When we worry over something that hasn’t happened yet or may not happen at all, we pay the ultimate price: our happiness. Incessantly worrying means giving way to anxiety, and though worrying it’s something that we all do from time to time when anxiety takes over, it’s essential that you’re equipped with the right set of tools to help get it in check.
If you haven’t yet found the most effective treatment for anxiety, try one (or all) of the following four techniques and always keep them handy. Consider them to be pieces to your anxiety treatment toolkit. No medications or fancy gadgets needed. Just you and your drive and focus on getting better, no matter when or where your anxiety strikes next.
Take in your surroundings
Pause and take in everything that is going on around you. Use all of your senses. Notice smells, sounds, colors, textures, anything that catches your attention. The goal is for you to focus on anything other than the thoughts circling in your mind. Your worries are by no means small, but the things you notice may help you realize that there is more going on with you and around you at all times than these struggles. It may also help you gain relief from thinking by focusing on something other than your thoughts.
Go for a walk outside
Before you even have time to talk yourself out of it, slip on some sneakers and head outside. Take some deep breaths, listen to music or a podcast. Incorporate technique #1 and take in your surroundings; use your sense of touch to notice how the cold or warm air feels on your skin.
Walking is an accessible, effective, and simple tool for anxiety treatment and cultivating a positive mood. Plus, the air circulation inside can contribute to your anxiety if you feel cramped or stuffy, so the fresh air and change of scenery can provide you some relief and possibly some perspective.
Think it all through
One significant sign of a worrying mind is getting stuck on “what if” thoughts or worst-case scenarios. So when the next unhelpful thought comes to mind, pause and consider if that outcome is likely to happen. Ask yourself if your thought makes sense. If they are rooted in any kind of evidence or logic. Finally, identify a rational thought (which is a common technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety). Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen in your given situation, if you could handle it, and if it will matter one week or a month from now. Rational thoughts tend to leave the mind when we focus on the cause of our anxiety or worry, so challenging your thoughts is a way to bring some rationality back into the picture.
Breathing is a highly effective tool for anxiety treatment. It’s not just about the sense of relief you feel when you take a deep breath - there is a science behind it. Worrying and anxiety tend to cause us to take shallow and quick breaths that notify our brains to trigger a stress response. So, if we consciously take deeper and longer breaths, we can pull ourselves out of that fight-or-flight response mode.
You might find that one breathing technique works better for you than another, and the great thing is there are many techniques you can try until you find it. For anxiety, counting your breath to yourself is generally very helpful. You might start by inhaling for three seconds, then exhaling for four seconds. No matter the ratio, this method will help keep you focused.
The next time you’re feeling anxious, break out one of these anxiety relief tools. Better yet, don’t wait until your anxiety creeps in and practice them now. This way, you’ll know what to do when you need to calm your worried mind.
Priscila Norris, LCSW, RYT.
Thrivemind Counseling and Wellness
Owner, Psychotherapist, Yoga Teacher