If you’re like me, your anxiety gets a little out of whack from time to time… and often for no good reason. You’re walking to work, or hanging out with friends, when out of nowhere this heaviness bombards you, an unexplained worry takes over, and your happiness, productivity, peace, contentment—you name it—is shot.
“Okay… now what?” you think. “Do I ask my boss if I can leave? Do I explain to my friends the sudden shift in mood?” And most importantly: “Do I just surrender to my anxiety?” While the answers to the first two questions depend on you and the severity of your anxiety, the overwhelming answer to the latter question is no. You are not powerless in your battle with anxiety. There are a plethora of grounding techniques that can help calm your body and your mind and ultimately guide you back to your happy place. Here are six simple practices for you to try:
1) Locate your anxiety.
“First, notice where the anxiety is in the body,” says Nitsan Ozer, Marriage and Family Therapist. “Maybe you notice it’s largely in the tightening of your chest, maybe in your stomach, shoulders or fists. Once you pay attention to where you physically feel the anxiety the most, start deep breathing into that area. Send your breath slowly towards the anxiety—using deep inhales and exhales. Keep your focus on this area as you continue breathing, noticing when your mind starts taking over and gently redirecting back to your breathing into the anxiety. Try breathing for 2-3 minutes and then stop and notice what feels different. If you’d like, go ahead and repeat again.
2) Disconnect to reconnect.
Alexis Davis, Founder and CEO of H.K. Productions Inc., says another helpful technique is more about what you shouldn’t do: and that’s spending time scrolling through social media feeds. She advises you instead take a break from the digital world. “Disconnect from your phones, computers, and television by shutting it off so that you can reconnect with yourself. Give your mind a chance to get centered and quiet without all the external distractions that demand our attention.”
3) Play with your awareness.
Bringing awareness to different parts of your body will also help alleviate anxiety, according to Jessica Tappana, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: “Place your hands on two different surfaces. First, bring your attention fully to your right hand. What does the surface feel like. What do you notice? Next, bring your attention to the left hand. What does the surface it is sitting on feel like? How is that different? Third, challenge yourself to try to bring your awareness to both hands at the same time holding in your awareness the sensations of each and the differences. Ideas for surfaces: one hand on a concrete sidewalk and one on the grass, one hand on a pet, and the other on the floor, one hand on carpet and one on tile.”
4) Practice healthy habits.
Another effective technique for combatting anxiety, as well as improving your overall mental health and wellbeing, is to simply implement healthy habits into your routine. “Practice a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, Addiction Specialist and Primary Therapist at Seasons in Malibu, advises. “Sufficient sleep, proper nutrition (avoiding excessive refined sugars and too many heavy carbs all of which can spike insulin, creating more anxiety), regular exercise, having a positive support system, etc.”
5) Take a walk.
Hypnotherapist Jacqui Blue says simply going for a walk can help with your anxiety too. “The sunshine provides a boost of natural vitamin D and walking also allows the mind to walk off the anxiety. Actually, any physical activity that one can engage in, which allows the person to focus on something else (walking, running, swimming) is a great way to get grounded and reset your energy. Emotion is simply energy in motion. Change the motion, change the energy,” she says.
6) Control your focus.
And lastly, it helps to recognize that you hold the power and if you put your mind to it, can control your focus. “Affirm what you want in your life. Take responsibility for what you hold in your mind. Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!” says Dr. Fran Walfish, leading couples relationship and family psychologist. “Keeping a positive attitude and seeing the glass half full is a habit. Try a behavioral approach. Get a rubber band and place it on your writs. Whenever you recognize a negative thought or reactive fear, snap the rubber band. This moment of discomfort will take your focus off of the fear and bring it to your writs. This gives you the option to focus on your fear (what MAY happen) or replace it with a more optimistic view (what you WANT to happen).”