Understanding the First Step to Quick Anxiety Relief
In the wee hours of the night, the pangs of anxiety seem to take over and make sleeping difficult immediately. No matter how exhausted you might be, your body might have retired, but your mind is still up and scrawling the hallways, nitpicking every incident that took place during the day. And not in pleasant ways.
The pursuit of getting the what ifs’ answered is relentless and draining. Sometimes, these thoughts trigger full-blown panic attacks, making you dizzy and making your heart pound. Although it is easy to feel helpless in these situations, understand that you are not alone. Once you ace acceptance, self-control techniques, and mindfulness exercises, it becomes easy to get quick relief.
How Can I Quickly Reduce My Anxiety?
Many of you may already know that yoga and exercise may be effective in controlling the diverse symptoms. However, what do you do when you are outdoors or at work, and you suffer a panic attack? A quick fix becomes the need of the moment.
Here are a few realistic techniques that might help you regain control of your thoughts:
- Practice simple stretches: Release tension with movements you can use anywhere
- Use guided imagery: Use your imagination to induce feelings of well-being and safety
- Use a different language: Use a second language to redirect the brain.
- Make a playlist: Create a music playlist with three of your current favorite songs, then three from the last year, and so on.
How to Reduce Anxiety Immediately?
When anxiety strikes intensely, having rapid strategies on hand can truly make a difference. Let's delve into a few techniques that could swiftly bring you some relief.
1. Accept It
The first instinct in individuals with anxiety is to thrive by avoiding a chain of negative thoughts Acceptance is the first step in disengaging yourself from the immediate fear of anxiety and can be the first step to finding relief.
Knowing that you might be going through anxiety and not a life-threatening episode is the first step towards healing. However, it is essential to understand that acceptance does not mean to surrender, enjoy, or ask for more pain. Rather, research suggests that acceptance leads to lower levels of anxiety.
Remember to sit with your feelings and tell yourself that it's okay to have them. Remind yourself that these feelings are temporary and will pass.
2. Avoid Stimulants
If you are suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), you may be prescribed a stimulant to manage symptoms effectively. These stimulants often reduce hyperactivity, increase attention spans, and give you better control over your impulses since most people with ADHD suffer from various forms of anxiety.
On the flip side, irrespective of the dosage, you may fall into a risk of developing heightened anxiety. Stimulants can speed up your heart rate and create unusual physical sensations, which may trigger anxiety. Further, they may rev up your brain and alter the way your nerve cells send messages to the brain.
Eliminating stimulants is a key part of any anxiety management strategy since all stimulants, including illegal and legal drugs and certain kinds of food items, can all lead to an increase in your anxiety symptoms.
3. Try Deep Breathing
Consciously controlling an automatic process may shift your focus and lead to better anxiety management. Close your eyes to draw in as much air as you can into your lungs. The slower you exhale, the more you will engage your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body down after a shocking episode. You cannot be scared and calm at the same time, so focus on lengthening your exhale to get better results. This tells your body that everything is okay.
4. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique
This is a grounding technique that uses the five senses to focus on the moment you are in. By doing this, you will stop your brain from churning out worst-case scenarios, which often trap you in a cycle of anxiety and panic.
Here’s how you can exercise it:
- Acknowledge five things you see around you. It could be a ceiling, a window pane, or anything in your immediate surroundings.
- Acknowledge four things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, your pillow, or the ground beneath you.
- Acknowledge three things you can hear. This could be any external sound. The sound of spices sputtering in the frying pan also counts!
- Acknowledge two things you can smell. You might be in your office and smell a pencil, or if you need to take a small detour to find a smell, step outdoors into nature and find one that you connect to.
- Acknowledge one thing you can taste. It can be a takeaway from the sandwich you had for lunch, or you may consider popping a chewing gum.
When you stop to smell flowers or pencil shavings, getting sucked into a downward spiral of stress and anxiety becomes a distant thought.
5. Try to Distract yourself
Distraction is the modern-day equivalent of avoiding the dangerous or unknown, like in ancient times. Uncertainty causes anxiety. Instead of wracking your brain and putting your energy into things you cannot control, you can try focusing on things that give your body and mind time to process and heal from the feelings of overwhelming stress and anxiety.
Here are a few ways you can distract yourself in times of distress caused by anxiety:
- Watch a Movie or TV Show: Get absorbed in a movie or binge-watch a TV series to take your mind off your anxiety.
- Play with a Stress Ball or Fidget Toy: The tactile sensation of squeezing a stress ball or playing with a fidget toy can help distract you from anxiety.
- Puzzle Games: Solve puzzles, play Sudoku, or engage in other brain-teasing games that require concentration.
- Counting: Counting backward or forwards, either out loud or in your head, can divert your attention away from anxious thoughts.
- Coloring or Art: Engage in coloring books or other forms of art to shift your focus to a creative and soothing activity.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and then release different muscle groups in your body. This physical distraction can help reduce tension and anxiety.
6. Exercising Might Help
You might know at least a few people in your social circle who are going through anxiety and seeking therapy for it. That is how rampant anxiety is today due to the fast pace, work stressors, and targets.
Mental health professionals often recommend exercise as a treatment for anxiety. But before assessing how effective exercise might be in this case, it is important to understand the severity of your anxiety.
Exercise effectively treats anxiety by addressing both physical and psychological aspects. Regular physical activity releases endorphins, reducing anxiety and stress. It also improves sleep quality by regulating circadian rhythms and reducing restlessness and the severity of your symptoms. Most research on anxiety and exercise focuses on observational studies that prove people who exercise regularly have lower stress and anxiety levels.
Here are a few exercises you may practice:
- Swimming offers a calming distraction from anxiety symptoms and has been shown to alleviate anxiety in various groups, such as pregnant individuals, those with fibromyalgia, and families caring for children with developmental disabilities. Spending 30-45 minutes in the pool provides cardiovascular benefits similar to aerobic exercise.
- Running and Cycling: Engaging in aerobic activities like running or cycling triggers the release of endorphins, mood-stabilizing hormones that induce relaxation and happiness. Consistent participation in these exercises can lead to enduring anxiety relief.
- Tai Chi is a martial art that combines meditation and rhythmic breathing exercises with slow body movements.
7. Share your Feelings with Someone you Trust
When a machine breaks down, you either know how to fix it or call someone who does, but the same does not apply to your emotions. There is no screwdriver you can grab to tighten your grip, but you do have one tool in your toolbox that you can always use: talking about your feelings of stress and anxiety. Talking has powerful psychological benefits, even though they might not be obvious.
This is how sharing your feelings can help:
- Validation and Understanding: A trusted individual can offer validation and empathy, helping you feel heard and understood. Knowing that someone cares about your feelings and experiences can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which often accompany anxiety.
- Gain Perspective: Discussing your feelings with someone you trust can provide a fresh perspective on your situation. They may offer insights, suggestions, or alternative viewpoints that you haven't considered, helping you see your challenges in a new light.
- Relationship Building: Sharing your feelings can deepen your connection with the person you confide in. Trust and emotional intimacy can strengthen relationships, which can provide ongoing support for managing anxiety.
When choosing someone to confide in, it's essential to pick a trusted individual who is supportive, non-judgmental, and respectful of your feelings. This person could be a friend, family member, partner, therapist, or counselor.
8. Try Out a Cold Shower
After a busy day at work, all that heavy lifting at the supermarket, or even a disappointing date, many of us crave a relaxing, long bath. The feeling of cleanliness that a shower provides can engulf us like a refreshing wave of comfort. Interestingly, there is scientific support for the idea that showers have a positive impact on both our mental and physical well-being. Research suggests that in stressful moments, a cold shower can help dissipate the effects of those moments.
- Cold exposure triggers a stress response in your body. While this might seem counterintuitive, regular exposure to stressors, like cold water, can help your body become more resilient to stress over time. This process is called hormesis, and it can help you better handle anxiety-inducing situations in your daily life.
- Cold showers can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. This can lead to a sense of well-being and relaxation after the initial shock of the cold water.
- Cold showers can increase your heart rate and circulation, leading to improved alertness and mental clarity. This heightened state of alertness can help you better manage anxious thoughts and stay focused on the present moment.
- Cold exposure can stimulate the production of white blood cells and increase the activity of immune system functions. This can contribute to overall better health and potentially reduce anxiety related to illness.
Can Therapy Help?
Although many types of anxiety disorders exist, research suggests that most are driven by similar underlying processes. Each anxiety disorder presents its own distinct symptoms and difficulties, and it's crucial for your therapist to customize your treatment to address your particular anxiety symptoms and mental health diagnosis. For instance, if you're dealing with separation anxiety disorder, your therapeutic needs will contrast with those of someone facing social phobia or selective mutism. Nevertheless, several standard therapy approaches are commonly employed in the treatment of anxiety disorders, including the following:
- Psychodynamic Therapy: This form of therapy aims to help individuals address negative behavioral patterns stemming from past experiences. Sessions typically involve open-ended questioning and free association to uncover unconscious behavior patterns.
- Interpersonal Therapy: focuses on identifying and communicating through interpersonal relationship issues, such as conflicts with family or friends.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is the most commonly used therapy for various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). CBT operates on the principle that our thoughts, rather than external events, influence our feelings. In other words, it's not the situation itself that affects emotions but one's perception of the situation.
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy gradually exposes individuals to situations or objects they fear. Through repeated exposures, individuals gain a greater sense of control over these situations, leading to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR): during this type of therapy, individuals engage in a series of back-and-forth, repetitive eye movements to alter these negative emotional reactions. EMDR is particularly beneficial for those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
1. How can I calm my anxiety in 5 minutes?
- Try a relaxation app.
- Listen to a song.
- Get your body moving.
2. What are five coping skills for anxiety?
You can try the following coping strategies one at a time or in combination according to what suits you best.
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): EFT involves tapping on specific acupressure points to reduce anxiety and negative emotions.
- Deep Breathing: Practice slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system and ease anxiety.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release muscle groups to alleviate physical tension associated with anxiety.
- Mindfulness Meditation: Focus on the present moment to reduce racing thoughts and anxious feelings.
- Positive Affirmations: Repeat reassuring statements to counter negative thoughts and boost self-confidence.