Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. But it can be overwhelming to deal with, not to mention downright unpleasant. Whether your anxiety presents itself as an upset stomach, heart palpitations, nervous tension, or panic attack, it’s important to understand how you can calm yourself down.
The following strategies and tips can help you manage stress and regain control over your thoughts.
Tips for calming down when you feel anxious
- Stop: Stop yourself immediately, maybe even telling yourself to do so out loud. This can help your mind pause anxious thoughts before they turn into a full-blown panic attack.
- Breathe: Focusing on breathing to slow your racing heart. Slow, deep breathing techniques where you focus on breathing in and out can help you relax.
- Close your eyes: Closing your eyes and focusing on relaxing your facial muscles can help you return to a sense of calm.
- Stand up straight: Stand up straight with your shoulders pulled back, feet planted evenly and wide apart. This can help you feel more in control.
- Stretch: This is extremely effective at releasing tension in different parts of the body.
- Take a short walk: Going for a walk creates a diversion and can help clear your mind.
- Get moving: Anything that gets you moving, whether that’s gardening, doing a quick workout, or playing a game, encourages your body to release endorphins that can boost your mood.
- Drink water: Not drinking enough water can cause heart palpitations and make anxiety symptoms worse. Drinking a large glass of water can help relieve symptoms of stress.
- Eat something: Low blood sugar can worsen symptoms when you’re feeling nervous, irritable, and anxious.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): This is a technique where you tense all your muscle groups then relax them, which makes the body feel calmer.
- Use aromatherapy: Smelling something pleasant, lighting a candle, or using a diffuser with a calming essential oil (such as lavender) can help decrease anxiety.
- Fact-check your fears: Intense feelings of anxiety and stress often stem from irrational fears. Use logic to challenge your fears and assess how realistic they are.
- Look at your situation differently: Try to look at things from a different perspective.
- Chew gum: Chewing gum can help reduce stress and improve mood immediately by stimulating blood flow in the brain.
- Take a bath: Bathing in warm water can be relaxing and ease tension in your body.
- Go outdoors: Getting some sun or being surrounded by nature can increase the release of serotonin in the brain, which can be soothing to the mind.
- Write it down: Writing about anxious thoughts can take a weight off your shoulders, helping you process emotions in a healthy way and confront your fears.
- Be thankful: Writing down a list of things that you are thankful for can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life.
- Listen to music: Calming music or soothing sounds can keep cortisol levels down and relax the mind, giving instant relief from anxiety.
- Play with a pet: Playing with a beloved, cuddly pet can be a huge stress relief.
- Watch something funny: Laughter is the best medicine. Watch a clip of your favorite comedian or a blooper reel of your favorite show.
- Meditate: Meditation can significantly lower levels of anxiety and stress. Silently repeating a mantra or a self-assertive phrase can clear your mind. You can also use visualization techniques to get in a better head space.
- Practice yoga: Doing a yoga session can help reduce levels of cytokines and therefore lower your stress levels.
- Sip herbal tea: Chamomile or green tea decreases anxiety symptoms and depression. Even the act of brewing a cup of tea can help you step away from the stress.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, making anxiety symptoms worse.
- Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is an anxiety inducer and should be avoided when possible, whether it’s in coffee, chocolate, or other beverages.
- Talk to someone: If your anxiety is making it hard to function, talking to someone you trust can help.
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Medline Plus. Anxiety. https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html
ADAA. Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress. https://adaa.org/tips
Hughes L. How to Stop Feeling Anxious Right Now. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/ways-to-reduce-anxiety