Anxiety is a natural part of our lives. It keeps us alert to threats in our environment and encourages us to take precautions for our safety. But sometimes, anxiety can go into overdrive and harm us by paralyzing our thoughts and actions with fear. Therapy can help you minimize anxiety in the long run, but what if you’re experiencing anxiety right now?
In this blog, we’ll show you how to reduce anxiety immediately and come out of the experience feeling calmer and more prepared to face the challenges ahead. Any of the following techniques can help you calm your anxiety.
1. Practice Box Breathing
By far, one of the easiest and most direct ways to reduce anxiety now is to engage in a form of deep breathing called box breathing. This isn’t the breathing you usually do unconsciously but rather a controlled and structured type of breathing.
Box breathing focuses your mind and relaxes your body. You can practice box breathing essentially anywhere. Here’s what you do:
- Slowly inhale while counting to four
- Hold your breath for four seconds
- Exhale for four seconds
- Repeat as many times as it takes to relax
Box breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls how your body relaxes. The system tells your brain that there is no threat and your body can release its tension. This should reduce your anxiety within a few minutes.
2. Intellectualize Your Anxiety
Another way to reduce your anxiety now is to acknowledge it for what it is. Instead of letting it beat you down at the moment, admit that you’re feeling anxious and understand that these experiences usually last only briefly. Thinking this way can help you separate your anxiety from yourself and gain a degree of control over it.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, we help patients understand that their thinking patterns primarily drive their feelings. We can help you identify the triggers that lead to anxious responses and use rational thinking to see that debilitating anxiety is not necessary in your trigger situations.
Exercise is a proven way to reduce anxiety symptoms. That’s because the strenuous movements get your heart pumping and ultimately release stress hormones, such as adrenaline, that tense your body and mind.
At the same time, exercise releases neurotransmitters called endorphins and dopamine. These chemicals make you feel better about anxiety and stress while actively boosting your mood. The next time you want to reduce anxiety immediately, go for a power walk or run, play a sport, or lift weights.
4. Listen to Your Favorite Music
Listening to your favorite music is another proven technique for calming your anxiety quickly. Music can reduce your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol while activating your brain’s pleasure center to release dopamine.
People’s musical preferences vary widely, but listening to slow, calming music of about 60 to 80 beats per minute is typically best. Here are some examples:
- “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
- “Hotel California” – The Eagles
- “The House of the Rising Sun” – The Animals
- “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Judy Garland
- “Imagine” – John Lennon
While cortisol and adrenaline tense your body into fight-or-flight mode, slow music grounds you in the present and returns your body’s functions to normal levels.
5. Use the 3-3-3 Rule for Grounding
A popular method of reducing your anxiety in the moment is to follow the 3-3-3- rule. This is a grounding technique for centering your thoughts on the present rather than your anxiety. The 3-3-3 rule tasks you with naming three objects or stimuli you can see, hear, and touch.
The best part about the 3-3-3 rule is that it’s a discreet exercise you can practice anywhere. Suppose you use the 3-3-3 rule while sitting in a crowded cafe. Here’s how you might identify the stimuli:
3 things you can see
- The coffee in front of you
- The cash register
- The bathroom sign
3 things you can hear
- The fireplace crackling near you
- Dishes clanging behind the counter
- The music from the overhead speakers
3 things you can touch
- The seat beneath you
- Your car keys on the table
- The coat you’re wearing
You may discover that focusing your brain on this activity kept it from delving further into your anxious thoughts. You can overcome the sudden onset of anxiety or a panic attack this way.
6. Change Your Environment
Because anxiety commonly originates in negative thought patterns, you can quickly cut off a bout of anxiety by sharply changing your physical surroundings. If you are becoming anxious in a crowded grocery store, go into the bathroom for a few minutes. You could even make a change as simple as standing up if you’re sitting down.
The goal is to focus on the changing stimuli around you rather than your anxiety. If you break from the environment where your stress is intensifying, you may be able to cut it off entirely within a few minutes.
7. Accomplish Tasks
Similarly to changing your environment, focusing your brain on accomplishing tasks and producing something can distract you from your anxiety. If you’ve been putting off chores around the house, now could be the time to finish them. You could work on your car, paint something, write down your thoughts, straighten up, or do yard work.
As with most of these techniques, accomplishing tasks centers your brain on what you’re physically doing rather than what you’re thinking. If you feel anxiety creeping up on you but then suddenly interrupt it by mowing the lawn or vacuuming, those stressful feelings may not have the chance to affect you.
8. Seek Out a Companion
If you feel comfortable, you can quickly reduce your anxiety by opening up to someone you trust. It could be a family member, friend, or anyone else who will listen to your concerns without judgment. You might be surprised at how good it feels to verbalize your anxiety to another person.
Your trusted confidant may have some interesting insights into your situation. You’re familiar with looking at your anxiety only from your perspective, but sometimes, a fresh viewpoint is all you need to change your thinking. At the same time, you may not need to hear the person’s thoughts on your anxiety. It could be enough simply to speak about it and have someone listen.
In conclusion, you have many options for reducing your anxiety immediately whenever it becomes strong enough to interrupt your thoughts. You may get no warning before a period of anxiety begins, but with these methods, you can handle whatever comes. At the same time, experiencing chronic debilitating anxiety can be stressful in itself. If you want to overcome anxiety long-term, it is essential that you speak to a qualified healthcare professional who can correctly diagnose you and recommend appropriate treatment.
Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates offers in-person and online therapy in Berwick, Pennsylvania, as well as 13 other convenient locations across Eastern Pennsylvania. If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or believe you may have anxiety, we can assist you in reaching your goals to get your mental health back on track. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our caring and compassionate therapists, counselors, or psychologists.