How to calm anxiety: What is anxiety?
Many people struggle with anxiety. The question of how to calm the anxiety they feel on a daily basis becomes pressing because they find that anxiety can be limiting or distressing. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems out there, meaning that this problem happens a lot.
In order to talk about how to calm anxiety, it’s important to first consider what anxiety is and why so many people struggle with it.
Anxiety is the body’s natural reaction to a situation that requires a higher alert. Anxiety is a subset of fear and is a response that engages our bodies in different ways, emotionally, cognitively, and physically.
Firstly, it makes us feel more alert and attentive to different situations. Secondly, it tends to increase our heart rate and breathing, as if we are getting ready to face something dangerous. Finally, it can make us think about the situation in order to plot different solutions.
In small doses, anxiety is adaptive. It helps us get ready for an exam, prepare for that one presentation, and so on. Even if it doesn’t help, in small doses it usually doesn’t hinder us.
However, for many, their anxiety becomes a constant presence that affects them in their daily lives. Anxiety can feel like a car alarm that keeps on blaring even if there is no danger.
How to calm anxiety: When is anxiety maladaptive?
Anxiety becomes a problem when it lasts too long, is too intense, appears too frequently, or is often out of proportion to the situation. Pathological anxiety is anxiety that no longer helps at all, but rather hinders the person’s ability to cope.
Sometimes, anxiety can be the symptom of a disorder. This usually occurs when anxiety becomes severely disruptive in different areas of a person’s life. If you suspect you might have an anxiety disorder, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. However, for many people anxiety can be disruptive or excessive in ways that person can manage.
There are different strategies that help understand how to control anxiety. Let’s take a look at a few of these and consider the most effective ways to calm anxiety.
How to calm anxiety: Relaxation Techniques
The first strategy that can teach you how to calm anxiety is relaxation. Relaxation techniques are breathing and muscle relaxation techniques that influence anxiety’s physiological symptoms. And they are a way of signalling your body that there is no danger.
Relaxing often starts with the breathing. When you take control of your breathing, your body can relax. Relaxation occurs when we take deeper, slower breaths. They signal to your body’s inner danger response system that everything is fine.
Some breathing techniques are very simple. You just need to become aware of your breathing, slow down your breathing, and try to breathe more deeply. The “right” type of breathing is abdominal breathing that makes your belly rise instead of your chest.
There are many simple breathing exercises, like breathing deeply and holding your breaths in a repeated pattern. Breathing exercises work best when you can focus your attention on your breathing as much as possible.
Another common type of relaxation is progressive muscle relaxation. It involves focusing progressively on different parts of your body, like the feet, the neck, the back, and so on. When you focus on a body part, you need to consciously relax it until you relax your whole body. You can practice progressive muscle relaxation with the help of a recording or by itself.
How to calm anxiety: Meditation
How to calm anxiety in other ways? Breathing and muscle relaxation techniques are usually very simple and quick, but they may not be right for a more severe level of anxiety. More severe anxiety may require you to use stronger strategies to manage it.
One idea is to practice meditation. Meditation is the practice of focused attention. There are many different types of meditation. Some require you to focus on your breathing, on repeating a mantra, on wishing well to other, and so on.
Meditation originated as a set of spiritual practices in the East. Today, it does not need to have a spiritual element and can be practiced by anyone.
Meditation, overall, can create a sense of deep relaxation. It can offer more control over your mind and body in the long term. It can also provide a way of shifting your perspective on many things that create anxiety.
The benefits of meditation tend to grow the more you practice, so it’s a good idea to meditate frequently, even if it’s just for 15 minutes every day. Some people, however, experience a rise in anxiety when they meditate. If that happens to you, you might need to find other ideas for how to calm anxiety.
There are also audio methods to help with anxiety in both a traditional meditation format as well as guided mediation and creative visualization. How this technology works is beyond the scope of this article but it is based on binaural beats and the concept of brain wave synchronization. If you are interested in exploring how sound can help you here are a few companies I recommend:
How to calm anxiety: Changes in thinking
Another way to handle anxiety is to change the way you think about life, the future, the world, and yourself. How to calm the anxiety you feel? Try to think using different patterns.
While this may sound like a daunting task, it can be easier than you think. The application of different cognitive techniques can help you improve your thought patterns.
Why can this help? Often, the anxiety we feel becomes excessive when we think about things in an irrational way. Things that are small become catastrophic.
For example, you have a date the next day. You might think about it as something positive or as something that might give you anxiety because what if they don’t like you? What if they leave and you’ll be alone forever? What if it’s the worst date ever? These are thoughts that will exacerbate any normal nervousness you might feel.
How can you control anxiety by changing the way you think? You need to identify the thought patterns that hurt you the most, what triggers them, and how to change it.
In the date example, you might recognize that you feel anxious in your relationships. When you are in another similar situation, you can challenge these thoughts. What if it’s a decent date? How likely it is that you’ll be alone forever? Challenging these thoughts can eventually lead to a significant reduction of your anxiety.
How to calm anxiety: Art, sport, and other strategies
How to calm anxiety in your daily life? First of all, there is exercise. While exercise is not a magical fix, it can help you feel more relaxed and calm. This is because of its positive effects for the brain and the body. Exercise can be a way to calm down and to focus on something other than anxiety.
Artistic and creative practices can be effective in reducing anxiety too. You might consider drawing, dancing, writing, or anything else that catches your eye to manage your daily anxiety. Artistic and creative practices put you in touch with your feelings. Through art you can express the worry you feel in healthy ways.
Powerful use of the imagination though imagination exercises can also aid in reducing anxiety.
There are many other things that can help reduce anxiety. Walking is helpful, especially outside. Gardening can be another relaxing activity. If you don’t have a lot of free time, just going out and spending time among the trees and grass can have a positive effect on the anxiety you feel. Try to get more green in your life!
Don’t forget the basics either! It’s important to sleep the right number of hours, for instance, or anxiety tends to grow. It’s also important to keep a diet that’s low on caffeine and alcohol and high on nutrients.
There are also some herbs available that can help reduce anxiety. Some of these are passionflower, kavakava, L-Theanine and others.
Overall, there are many strategies to control anxiety. See which ones work best for you.
PS You may want to check out my sister articles to this one: