Anxiety is a completely normal physiological response to perceived threats. Our bodies activate for fight or flight by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones that increase alertness and energy, pumping blood to our muscles, and priming our lungs for the effort.
That’s great when you’re attacked by pirates but tends to be unhelpful when your body responds this way to concerns about the past or future, or things you can’t control.
In some cases, our symptoms get so severe, or so frequent, that the only relief will come with professional intervention. And, for some of us, there are things we can do to manage our symptoms. In short, the antidote lies in focusing on the present and taking charge of your body The following techniques can be helpful.
Sit comfortably and upright with your feet on the floor. Press your feet gently into the floor and notice how it holds you; notice the muscles in your legs flex and then relax. Relax your shoulders and notice how your seat and the floor support you.
Think of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch (touch them!), 2 things you can smell or like the smell of, and take 1 long, slow, deep breath.
Depending on what’s going on in your life, sometimes simply coming up with the next step can bring relief. Try brainstorming a few actions you can take that would address a specific problem. Decide which things you can do and commit to a “by when” time. Then do them.
Sometimes the thing causing our anxiety can’t be addressed by action steps. In these cases it’s ok to distract to yourself with an activity that takes your mind off the issue. This is not an excuse to get stoned or drunk. Using substances to self-medicate anxiety will cause far worse problems. Some things you could try include: going for a run or walk, or getting some kind of exercise, watch an engaging movie, clean your house or room… but you’ll find your own things.
Call a friend, family member, counselor, or any supportive person you trust. Just to talk. This will bring you into contact with someone who feels safe to you, but also contact with the present moment and get you out of your own head.
Try this free anxiety app designed for young adults.
Remember to breathe with this free app that reminds you to pause.