We’ve all been stressed. What’s not to be stressed about? Traffic… kids… work stress… large crowds… politics… busyness… gas prices… relationships… it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the burdens, concerns, and noise around us. It can all become too much, though; that is when we could use a little help. Anxiety is the physical, mental, and emotional manifestation of persistent, excessive, and intense worry about everyday situations. Anxiety can be present by racing thoughts, extreme fatigue, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, cold sweats, or total, spontaneous panic – or any combination of the above.
There are things we can do when we experience anxiety symptoms to give ourselves a much-needed “time out”, whether sitting in the school pick-up line or at our desk. When you need a piece of quiet, consider one of the following:
- Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going, pause. Refocusing your present state of mind on a favorite song, cloudy sky, yoga pose, or closed-eye moment of quiet may allow you to retrain your current chaotic mindset onto a calmer, more serene path of thought and intention.
- Grab a nap. Taking a 20-minute pocket of time to lie down, lie back, and close your eyes can work wonders for your heart rate and stress level. Additionally, setting healthier sleep habits at night by reducing screen time before bed, enjoying a relaxing bath or warm shower, or taking a short walk around the block before bed can significantly – and naturally – help you sleep comfortably through the night.
- Think about what you’re eating, not what’s eating you. Strive to eat a well-balanced diet. Keep healthy, clean snacks nearby for those on-the-go days, and try not to skip meals. Make an effort to eat “foods from the earth” to pursue healthy choices for body and mind. While other circumstances may be beyond your control, what you put in your mouth is all on you. Love the skin you’re in!
- Take a walk. Daily exercise improves blood flow, brain function, cognition, and sleep hygiene. Try yoga, take a spin on your bike, spend 15 minutes on the treadmill – whatever you choose, and set small goals for yourself. The goal isn’t to overwhelm yourself with unrealistic physical exertion but rather to embrace self-care with movement and achievement. Enjoy your favorite podcast, album, tv show, or comedy sketch while you’re exercising; the time will pass without you even realizing it. If you choose, enlist the buddy system, and bring a friend along for the health of it. Making small talk during an evening walk can reap many mind-body benefits for you and those you love.
- Inhale for a count of five. Release the breath for a count of six. Repeat. If you are experiencing heightened anxiety, inhale as though you are smelling a lovely bouquet; exhale as though you are blowing out a candle. Repeat 4-5 times, and resume breathing normally. This breath reset also helps to get your blood flowing.
- Count to 10 slowly. If that’s not enough, begin counting backward from 100. Take your time.
- Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Both can aggravate anxious feelings, trigger panic attacks, and become an all-too-ready crutch to avoid proper self-care.
- Take a moment and ask yourself, “is it as bad as I think it is or is it just me at this moment?” Perfection is impossible. Neither is total control. Give yourself the grace to accept that you’ve done your best and that tomorrow is a new day. Putting your stress on pause doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the situation. It simply gives your mind and body the chance to rest up and tackle it again when you’ve had a good night’s sleep and a nourishing meal.
- Seriously, laugh! Take a few minutes to listen to a comedian, tell jokes with your kids, or watch silly videos. A hearty laugh and a good sleep are some of the best remedies for dark thoughts and heavy hearts.
- Get outside of your head. Volunteer. Share your dinner with a neighbor by dropping it off at their door. Return your cart at the grocery store, and grab a few along the way. Doing a kind thing for another person or group is often an incredible way of putting your own “junk” into perspective.
- Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method of immediate refocus and coping. If you find yourself completely overwhelmed in the moment and in need of urgent action, try the following: Take a deep breath. As you slow your breathing, look around the room or immediate area and list five things that you see. Now, assess four things you can touch or are touching – the cuff of your coat, the floor beneath your feet, the pages of the book before you… what is in your immediate range? Close your eyes and listen – name three things you hear right now. A plane flying overhead, a copier running in another room, the radio or air conditioner, maybe even your calming breath – isolate just three sounds. Next, take note of two things you can smell – coffee just poured, aftershave or cologne, soap, or fabric softener. Lastly, think of one thing you can taste. Toothpaste, that coffee before you, the sandwich you packed for lunch, or your favorite ice cream flavor. Allow yourself to calm your thoughts and body to refocus your mind and rejuvenate your posture.
- Finally, be honest with yourself. Take the time you deserve to evaluate the things that trigger your anxiety and what, if anything, you can do about those triggers. Journaling can be an outstanding mechanism for stress relief; pouring out our thoughts and feelings may help release pent-up tension and provide feelings of liberation and reconsideration of present circumstances.
Understand that you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask for help. If there isn’t anyone in your daily walk with whom you want to share your feelings, consider seeking professional help. You don’t even need an appointment! There are services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you feel you can’t wait. You’re worth the time it takes!