We’ve all experienced that anxious feeling in the stomach, and the worried thoughts that run through your mind ahead of an upcoming presentation or exam. But when feelings of worry, fear, doubt, and possibly even dread become excessive and pervasive, interfering with your day-to-day life, it can be both exhausting and debilitating. Anxiety can look like excessive worry about something that has already happened; what may happen as a result; and excessive worry about something that may happen in the future. The good news is that once your recognise you are experiencing anxiety, you can soothe your nervous system using one of the techniques listed below.
In this article, I will share 7 techniques that I use with my clients to help soothe their anxiety and regulate their nervous system.
We have all heard the expression “take a deep breath”, but when you have anxiety, a deep breath in can further activate your anxiety. Instead focus on your exhale, lengthening it and releasing your breath slowly and intentionally. Draw the inhale into the belly, so your breath is deeper and then exhale long slow and smooth. This will regulate the nervous system back to a state of calm.
2. Connect to the present moment.
Remember that anxiety is an imaged future event that isn’t happening in real life, it's happening in your mind, but your body thinks it’s real. Bringing yourself back to this moment you are in will help you connect with what is real.
You can use the 5-4-3-2-1 method, connecting with your five senses as follows:
- 5 things you see – look around your environment, what colours, textures stand out to you here, now;
- 4 things you hear – listen to sounds nearby and allow your awareness to move far into the distance;
- 3 things you feel – hands, feet, sun or breeze on your skin;
- 2 things you smell - fragrances in the air or the smell of the sea;
- 1 thing you can taste – whether you have eaten recently or not, notice what you taste on the palette of your mouth after connecting with smell. If you can’t taste anything, place a sultana on your tongue, and simply notice the flavour without chewing.
3. Get grounded.
Many people experience anxiety as their mind racing with multiple thoughts and they find it hard to sense their body and their breath - the mind gains full control of your being. Getting grounded is a form of mindfulness that brings awareness back to your body, so that the sensing part of the brain takes over from the worrying part of the brain. Simply feel the ground underneath your feet. Imagine that you have roots growing down into the earth. Feel yourself planted, steady and strong. Blog: How to get grounded.
4. Challenge irrational thoughts
Put anxiety provoking thoughts on trial and look for evidence to determine whether they are worthy of your worry or not. If the anxiety is telling you to do something so that what you fear doesn’t happen, ie. Preparing for a deadline, then maybe you need to take action? If anxiety is telling you something unlikely and catastrophic is going to happen, you can challenge your own thinking. As yourself - is that thought true?
Empty your mind of all the anxious thoughts and feelings by simple writing them down on paper. They don’t need to make sense, simply empty them onto the pages so they are out of your head.
6. Use of a mantra.
“All is well” or “I am calm” or “I am safe” redirect the mind to thought and beliefs that are comforting and reassuring.
7. Take a walk
The bilateral movement of walking gently rocks the pelvis and activates the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which helps regulate emotions. As well as regulating breathing, increasing heart rate, and releasing feel good endorphins that balance stress hormones adrenalin & cortisol, the bilateral stimulation of walking induces feelings of relaxation. When walking is done using mindfulness, it will enhance the benefits by bringing you into the present moment and helping you become grounded. You can book a walk here. What is mindfulness walking?
Professional Help & Medication:
Whilst the techniques above are a guide to help you manage anxiety, if anxiety persists, a professional therapist or counsellor can support you to identify the patterns and process the underlying cause. It is possible to minimise symptoms of anxiety by understanding the triggers, which can include dietary and lifestyle habits. Medication is available and can be used as a short term and long term support depending on your circumstances.
To discuss any concerns you may have, simply make a time here.