Like any emotion, it’s perfectly normal to experience occasional anxiety. For example, you may feel anxious before a job interview, a test or making an important decision. Anxiety makes us more alert and enhances our focus when there’s a potential threat. However, if anxiety starts interfering with everyday life, it becomes a problem. In this article, I discuss techniques and lifestyle changes to help you deal with anxiety and anxiety attacks. Let’s first look at some techniques.
5 Techniques to break the grip of anxiety and regain control
All the techniques mentioned below serve as “reset” tools disconnecting you from your anxiety and help you feel grounded and in control again.
- The 4-7-8 breathing technique. Ideally, sit up straight. Focus on your breathing, the air flowing in. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of your pallet just above your upper front teeth and hold it there. Repeat the following cycle 3 to 4 times:
- Squeeze out all the air from your lungs.
- Inhale quietly through your nose for 4 counts. Think of a count as one second. Breathe into you stomach; feel your ribs expanding sideways (abdominal breathing).
- Hold your breath for 7 counts (If you find it difficult to keep your breath for 7 counts, make your counts shorter while maintaining the 4-7-8 ratio. As you start to feel calmer, make your counts longer again.)
- Exhale through your mouth while mentally counting to 8 – purse your lips and make a “whoosh” sound.
- The ceiling technique. Keep your head up straight and look at the ceiling by rolling your eyes up. Just stare at the ceiling while doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This technique works well if the ceiling is high.
- Find a focus point. Find a focus point in a distance that is higher than you. While you’re focusing on it, become aware of the space in the air. If there are people in the room, it’s ok. Your attention is on your focus point and the openness above them. Do the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This technique works well if you’re in a spacious room with a high ceiling.
- Close your eyes and do the 4-7-8 breathing technique, focusing on the air you inhale and how it travels to your lungs, feel how your lungs are filled with plenty of air. This technique works well if you’re in a small room with a low ceiling that is crowded and stuffy.
- Take sips of cold water. Do this mindfully, i.e., feel the cold water entering your mouth and going down your throat.
Simple Lifestyle Changes
- Practice meditation, yoga, qigong or other relaxation techniques.
- Learn different breathing techniques.
- Take a couple of deep breaths frequently during the day.
- Practice mindfulness. Focus only on THIS moment. Not thinking of tomorrow, be in the NOW, the present moment
- Put your mobile phone aside.
- Do activities you enjoy.
- Eat healthy food that nourishes your body.
- Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Focus on things that spark awe and positivity.
- Get enough sleep.
- Diffuse essential oils like lavender
- Spend time outside, get some fresh air!
- Use earplugs if you feel easily overwhelmed by sensory input.
- Check your thoughts throughout the day. If they’re negative, say “stop” and rethink them into a positive, or focus on something positive or beautiful.
- Stay away from negative conversations, news and social media posts.
I trust that these techniques and lifestyle changes will help you to cope better with anxiety and even overcome it. If you feel you’re not winning, and find yourself unable to overcome anxiety, you may want to consider getting professional help. Having suffered from anxiety and anxiety attacks myself, I know how horrible it is, but also that it can be overcome.
If you need help, know that I’m here for you! You’re welcome to email me anytime.
Ankrom, S. 2021. 8 Deep Breathing Exercises to Reduce Anxiety. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/abdominal-breathing-2584115 (Accessed 7th August 2021).
Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress. Available at: https://adaa.org/tips (Accessed 1st August 2021).
Weil, A. 2010. 4 -7- 8 Breath Relaxation Exercise. Available at: https://www.cordem.org/globalassets/files/academic-assembly/2017-aa/handouts/day-three/biofeedback-exercises-for-stress-2—fernances-j.pdf (Accessed 6th August 2021).