Anxiety is an issue many women (and men!) suffer through. I don’t think I know a single woman who doesn’t have anxiety to some degree. I have struggled with generalized anxiety disorder since high school. Anxiety is extremely draining; it’s hard to just get through the day. Therapy has always been an amazingly eye-opening experience for me and I would highly recommend it to everyone (because let’s face it, we all need a little help!). While therapy is the best option for coping with anxiety, if you are looking for a couple of quick and easy tips to lowering your anxiety, then you have come to the right place!
Slow Down Your Breathing
Throughout our day, we often don’t realize how fast we are breathing. We are too focused on the pile of dishes in the sink, getting the kids to school on time, running to pick up some groceries for a semi-decent dinner that night, running all over town for appointments… I’m getting anxious just typing it all out! By simply becoming mindful of our breathing, we can make a huge difference to how we react to anxiety. The goal is to try and not let your body take control. It becomes much harder to calm down when your body isn’t calm to begin with. It is more important to remind yourself to do this throughout the day and not when you are already feeling overwhelmed.
To do this most effectively, I have two tips: count while breathing in and out and focus on your lungs and diaphragm. Count while breathing keeps your breath going at the same relaxed pace. Start by inhaling for 5 seconds. Then breath out for the same amount of time. When breathing in and out, try and focus on your chest rising and falling. Focus on your lungs and diaphragm filling and emptying. This will help you stay grounded while breathing.
Focus on the NOW
I used to have a never-ending sense of dread that has been categorized as generalized anxiety disorder. An important revelation I made through my time in therapy was that I tend to react to the worst possible outcome to a situation before it even happens. This was especially true during my second pregnancy as I was paranoid that I would have another miscarriage. My issue boiled down to not living in the PRESENT. I was living in a future that may never even be a reality. In order to keep my thoughts and feelings from spiraling into the future, I learned to stay grounded mentally and physically.
Mentally staying grounded meant I needed to consistently ask myself “what is happening NOW?”. Using the example of when I was pregnant, I began to fear having my blood pressure taken because it was always so high. Even though taking my blood pressure only took a couple seconds, it would eat up a lot more of my time because I would worry about it frequently. I was worrying about a future that may never even be a reality. I needed to force myself to remember what was happening in the present; which 99.9% of the time was nothing anxiety-inducing. Was anything bad happening at the moment I was panicking? Nope. Try and remind yourself that in that moment, nothing bad is happening! Don’t let your mind run away on you.
Imagine Yourself in a Comfortable Place
This one requires some pretty intense imagination. This tip is especially useful if you have triggers (stimuli that always set off your anxiety). Because imagination requires a lot of concentration, it is important to begin this before confronting a trigger. For example, when driving to the hospital for appointments, I would imagine I was driving to my mom’s house instead. By doing this, I could remain relaxed the entire ride there rather than my anxiety building with every turn of the wheels. This method works wonders if you have a place that gives you anxiety!
Another interpretation of this could be your “happy place”. My therapist informed me that you can’t have anyone else in your happy place. If you bring a person with you to your happy place or tell someone what your happy place is, it can easily become tarnished whenever that person leaves you with negative emotions. A happy place can be anything you want it to be; there aren’t really any rules to building one. When you “go there”, try to use all of your senses to truly immerse yourself. What sounds can you hear when you are there? What about smells? Do you feel a warm wind or possibly a chilly ocean’s mist on your skin? It’s all depends on what makes you feel the most comfortable!
Smell is our strongest sense as humans. By that I mean that memories are often stronger when associated with a particular scent. During my pregnancy, as a way to calm myself down in the moment of panic I would sniff a smell that was associated with good memories. It is my favorite scent… coconut lime verbena from Bath & Body Works. My mother wore this perfume often when I was younger. This scent triggered childhood memories and thoughts of my mother. I always had my coconut lime verbena lotion with me; I would even stuff it in my purse when going out. Whenever I felt overly anxious, I would rub some on my hands.
Actual aromatherapy can also be beneficial to reducing anxiety, if you are willing to buy a diffuser. I bought mine from hobby lobby for 60 dollars: they aren’t cheap. And essential oils are costly as well. If you DO decide to diffuse oils, I would recommend ylang ylang. It helps specifically with balancing hormones that may be causing your anxiety. If the stress is causing rapid brething and heart rate, I would suggest bergamont.
Showering is such a calming activity. You get to be alone, gently cradled in the small, darkened space that is your tub. The gentle pattering of the water hitting the wall and ground is a soothing sound, much like a gentle rain. Feeling the warm water gently hit your tense skin is one of the best feelings in the world. As simple as it may sound, showering is a great way to step away from the stressors in life and transport yourself into a much more relaxing atmosphere.
The best thing about showering is that it doesn’t have to be anything special to still be relaxing. You don’t need all the candles, rose pedals, bubble bath, or bath bombs to enhance your bathing experience. You don’t even have to wash yourself if you don’t want to! Although if you feel more relaxed in a bath with all the works, you do you.
Try one, any combination, or all of these fast fixes until you find the ones that suit you! Remember: they are not meant to CURE your anxiety, but rather help you deal with it quickly. Always seek professional help if you feel like you can’t control it at all. Hopefully these 5 fixes are as helpful to you as they are to me!
Peace be with you,