We all know what it feels like to be anxious: to be overwhelmed by a tightening chest, a racing heart and a busy, frantic mind.
For some of us, anxiety might be something we experience rarely and moderately. For others, its presence in our lives may be more forceful and debilitating. Wherever you sit on the spectrum, we can all develop tools to help us manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and keep anxious thoughts at bay.
How to manage anxiety: 5 steps to a calmer mind 🧘♀️
Okay, yes, we know, you're breathing already. You wouldn't be reading this otherwise. But we're not just talking about breathing: we're talking slow, active, conscious breathing.
When we're anxious, our breath becomes short and shallow, which has a knock-on effect on anxiety, making us feel even more anxious 😬
By intentionally taking slow, deep breaths, we can bring ourselves back into a 'parasympathetic' state. This helps the body know it's safe, and calms us down.
Pro tip: practice elongating your exhale, so that you breathe out for longer than you inhale. This will help to bring your nervous system into a 'rest and digest' state.
Need some help? Watch this clip from Richie Bostock's class.
Want to watch the full class? Head to the App Store now to download MindLabs.
You may also like: Breathing exercises for anxiety.
2. Repeat calming affirmations
Words are powerful.
Just as anxious thoughts can reinforce the feeling of anxiety, calming affirmations can interrupt your anxious thinking and bring you into a calmer state.
Affirmations can also work as mantras, helping to anchor you back into the present moment.
Choose one or two affirmations that resonate with you and take them with you into your week. Keep them by your bed, stick them on your mirror and use them as mantras whenever you feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Repeat it until you start to believe it. It might feel silly at first, but stick with it: it works, we promise.
Would you speak to your best friend the way you speak to yourself? We're guessing that if you did, you wouldn't have many friends left.
Affirmations for anxiety:
- I can handle this
- I am safe
- This is not a crisis. I don't need to panic.
- My anxiety does not control me.
- This feeling will pass
3. Connect with your senses
When you feel overwhelmed, connecting with your senses is a great way to help you get out of your head and into your body, and ground you in the present moment.
We all respond differently to sensory experiences, so experiment with different techniques and see what works for you: try lighting a candle, sipping some herbal tea or running a warm bath. When you find a few that work for you, you can begin to create your own 'self-soothing toolkit': a list of calming objects or practices that you can turn to in moments of high anxiety.
4. Fact-check your thoughts
Although they can feel very persuasive in the moment, thoughts aren't facts. Next time you feel yourself slipping into an anxious spiral, ask yourself...
- Is this thought supported by evidence?
- Will this matter a week from now?
- Would I apply this thought to someone I love.
5. Try a mindfulness meditation
Okay, we're a little biased - but meditation really is one of the most effective tools for anxiety.
Short term, it can help you to calm down and get out of your head. Longer term, it's been shown to shrink the amygdala (the part of your brain associated with fear, stress and anxiety).
Not sure where to start? We have hundreds of meditations on the MindLabs app designed to reduce anxiety and bring you into a calmer state.