Everyone gets anxious from time to time. Thankfully, the fear and worry that come with anxiety are short-lived. However, in that moment, it’s hard to imagine any other reality. Your mind gets stuck in some worst-case scenario, from which your unease grows and festers. While a soothing tea might be nice, what would really help is a strategy to escape those thoughts. There are several theories on how to calm down when you’re feeling anxious, but some are easier to implement than others.
The following five strategies are simple, practical and extremely effective. No matter the source of your anxiety, there’s something here for everyone.
How to Calm Down – 5 Strategies
The first, and probably the most common, piece of advice when you are feeling anxious is to focus on your breathing. There are several different methods you can use, but the major focus should be on turning shallow gasps of air (a trademark of anxiety) into deep, nourishing breaths. One of these methods is known as Triangle Breathing. This is where you visualize the shape of a triangle as you breathe, with the bottom side being longer than the other two sides. When using this method, you inhale for four seconds, hold that breath for four seconds, and then exhale for six seconds while following the sides of the triangle in your mind. Your body will start to find a deeper, more controlled breathing pattern to help you relax.
2. Be active
The link between exercise and anxiety relief is noteworthy. Physical activity releases serotonin into your bloodstream. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, memory and more. In fact, this hormone is so powerful that it’s the focus of popular anti-depressant medications, like Prozac and Zoloft. These medications influence mood by increasing serotonin availability. Of course, exercise may not be a substitute for a prescription. For that, you’ll need to speak to a healthcare provider. But exercise can help you manage physical symptoms of anxiety (aka, get the jitters out) and build emotional resilience.
The best part is you don’t need to hit the gym hard or sweat for hours on end. A walk around the park or your neighborhood is enough to make a difference. Better yet, stay home and dance around, or simply jog in place for a few minutes. Whatever you decide, make exercise fun! Choose a form of activity that you thoroughly enjoy, so you can get maximum mood-boosting benefits.
3. Schedule time for your worries
Why would you schedule time to worry? Isn’t the point to stop worrying? Yes, but this self-care strategy can work if you have a lot of thoughts running through your head. The sheer volume and speed can be paralyzing. By scheduling time to worry, you bring focus and organization to the chaos. All you have to do is set aside a few minutes every day to write down – or type up – all your worries. Once you have a comprehensive list, sort and categorize. Highlight or cross off the ones that can be resolved. Knowing that even a few worries have resolutions allows you to put them out of your mind – at least, for the rest of the day. This should instantly lighten your load and help you feel more at ease.
4. Keep a Diary
Speaking of writing things down, keeping a diary is one of the most common mental health strategies – and for good reason. The benefits of journaling are far and wide. For one, simply writing down painful or irritating thoughts helps get it out of your mind and onto a tangible piece of paper. The act of releasing the worry is calming in itself. Plus, writing down your worries takes effort, which seems to minimize the strength of them. But that’s not the only reason this strategy works. Keeping a diary means you can note exactly how you feel in a given moment and ponder why it is you’re feeling that way. Doing this helps identify triggers to your anxiety, so you can avoid or work through those particular situations.
5. Produce music
A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who intentionally listened to upbeat music, showed improved markers of happiness. Music can strongly influence moods, which is why so many people turn on the tunes when they’re feeling blue. Producing music, however, is a slightly more involved practice with very similar affects. When you’re creating music or even just mixing a playlist, you can pour all your emotions into that one piece. It’s a great alternative to journaling, and it’s just as accessible. You can use apps like Apple Music, Spotify or Pacemaker to compile a mood-boosting playlist. Or, try free music-making software if you’re more into producing individual songs.
Learning how to calm down when anxiety sets in is the easy part. Actually putting these strategies into action is a different story. It may take some time. Please be patient with yourself and know that you’re not alone. Anxiety is common. Lean on loved ones for support, find similar interest groups online and never, ever give up the fight!