Lifehacks for living in an age of anxiety
We all feel overwhelmed sometimes. Occasionally, we might find ourselves simmering with anxiety caused by stress and worry. While uncomfortable, these feelings usually subside when the problem causing them is resolved.
It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing anxiety that has been going on for weeks and is making it difficult to function, you should check in with your doctor or mental health professional to help you regain your equilibrium. Anxiety is both common and treatable, so there’s no reason to be ashamed if you’re experiencing it – and there’s certainly no need to continue suffering when help is available.
But in some cases, all it takes to shift out of an anxious spiral is to hit the reset button with some quick and easy grounding and relaxation techniques. These are simple to do and can help calm your mind and body in just a few minutes.
Deep breathing sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, so it’s one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It works because the sympathetic nervous system (the one that controls your flight-or-fight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls your rest and relax response) can’t be turned on at the same time. So if you activate one, the other will be suppressed.1
Like most relaxation techniques, it can take practice and works best if you keep doing it regularly.
Visit Health Link BC for step-by-step breathing exercises designed to help you relax.
Have you ever found your mind spinning, rendering you unable to focus on the task and hand because you’re worrying about something you can’t stop thinking about? When this happens, you need to ground yourself in the present moment by occupying your brain with a specific task that will make it hard for it to keep spinning out of control. These types of exercises can even help when you’re in the middle of a panic attack.
The following grounding exercises are simple and effective:
- The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. This is a straightforward and easy-to-remember way to slow down and refocus your thoughts.
- Slow walking2. Stand up and walk slowly through the space you’re in — at home, outside, in a small waiting room or your office.. Take slow, deliberate steps and pay attention to each one. Notice which part of your foot hits the ground first, notice the pressure on each part of your foot as it passes through the movement of stepping, notice when your foot leaves the ground and the moment when you’re actually balancing on one foot.
- Slow eating. Grab a grape, a raisin or some other small piece of food. Hold it in your hand, look at it, smell it, feel the outside of the food and take note of its color, shape, size and weight. Put the food in your mouth, holding it on your tongue. Notice the feel of it on your tongue and whatever taste sensations you can detect. Roll the piece of food around your mouth without chewing to see if the taste sensation changes as it hits different spots on your tongue. Chew once, noting the sensation and taste, then slowly finish chewing and swallow. Make sure to take note of what the swallowing sensation feels like too.
Visit HealthLine for 30 more simple grounding techniques you can try.
For best results, mindfulness meditation is something that should be done daily, because like any good habit, practice makes perfect and the benefits are cumulative. Mindful has some wonderful information for beginners on what meditation is and what it can do for your body and mind. They also have several guided meditations you can try that are as short as one minute and as long as 25 minutes.
Fragrant Heart also has several short, free guided meditations you can do when you need to give your mind and body a bit of a rest from the whirlwind.
Remember, nothing can take the place of a trained medical professional, but these simple techniques are helpful when you need a little bit of help to make it through short bouts of stress and anxiety.
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