Anxiety can make us feel like something is constantly sneaking up behind us or hiding around corners, ready to attack. It can make us feel like we are never safe, especially when anxiety attacks or panic attacks are a part of the picture.
That in mind, having a few tips in our back pocket on how to stop anxiety and feel calmer can help us to develop a greater sense of control over our lives. There are some incredibly effective practices to learn that can help with those overwhelming feelings, especially for those with frequent anxiety attacks.
Learn Deep Breathing Techniques
One of the best ways to stop anxiety in its tracks is to learn a few deep breathing techniques.
Breathing techniques that were designed to help reduce anxiety and stress work on a physiological level, slowing down your heart rate. It works nearly instantly, and is accessible anywhere with no equipment required.
The best part is that breathing techniques that can help to reduce anxiety don’t have to be complicated to be effective.
For instance, one of the most effective simple breathing techniques for anxiety is to focus only on the out breath. Don’t worry about paying attention to your in breath, it will naturally change to meet the extension of your out breath. When you breathe out, try to make it as long and gentle as possible. It may waver or be shaky, but do your best to try to steady it. Picture yourself blowing into a balloon, breathing until the last of your breath is gone.
As you breathe out, try to also focus your attention on your body. See if you can identify any sources of pain, discomfort, or tension that you may have been overlooking. With every breath, let that tension flow out of your body. Common sources of tension in the body for people who deal with anxiety are the jaw, shoulders, and lips.
When you breathe slowly, in addition to the heart rate naturally slowing, it also works to calm down all of the systems in the body that have been activated by the “fight or flight” response. This is super helpful when it comes to dealing with panic attacks.
Go For A Walk
When anxiety strikes, you likely feel full of energy that doesn’t seem like it has an outlet. Many people find themselves pacing around through their house, unsure of what to do with all of that need to move.
That’s where exercise comes in.
Studies have shown that exercise can be very effective at helping to reduce fatigue, improve concentration and alertness, and potentially enhance cognitive function overall. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that can help as natural painkillers and mood boosters. Exercise can also help with improving quality of sleep, which can also help reduce anxiety in the long run.
However, while exercise is amazing for both the mind and the body overall, it can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety in just five minutes. That means, if you’re feeling that build up of anxiety, get out of the house or office and go for a walk.
It not only will help you clear your head by giving you a change of environment, but the endorphins will kick in and help you reduce those building feelings. In addition, being outside in nature reduces the stimulus that is constantly coming at us from all of the forms of technology around us. It gives you a break, some fresh air, and a chance to get back into a neutral head space.
Anti-Anxiety Medications and Supplements
For some people, exercise and breathing techniques just aren’t enough to help them break through that anxiety. That’s why there are options like anti-anxiety medications and supplements that can help reduce that stress and anxiety before it can spin any further out of control.
Anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax and Ativan, were designed to be taken when panic attacks start. These medications were designed to affect receptors for GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is a neurotransmitter that is located in the brain. GABA is involved with the chemical functions behind sleep regulation, anxiety, and relaxation. Xanax impacts GABA, which then helps to slow down the CNS (central nervous system), which decreases the agitation and general over-excitement caused by anxiety while also creating a relaxing or tranquilizing effect on both the mind and body.
Mood supplements may also be able to help reduce feelings of overwhelm and anxiety when they occur.* Designed to also work with the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, anti-anxiety supplements may help with anxiety management, pain relief, and mood elevation by stimulating GABA release.* Taking one or two at the first sign of anxiety, or just first thing in the morning to start the day off right, may be just the relief you need to have the calm, relaxing day that you deserve.*
One less technique that is easily accessible to anyone suffering from anxiety, with a little bit of practice, is mindfulness. While mindfulness and meditation are frequently confused for each other, they are actually fairly different.
Meditation is both a mind and body practice that is used for increasing a sense of calm and relaxation, often achieved by sitting quietly and removing as much stimulus as possible. While mindfulness can be used in meditation, it isn’t the exact same thing.
Mindfulness is useful when dealing with anxiety because it can help reground you in reality when things start to feel out of control. When panic attacks happen, they can cause you to separate yourself from reality in an almost out of body experience.
Mindfulness combats that feeling and allows you to place your feet back on the ground, so that you can work on calming your mind as well.
One way to do that is by focusing on physical sensations. For instance, if you’re outside when a panic attack hits, start by focusing on how your feet feel against the ground. By focusing all of your attention on that physical feeling can help remind you of your physical body by also getting you out of your head.
Aromatherapy can also help stop a panic attack in its tracks if you know how to use it correctly. Aromatherapy is often misunderstood, and many people think that it just involves spraying some essential oils into the air or dabbing some on your wrists. However, aromatherapy is far more than that.
Lavender has been used to help calm and relax the mind for centuries. While it can be used as a simple spray or perfume, lavender can also be made into a tea, used in a diffuser, or even put into a bath. If you use it to help calm the mind when you’re feeling anxious, over time, the simple smell of lavender may calm you down without any other aid. It’s very powerful for a tiny herb!
With the growth of essential oil popularity, there are now more ways than ever to bring them with you anywhere you go. Consider purchasing an essential oil necklace or bracelet that you can wear anywhere, filled with lavender essential oil. If you get stressed out, you can smell it and let the scent calm you down, wherever you are.
Find Your Happy Place
While it may sound a little cliche, one last way to help stop anxiety and feel calmer is to find a happy place. Your happy place can be anywhere you want -- the beach, the woods, your mother’s house… all that matters is that it is a place that fills you with peace and joy. It should also be a place that you can see easily when you close your eyes.
When anxiety strikes, try to picture yourself in your happy place. Focus on every small detail -- the smells, the way it looks, the sounds. Similar to mindfulness, finding a happy place can help you give your anxiety a place to go. It gives you something else to direct your attention to as you wait for your panic attack to naturally fade.
If you’re able to, create a happy place in your own home as well. If you have frequent panic attacks, this will give you a physical place to go as well as a “happy” place in your mind, too. Think of it like a kind of meditation room in the house. You can even fill it full of lavender.
Anxiety attacks can make you feel completely out of control, full of endless energy that doesn’t seem to have an outlet. Having coping mechanisms at the ready like breathing techniques, mental wellness supplements, and exercise can help you feel more in control when the inevitable happens. So, the next time you feel that overwhelm coming on, start with taking in that deep breath, whether it’s outside, full of lavender, or with your eyes closed thinking about the beach.
*FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.