually impossible. Just as breathing can ground you in the moment, so can relaxing certain parts of your body. A creative way to do this is with Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR. When practicing PMR, you tense a specific part of your body, like your toes, leg muscles, shoulders, or hands, and release after a period of time.
- To try it out on your own, start with making your hands into fists and squeezing as hard as you can for ten seconds.
- Then, release your grip, and notice the sensations that you feel.
- You may also notice the color of your fingers and your palms.
- You can take PMR further and do a full body scan, starting at the tips of your toes and ending with the crown of your head.
Remember, the best way to sit with anxiety is the way that you’ve found is best for you.
Every person is different, and some techniques for easing anxiety symptoms work better with one person than another. These three suggestions, of the thousands of things you can do, can be done without anyone knowing, anywhere and at any time. Even if you’re in class, in a meeting, out to dinner, trying to fall asleep, you can try these activities to help get you through your anxiety.
Hopefully these tips will give you a good place to start.
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Anxiety treatment can help you implement these suggestions in your own life. Through anxiety counseling, you can find healing from your symptoms. At Blue Boat Counseling, we specialize in anxiety treatment, depression counseling and marriage therapy. If you’re looking for a compassionate, skilled anxiety counselor in the Columbus, OH area, please reach out and contact Blue Boat Counseling today. Our excellent mental health therapists can help you find the peace you’re looking for and help you be you.