I want to talk to you about anxiety and 4 simple things you can do to reduce anxiety right now.
So first off, let’s look at anxiety from a physiological standpoint.
Anxiety from a Physiological Standpoint
Aside from the fact that you feel like you want to die during an anxiety attack, what is happening is that your body thinks you are or might be in a life-or-death situation. You are on guard. You are in the fight-or-flight branch of your nervous system. And what you want to do is get yourself out of that and back into the other branch of your nervous system which is rest and relax, digest, and feel good. The thing about that other branch of your nervous system is that it has two prongs. One is depressed or shut down, and one is very good feeling. What you need to do is bring yourself back down out of that fight-or-flight and into more optimal functioning.
Here is What’s Happening in Your Brain
First, let’s talk theoretically about what’s happening in your brain. Somehow, you’ve gotten an idea that you’re in a life-or-death situation and you need to fight or flee. You’ve seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted something that has your body predicting that you’re in danger. That’s not actually the case, but your body thinks it is. The anxiety of danger is something from your past, and you’ve been reminded of it by something today. It probably happened in a millisecond and you have no idea. It could be a smell or the shape of a passing vehicle. Or the movement of the shadows of the leaves on a tree. The spark that ignited your prediction could be anything.
The reality is, that finding the origin story of your anxiety is a very long and complicated process called psychotherapy. And I can do that with you. But let’s talk about how you can reduce your anxiety, right now. By getting your body out of fight-or-flight and back into more optimal functioning.
To do that, you have to give the rest and relaxation part of your nervous system some tone. It’s flaccid. You need to bulk it up. And there are a number of ways you can do that depending on where you are; in private or in public.
4 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Now
#1 – Breathing
A well-known way to reduce anxiety is breathing into a paper bag. The reason this works is because taking deep breaths and exhaling for a lengthy period of time in an intentional and focused way, tones the rest and relaxation part of your nervous system.
#2 – Focus on your 5 senses
This is an exercise you can do in public. Focus on your 5 senses and name out loud what you’re sensing, one at a time. This directs your attention away from the unpleasant sensations in your body. Look around you and name:
• 5 things you can see.
• 4 things you can hear.
• 3 things you can touch.
• 2 things you can smell.
• 1 thing you can taste.
#3 – Bioenergetic Exercises
A basic bioenergetic exercise called the Grounding Pose is good for reducing anxiety. While in this pose, you hang forward from the waist, as though you were going to touch your toes. Shift your weight to the balls of your feet. Then breathe deeply with long exhalations. The purpose of this pose is to get you out of your head and back into your body.
#4 – Here’s What You Can Do in Private to Reduce Anxiety
Another bioenergetic exercise that is good for reducing anxiety is pounding. This is something you can do if you’re in a private place, so you don’t look crazy. Utilize your body’s fight-or-flight mode by raising your arms over your head and pounding on a bed with your forearms, a tennis racket, or a bat. Or you can also pound a tire with a sledgehammer. While doing so, take a deep breath and a long exhalation as you hit the bed or tire. As you exhale, let sound come out. Scream or yell if you want to. Focus your attention on what you’re doing to get the most out of it.
While this may sound like something you would rather not do in an anxious state, give it a try if you can. If you do, you will find that the fight-or-flight energy your body is holding will be discharged and your body will come back to equilibrium.
These are 4 things you can do to reduce anxiety right now, in public or in private. Your goal is to rescue your mind which has been hijacked by some random prediction. By focusing intentional attention quietly in public or loudly in private, you can bring yourself back to more optimal functioning.
If you have any questions about these exercises or you’re interested in delving into the roots of your anxiety, give me a call. We’ll talk.