If you’re someone who suffers from feelings of anxiety, you may feel frustrated in the search for options that may work for you. Conflicting advice, strong opinions and the abundance of misinformation make it difficult to know what to try.
Consider these techniques to help you reach a calm and relaxed state.
1. Understand What Your Mind Is Doing
Your brain can play tricks on you. When you’re in a hyper-anxious state and are becoming overwhelmed, your mind will attempt to wreak havoc on your senses and create hyperbolic, high-stress scenarios that your body may start to believe.
If you can, remind yourself that your mind is attempting to trick you. You may not be having the physiological reaction that you think you are. Having this awareness may help to calm you and reassure you that you are able to get through this period.
2. Acceptance and Observation Without Judgment
Marla W. Dybler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and author of the Psych Central Blog Therapy That Works, has an important reminder: “Anxiety is just a feeling.” Like any other emotion or sensation, feelings of anxiety are a reaction that will pass in time. Acknowledging this puts the power back in your hands, as you know that this is a feeling that you can survive and get through.
Having the ability to take an objective stance on your reactions – without being hard on yourself and falling into negative feedback loops – allows you to accept your situation. At this moment in time, you are experiencing an anxious response, but it is tolerable and will pass. Being able to do this can help you to eradicate feelings of hopelessness that can compound and worsen your anxious state.
3. Breathing Techniques
Not only does focusing on your breathing help to center you in the present, but it also has a physiological effect on your mental state. By slowing your breathing and commanding deep, long breaths from the diaphragm, you move your body from a “flight or fight” state to one of relaxation. It’s a technique taught to soldiers and athletes around the world and has been tried and tested in incredibly high-stress situations.
This is the first method to use when trying to bring your feelings of anxiety under control. Inhale slowly to a count of 4, fill your thorax and torso, and hold your breath for a further count of 4 before exhaling slowly and repeating. Increasing the count and focusing on the numbers as you center your thoughts on your breathing is another effective tactic that will help to calm your thoughts.
4. Meditation & Positive Visualisation
If you have never practiced meditation before, this may be a little bit out of your comfort zone at first. However, regularly practicing meditation improves your ability to cope when your mind overwhelms you and seems to be out of control.
While regular practice will give you the ability to tap into this skill when you need it most, calming, relaxed visualization can also aid you if you have never practiced meditation before. Focusing on images, moments and ideas that are calming and assigning your negative worries and emotions to them can be very powerful.
For example, visualizing passing clouds or a gentle stream and assigning your emotions to these visual elements allows you to let them float away from you and out of your current frame of mind.
5. Logical Interruptions
Your brain is an incredibly powerful tool. You can do incredible things with your mind. This can play against us when we’re feeling particularly anxious. At these times, it might feel like your brain is working overtime to come up with worst-case scenarios, tricking you into believing that they are an accurate representation of reality.
When you’re trying to break out of these dangerous, frustrating cycles, it may help to ask yourself a series of questions that will interrupt these patterns and force you to apply logic and past experience in a realistic way. Ask yourself questions like…
- How likely is this to happen?
- Is the worst-case scenario really so bad?
- If the worst happens, can I handle that situation?
- Is this an accurate reflection of reality, or does it simply feel that way right now?
- If something negative does happen, does that really mean anything about who I am as a person?
- What steps can I take right now to prepare for what happens next?
- Even if the situation goes wrong, so what? What are the real world implications?
Do you have any techniques or tips for managing anxiety successfully? Do you have a go-to calming visualization? Let us know in the comments below if you’ve put these methods to good use – we’d love to hear from you!