Simple Skills to Reduce Anxiety
Four simple skills to add to your toolbox of coping skills
- Ride the wave– Often times when a person experiences anxiety, their first reaction is to avoid the feeling or make it go away. This relationship strengthens the intensity of anxiety over time. Try to recognize your physiological reactions, like increased heart rate and racing thoughts, and say to yourself, “I am experiencing anxiety right now and it will pass.” Simply by identifying your emotion, you can decrease your reactivity to it.
- Diaphragmatic breathing– Place one hand on your chest and the other on your diaphragm. If you feel your chest moving up and down, you are experiencing shallow breaths that are likely caused by stress. Try to visualize and direct your breath to the fill your diaphragm with air. Feel your hand on your diaphragm move up and down with your breathing. The diaphragmatic breathing creates long, slow, and controlled breaths. Try practicing this skillful breathing for five minutes a day in a relaxing environment. The more you practice, the easier it will be to access the deep breaths when you need them to relax.
- Develop a regular exercise routine– Exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage anxiety. Exercise produces feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that regulate your emotions and contribute to improving productive higher order thinking. Exercise is also helpful when feeling overwhelmed. If your health permits, try to running in place, doing pushups, jumping jacks, or burpees place until feeling slightly breathless. Your body will take over in attempts to regulate your breath and normalize your breathing once again.
- Cut out all stimulants- A simple way to decrease anxiety is to cut out all stimulants or “uppers.” This includes caffeine and nicotine. It can be tough to cut out the extra cup of coffee when tired or cut out the cigarette prior to a big meeting. These behaviors, however, increase arousal and increase anxiety. Some prescription medications are also stimulants. It is important to ask your pharmacist about the potential your medications may have on your anxiety.