Fact-Checked By : Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN
Anxiety! It’s the feeling you get when you reach the front of the line of the huge roller coaster that your friend insisted was fun. It’s the drop in your gut when your boss asks you to come to her office without an explanation. It’s watching a spider spindle down the wall a little too close for comfort.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 264 million people worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural human response and can be useful when it comes to staying safe in dangerous situations. For example, if you’re a caveman trying to avoid a sabertooth tiger, you’d want something telling you to avoid where it hunts! However, nowadays, we don't typically run into extremely dangerous situations on a day-to-day basis, and too much anxiety can really get in the way of you living your best life.
If you’re feeling tense or worried, you’re certainly not alone. Looking for a solution? Take a deep breath and try out these five natural ways to calm your anxiety.
Focus On Your Exhale
Anyone who’s experienced an anxiety attack will tell you it’s not a fun experience. An anxiety attack is often characterized by overwhelming panic, hyperventilation, heart palpitations, stomach sickness, and/or feeling detached. There’s not a one-size-fits-all version of a panic attack, so if you’ve experienced something different, that’s very normal.
To holistically calm an anxiety attack, start by focusing on your breathing. If you’re hyperventilating, focus on elongating your exhales. Inhale on a five-count and exhale on a seven-count. You can increase those numbers as you begin to return to comfortable breathing.
You could also utilize single nostril breathing by plugging one side of your nose, breathing in, switching nostrils, and breathing out. Both techniques will slow your heart rate. Then, observe your surroundings and say what you see out loud. This will ground you in the here and now. Throughout this process, remind yourself that you’re going to be okay. Again, say it out loud if that helps you truly believe it.
Fighting an anxiety attack will only make it worse because that will increase your stress and tension. By utilizing relaxation techniques you’ll be able to get the oxygen you need to your brain, therefore triggering your parasympathetic nervous system, and ultimately resulting in a calming effect. You’ll get through this feeling, just be patient with yourself.
Practice Guided Meditation
Training your brain to relax takes time, but you can reduce your anxiety and your stimulus to stress through practicing guided meditation. Anxiety often presents itself as clutter and worry inside your head. Meditation helps you be in the moment by putting your focus on your breath, releasing physical tension, and quieting rapid thoughts. You can meditate without any prompting, but for a longer session, you may want a guide if you’re just starting out.
There are so many options for guided meditation. A simple search online should yield a myriad of options that will help you stay focused. It’s well worth taking fifteen minutes out of your morning to start out from a calm and present mental place.
Exercise isn’t just good for your body, it’s also great for your brain! There’s not one blanket reason why exercise is so effective in mitigating anxiety, but studies have consistently found that exercise reduces anxiety. Part of its efficacy could be related to mood enhancement due to the release of endorphins.
It could also be that exercise distracts your brain from worrying, because it has to focus on something more immediate. Whatever the reason, introducing consistent movement into your daily routine should improve your response to stressors.
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to leave your own wants and needs at the door. You may feel like you don’t have time to take care of yourself when you're anxious. Here’s a secret...you ALWAYS have time for yourself. You just need to make it. Making yourself a priority will ensure you stay healthy.
Practicing self-care looks like however, you need it to. If that means taking an hour-long bubble bath—great! If that means turning off your phone after work—amazing! If it means saying, “no” even when it’s hard—excellent. Self-care is simply something you do to take care of your body and mind.
Keep Your Hands Busy With A Hobby
Keeping busy in constructive and relaxing ways can help mitigate anxiety. If you’ve been known to get anxious and bite your nails, find ways to keep your hands busy.
Take up gardening, learn to play the ukulele, or have a friend teach you to knit. Watch a tutorial and learn how to make putty that you can play with when you’re feeling anxious. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself!
Anxiety is tricky, but it’s also treatable. Holistic ways of addressing it can really make a difference and are always bolstered by the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Make sure you talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you, so you can get the best results.