Tips for Managing Anxiety
Dr Emma Mellon, PhD
It helps to remember that anxiety affects almost 40 million Americans annually. It’s a very American complaint.
• Anxiety is an emotion, and most of the time, does not respond to logic or self-criticism.
• Accept that you’re feeling anxious. You can’t move beyond something if you deny you’re feeling it.
• Breathe. Deeply and slowly. Our bodies are designed to manage anxiety if we give them the chance.
• Breathe again, deeply and slowly. Follow the breath in and out for 10 breaths. Concentrate on your breath as if you’ve never felt breathing before.
• Get back in touch with the present moment. Use your senses to steady yourself and anchor yourself in the here and now. See, hear, feel, touch, listen. Breathe.
• Take a time out. Do something completely unrelated. Stretch, walk, yawn (very, very relaxing!), sing, play a game of Free Cell. And yes, breathe.
• As you begin to settle again into a calmer body-mind, decide if you need to attend to the anxiety producer right now. Decide what resources you need – people, information, time, etc. – to handle the source of the anxiety.
Come to your senses
Look. Listen. Smell. Touch. Taste.
Our senses are built-in tools for managing anxious feelings. Before or after an anxiety- producing encounter, take time to use your senses to refresh yourself, and anchor yourself in the here and now.
I suspect we use the sense of taste more frequently than the other senses in an effort to quell our anxieties. Chocolate, Potato chips. Mmmm. The temporary solutions.
Less problematic foods work, too, since the result comes less from the sugar and salt, and more from the act of consciously focused attention. Taste something. Concentrate on the experience.
Look around. Notice shapes and colors, movement and stillness. Notice the difference you feel when you look at yellow, as opposed to grey.
Listen, really listen to your favorite artist, or to rain, or silence, or you own footstep. Allow sound to come to you.
Touch and notice texture, temperature, and the quality of surface. Hold and ice cube in your hand. Touch denim or a steering wheel.
Smell. Take a deep breath and focus on a scent. Lavender can be very soothing, but you may have your own favorites: cinnamon, grass, leather.
By exercising your senses, you are returning to the solid present and to the supportive system of your physical body which has intelligences for soothing and calming beyond the capabilities of the rational intellect.