Whether you choose to deny it or not, anxiety takes a toll on your life both physically and mentally. The symptoms are terrifying, from headaches, sweaty palms, racing heart and shortness of breath, to the way it prevents you from performing simple basic tasks. Some people don’t actually have an anxiety disorder but show these symptoms when going to a certain level of stress.
Anxiety can lead to depression if not properly managed. This is why you need to have some tried and proven tips by therapists at the back of your mind. They will help you easily reach into your memory bank when an anxiety episode occurs to deal with it, get the worry in check and get your life back in order. Psychologist Anna Prudovski, clinical director of Turning Point Psychological Services, says:
“It’s very important to have some reliable evidence-based tools to manage [anxiety]. As you practice using those tools, you will learn that anxiety does not have to control your life.”
Anxiety Hacks You Can Try
To get your life back on track when anxiety symptoms show, practise these simple-yet-effective anxiety hacks therapists can swear by.
1. Ice it
There’s a lot that ice or cold water can do for you when you feel the anxiety symptoms coming up. You can either hold an ice cube or splash cold water on your face, focusing on the coldness to distract yourself. Sheri Heller, a New York City-based psychotherapist, recommended this because it helps you dissociate yourself from the anxiety.
“Sensorial stimulation with cold water can break through dissociative feelings that often accompany anxiety and offer immediate relief from heightened cortisol levels.”
2. Drink something hot
You can get your mind off the anxiety if you distract yourself by the soup, tea or coffee-making process, the smell, the warmth of it and its taste. It helps refocus your brain and also comforts you.
Edie Stark, a San Diego-based psychotherapist, LCSW, MSc, recommends this because,
“Changing temperatures is a sure fire signal to the nervous system. While you drink, notice the smell of the tea, and feel the warmth on your hands and face as you drink it. You can even pair this one with some long slow breaths in between sips.”
3. Walk it out
Getting your stressors in check by taking a walk outside. This is healthy for your body, mind and soul. Walking can help keep your mind focused. Edie Stark advises:
“The simple task of taking a five-minute walk around the block can reengage your brain’s ability to focus. If you can’t go outside due to weather or job restrictions, simply walking around your office hallways can help you to reset.”
4. Chew gum
If you feel anxiety symptoms, you should immediately pop a chewing gum into your mouth. Chewing helps keep your brain distracted from whatever is causing your anxiety while making you feel more calm and comfortable. Psychologist Ryan Anderson explains:
“By chewing gum, you are basically tricking your brain into thinking you are comfortable. Rather than getting flustered and panicky (which takes a lot of energy), your brain reasons that because you are doing something else (chewing gum), you mustn’t be worried or nervous. If you were, you wouldn’t be doing something like chewing gum.”
5. Try clenching your fists
This is a simple tip you can apply anywhere, especially when you’re in a public place. All you need to do is to clench your fists strategically. Nicole O-Pries, a therapist based in Richmond, Virginia suggests:
“Place your hands on or beside your legs. Ball your fists like you are really mad, and tighten your hands as much as you can. Take a deep breath and loosen your fists a little bit at the end of the out breath. Continue to take deep breaths and loosen your fists until your hands are completely open. Then stretch your fingers outward as much as you can. Now notice your body again and the lessening of the anxiety points you felt earlier.”
6. Cry it out
Honestly, crying is good therapy and can help you ease emotional stress and whatever else is causing your anxiety. And when you feel any anxiety symptoms, you can cry the emotions away. Sheri Heller explains:
“Often anxiety is a response to trapped or repressed grief. In these cases, giving oneself conscious permission to cry can offer the catharsis needed to calm the nervous system.”
7. Remember to breathe
A breathing technique is a common strategy by therapists because of how effective it is. It helps improve resilience, focus and can help manage anxiety. This technique can be practised anywhere and at any time. In a minute you can learn the technique by just becoming aware of the natural flow of your breath. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly until you’re able to focus your mind on your breath and off your anxiety.
8. Write about
how you feel
Most people who go through an anxiety attack can’t express themselves with their words; they, therefore, can opt for writing. Writing about how you feel and why you feel that way can help you purge your emotions. You easily understand if you’re just worrying about something small, or worrying about something major. Sheri Heller suggests that you:
“Write down what you are anxious about (be as specific as possible) and then later write down if what you were anxious about actually happened, whether it was as bad as you expected, and what you did to cope with the situation:”This helps you understand your anxiety better, distinguish between worries that are useful and those that are useless, and help you realize that you can cope no matter what happens.”