The 10 BEST EVER anxiety squashing methods
Anxiety ugh that feeling of impending doom, the chest tightens, breathing is short and shallow and you feel like you are going to crawl out of your skin, or at least you would like to crawl out of your skin.
Driving along I-5 in San Diego in 2008, I went into a full fledge panic attack. My daughter was away in college and I no longer had any control of her whereabouts. My world felt like it was collapsing, who was I if I wasn’t a Mom? I mean seriously that was the one job I had excelled at (well I like to think I did anyway – I am sure she would tell a different story) 😉
Imagine just a mere 3 miles away sat the renowned Chopra Center for Wellbeing, co-founded by Drs Deepak Chopra & David Simon, two of the most well known mind/body medicine doctors in the world. Why wasn’t I taking advantage of the wisdom they could provide? Well, I quickly out of the pain of not wanting to feel the anxiety I made an appointment. That was the day my life made a radical shift for the better. I learned how to quell the anxiety without taking medications which is of course exactly what most mainstream doctors were happy to prescribe. I wanted holistic solutions a way to ease the anxiety permanently.
So without further ado let me share with you the best methods I have found to squash the craziness of anxiety.
These methods fall into three groups: Mental, Physical & Emotional
∗ the physical sensations that create the feeling of panic
∗ the emotions of tension that are correlated with being ‘stressed out’
∗ the mental anguish of rumination – a brain that won’t stop thinking distressing thoughts
Distressing Physical sensations – the sympathetic arousal in the body causes the heart thumping, pulse-racing, dizzy, tingly, shortness of breath physical symptoms, that can come out of the blue and are intolerable when not understood. Even high levels of anxiety can cause physical tension in the jaw, neck and back as well as an emotional somatic feeling of doom or dread in the pit of the stomach, which will set off a mental search for what might be causing it. In medical terms it’s called the fight or flight biological response.
Method 1: Manage the body.
→ Eat healthy – the colors of the rainbow – eat lots of raw & juice your veggies & fruit for immediate absorption
→ Avoid alcohol, nicotine, sugar and caffeine
→ Exercise – endorphins get released and you feel so amazingly sexy & energetic ready to tackle the world! Yoga is a great way to connect mind & body with spirit
→ Spiritual tools (meditation, shadow work, inner child work) your inner world reflects your outer!
→ Minimum of 8 hours of uninteruppted sleep
→ Consider hormonal changes (ugh mine are really off the roof now that I am peri-menopausal – check out bio-identical hormones plant based)
Method 2: Breathe
Ah yes breathing – such a simple thing but few do it with intention. It is the first thing we do in this lifetime and the last. Breathing will slow down or stop the stress response all together.
Take in conscious deep breaths for about 1 minute at a time, 10-15 times per day every time you are waiting for something eg., the phone to ring, an appointment, a red light, waiting in a line etc. Fill the belly up like you are pregnant or have a large balloon inside it and then contract in the release of breath – the belly should rise in the in breath and contract in the out breath.
1) Close your eyes and breathe; noticing the body, how the intake of air feels, how the heart beats, what sensations you can feel in the gut, in your heart, neck, shoulders,back – notice where you hold stress in the body and send breath to those areas.
2) With eyes still closed, purposefully shift your awareness away from your body to everything you can hear, smell, or feel through your skin
3) Shift awareness back and forth from your body to what’s going on around you.
You will learn on a physical level that you can control what aspects of the world – internal or external – you’ll notice, giving you an internal focus of control and learning that when you can ignore physical sensations, you can stop making the catastrophic interpretations that bring on panic or worry. It allows you to feel more in control and mindful of the present.
Tension, Stress and Dread
Many people with anxiety search frantically for the reasons behind their symptoms in the hope that they can ‘solve’ whatever problem it is, but since much of their heightened tension isn’t about a real problem, they are wasting their time running around an inner maze of perpetual worry. Even if the tension stems from psychological or other causes, there are ways to eliminate the symptoms of worry.
These methods are most helpful for diminishing chronic tension.
Method 4: Don’t listen when worry calls your name
This feeling of dread and tension comprises a state of low grade fear, which can also cause other physical symptoms, like headaches, joint pain, and digestive disturbances. The feeling of dread is just the emotional manifestation of physical tension.
You must first learn that worry is a habit with a neurobiological underpinning, then apply relaxation methods to counteract the tension that is building up.
This ‘Don’t Listen’ method decreases the tension by combining a decision to ignore the voice of worry with a cue for the relaxation state.
To stop listening to the command to worry, you can say to yourself: “It’s just my anxious brain firing wrong” or “it’s just a very young part of me which is anxious”. This is the cue to begin relaxation breathing which will stop the physical sensations of dread that trigger the radar.
When you fear anger because of past experience, the very feeling of anger, even though it remains unconscious, can produce anxiety. To know you’re angry doesn’t require you to show you’re angry.
A simple technique: Next time you feel stricken with anxiety, you should sit down and write as many answers as possible to this question, “If I were angry, what might I be angry about?” Restrict answers to single words or brief phrases.
This may open the door to get some insight into the connection between your anger and your anxiety.
Method 6: Have a Little Fun
Laughing is a great way to increase good feelings and discharge tension. Getting in touch with fun and play isn’t easy for the serious, tense worrier.
A therapy goal could be simply to relearn what you had fun doing in the past and prescribe yourself some fun. Rent some funny movies and laugh!
The Mental Anguish of Rumination
These methods deal with the difficult problem of a brain that won’t stop thinking about distressing thoughts or where worry suffocates your mental and emotional life. These worries hum along in the background, generating tension or sick feelings, destroying concentration and diminishing the capacity to pay attention to the good things in life.
Therapy does not need to focus on any specific worry, but rather on the act of worrying itself – the following methods are the most effective in eliminating rumination.
If a ruminating brain is like an engine stuck in gear and overheating, then slowing or stopping it gives it a chance to cool off. The goal of ‘turning it off’ is to give the ruminative mind a chance to rest and calm down.
Sit quietly with eyes closed and focus on an image of an open container ready to receive every issue on your mind. See and name each issue or worry and imagine putting it into the container. When no more issues come to mind, ‘put a lid’ on the container and place it on a shelf or in some other out of the way place until you need to go back to get something from it. Once you have the container on the shelf, you invite into the space that is left in your mind whatever is the most important current thought or feeling.
At night, right before sleep, invite a peaceful thought to focus on while drifting off.
Method 8: Persistent Interruption of Rumination
Ruminative worry has a life of its own, consistently interfering with every other thought in your mind. The key to changing this pattern is to be persistent with your attempts to use thought stopping and thought replacement. Its important to attempt to interrupt the pattern every time you catch yourself ruminating – you’ve spent a long time establishing this pattern and it will take persistence to wear it down. We hard wire our bodies through consistent patterns.
Thought stopping – use the command “Stop” and/or a visual image to remind yourself that you are going into an old habit. The command serves as a punishment and a distractor. I like to tell clients “that is a no cookie zone” as in there are no treats there.
Thought replacement – substitute a reassuring, assertive or self-accepting statement after you have managed to stop the thought. You may need to develop a set of these statements that you can look at or recall from memory.
Method 9: Worry Well, but Only Once
Some worries just have to be faced head-on, and worrying about them the right way can help eliminate secondary, unnecessary worrying. When you feel that your worries are out of control try this next method.
1) Worry through all the issues within a time limit of 10-20 mins and cover all the bases
2) Do anything that must be done at the present time. Set a time when it’ll be necessary to think about the worry again
3) Write that time on a calendar
4) Whenever the thought pops up again say, “Stop! I already worried” and divert your thoughts as quickly as possible to another activity – you may need to make a list of these possible diversions beforehand.
A big difference between planning and worrying is that a good plan doesn’t need constant review. An anxious brain, however, will reconsider a plan over and over to be sure it’s the right plan. This is all just ruminating worry disguising itself as making a plan and then seeking constant reassurance.
It is important to learn the fundamentals of planning as it can make a big difference in calming a ruminative mind. These include:
→ Concretely identifying the problem
→ Listing the problem solving options
→ Picking one of the options
→ Writing out a plan of action
To be successful in this approach, you must also have learned to apply the thought-stopping/thought-replacing tools or you can turn planning into endless cycles of re-planning.
Once a plan has been made you can use the fact that you have the plan as a concrete reassurance to prevent the round-robin of ruminative re-planning. The plan becomes part of the thought-stopping statement, “Stop! I have a plan!” It also helps the endless reassurance-seeking, because it provides written solutions even to problems the ruminator considers hopelessly complex.
These skills do require patience and determination. However, once learned, people gain a lasting sense of their own power and competence in working actively with their own symptoms to conquer anxiety through their own efforts.
For support in applying these techniques and others listed, I invite you to sign up for an Emotional Healing assessment call.
Emotional mastery is not a possibility it is a reality, however it only works when you apply the methods I have shared.