When our nervous system becomes or remains escalated, we experience what we know as ANXIETY. Biology, environment, habits, trauma and fear are just a few possible factors that influence our experience of anxiety.
Some possible symptoms of anxiety include:
- digestive discomfort
- impaired concentration
- increased muscle aches or soreness
- difficulty sleeping
- panic attacks
- shortness of breath
- racing or obsessive thoughts
Here are five tips you can try to help calm your anxiety and settle your nervous system:
1. Breathe deeply. Relax your muscles and focus on breathing in through your nose, filling your lungs all the way up, holding for a moment, and then slowly and fully releasing all the air in a deep sigh. Close your eyes and take 4 more deep breaths just like the first. Breathing like this not only gives you something very tangible and physical to focus on, but it also regulates your breathing and heart rate to settle your nervous system and help you feel more calm.
2. Take a walk. Get up from where you are and take a stroll for a few minutes to settle and reset. A simple 10 min outdoor walk has remarkable benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. If you find it difficult to stop your thoughts, try finding things you can hear, see and smell along the way. Or, if you like to sweat a little, quicken your pace. All of these things will help you stay focused on what is right around you and not on your anxiety.
3. Give a hug. Safe physical touch can impact your whole system and experience in some pretty incredible ways. Whether it's your parent, partner, child, friend, or even a pet, hold a hand or give a hug to experience and share all of these benefits.
4. Challenge your mind. Come up with a math problem that challenges you. Write it down if needed. Now, work out the problem to come up with a solution. Repeat this two step exercise for 2-3 minutes. Using your mind in a completely different way short circuits the anxiety patterns in your brain and forces you out of your anxious thoughts.
5. Get creative. Grab some paper and something to write with. Choose an item you see around and either attempt to sketch the item or write a short five sentence story about that item. This is not an attempt to win any awards, but another skill for reducing anxiety. When you begin to move into an escalated or stressed state, creativity can be great to settle and redirect your experience. As a bonus, this exercise could also help you move into a good head space for solving problems instead of overthinking them.
Different circumstances and different people respond better to different things. Give these a try next time you or someone you know begins to experience symptoms of anxiety and discover what works best for you.