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How to Ease Anxiety

Pick by Anthony Tran

Most of us over a lifetime will struggle with periods of anxiety.  For some, it’s temporary and situational.  For others it’s an almost constant state.  But we've learned a lot about how to ease anxiety.  By working with the body and using it's natural healing powers, you can become really skillful at reducing anxiety and bringing in more calm.  

 Anxiety is a common emotional response characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. When someone experiences anxiety, it's often in response to an anticipated event, even if there is no immediate threat. Common symptoms include restlessness, a sense of dread, rapid heartbeat, sweating, fatigue, narrowing vision, heart palpitations, and difficulty concentrating. While occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, persistent and excessive anxiety could indicate an anxiety disorder. For those looking to assess the severity of their anxiety symptoms, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7) questionnaire is a useful tool. 

Here are 5 Powerful Strategies for How to Ease Anxiety

One:  Intensify sensations.

Introduce intense sensations by taking a cold shower/bath, going outside in the sun (or cold), putting a hot pack on your neck/shoulders, splashing cold water on your face,  or listening to loud, intense music.  The goal is to distract your nervous system into dealing with the sensation.  For many people, it helps them shift out of the intense physical sensations of anxiety.  

Two:  Try increasing your heart rate.

It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes actually increasing your heart rate can have a "reset" effect on your nervous system.  Do jumping jacks, kettlebell swings, go for a run/fast walk.    If raising your heart rate makes it worse, then just try slow movements like yoga, walking, stretching, Tai Chi.  Moving when anxious is usually highly beneficial.   

Three: Steal a trick from vision therapy that helps with anxiety too.

Try looking at your pointed finger (or pen) a few inches from your eyes for about 2 seconds and then across the room (10 feet or more) for about 2 seconds. Keep switching back and forth at a comfortable pace for a minute or two.  This is called vergence therapy and for some, it helps them move out of a panic attack.   See the following research article for more information.  

Have you heard of Brainspotting? It's highly effective in easing anxiety! Find out more here

Four:  Completely consume your mind with a game, intense movie or hobby.

Another strategy for how to ease anxiety is to play an engaging game that totally consumes your concentration.  This is especially useful if you are ruminating on a particular subject.  You can also try watching a scary or action packed movie that heightens your senses and engages your mind.  If you have a hobby that you love,  dive in even if you don't feel like it!  The best activities are ones that take a lot of concentration such as rock climbing, playing an instrument, complex knitting/crocheting, art, etc. 

Five:  Use this  somatic mindfulness technique:

  1. Identify where you feel anxiety in your body. Don’t focus on your repeating thoughts. Just notice where the anxiety seems to be occurring in the body. Usually it’s in the chest, throat or stomach. But it might be in the head, jaw, arms or legs. It could be anywhere. 
  2. Start naming the feelings and sensations.  Shift your focus away from your thoughts and put your attention solely on the body and it's sensations and feelings.
  3. After focusing on it for a minute or two. Take a big open mouth breath in and out, almost like a yawn.  Or you can also try blowing the air out through a small opening of your lips, letting your cheeks puff out.  
  4. Gently tap on the mid point just beneath your collar bone and you take slow breaths in and out.  
  5. Tell yourself comforting phrases like, “All will be well”; “Things will work out as they’re meant to” ; “I’ve gotten through hard things before, I can with this too.” “This feeling will pass.”  

Anxiety can be painful, frustrating and really interfere with your life.  There is help.  You!  can find podcasts, free resources and therapists who really know how to work with this.  Don't let anxiety paralyze you and keep you from getting help.  You can do this! 

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