5 Tips to Calm Anxiety. Right Now.
Do you often feel tense, wound-up, worried or anxious?
Does your mind spin with potential disasters?
Do you want to “shut off” your brain to get some relief?
Here are five evidence-based techniques you can do right now to calm yourself.
1. Breathe deeply with the 4-7-8 Breathing Routine
This form of mindful breathing calms your sympathetic nervous system and shifts your focus away from distressing thoughts.
- Press the tip of your tongue against the back of your top teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a “th” sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale through your mouth, making the “th” sound for 8 counts.
Repeat 3 cycles
2. Check reality
- What am I worried will happen?
- On a scale from 0-100, how likely is this to happen?
- What evidence do I have that it will happen?
- What are the chances that I’m worrying too much?
Evaluating your answers to these questions may help put your worries into perspective. This process is commonly used in cognitive-behavioral therapy.
3. Go for a walk
Physical activity reduces anxiety and improves mood. Walking in a greenspace like a park or other forested area intensifies the positive effects.
While you are walking, focus on your senses. What do you see, feel, hear and smell?
4. Play the 5-4-3-2-1 Game
- Start by breathing slowly and deeply to ground yourself
- Notice FIVE things you see around you – sunglasses, a chair, whatever you see.
- Notice FOUR things you can touch around you – your hair, clothes, the floor.
- Notice THREE things you hear – a plane flying overhead, the refrigerator humming in the next room, a bird chirping outside.
- Notice TWO things you can smell. You might smell objects immediately around you or walk to another space to smell coffee, soap, or something else in your environment.
- Notice ONE thing you can taste – what does the inside of your mouth taste like? Alternatively, you can take a bite of food or sip from a drink.
5. Schedule some worry time
This cognitive-behavioral therapy tool helps you to structure and shorten your worry time.
Select a time of day to worry for 15 minutes. During the scheduled time, write down all of the worries you can think of without censoring yourself.
Outside of that time, acknowledge your anxious thoughts and tell them to come back at the scheduled time – “I’ll hear you, but only from 2:00 – 2:15.” It may be helpful to jot down anxious thoughts when they pop into your head so that you don’t forget them.
With practice, this technique can help you to control when and how often you worry.
While these tips are effective in managing anxiety, if you or someone you love suffers from severe, persistent anxiety you might benefit from the help of a caring professional.
You deserve to feel better. Take the first step by talking to your primary care physician, or contacting Athena Care.
Rachel Swan, MS
Rachel has a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt University, where she spent 16 years as a Research Analyst in the Psychology and Human Development Department.