I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was a kid. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, earthquakes used to be a huge source of stress for me, and I’d often lie awake at night terrified that the ground would start shaking. As an adult, I’ve got a pretty good handle on specific fears like that, but sometimes I’ll get hit with a wave of generalized anxiety–my mind races, my heart rate quickens, and any semblance of calm suddenly feels so far away. Luckily, over the years I’ve found a few ways to deal with these freakouts. Here are some tried and true anxiety busters that have worked for me and other members of the Frisky staff. Check out our list and please add your own strategies in the comments section–I’m always open to new ideas!
1. Focus on the moment. Anxiety, at its core, is an irrational fear of the unknown. It is a reaction to something that could happen, that might happen, but isn’t necessarily happening now. A thought process during an anxiety attack might include frantic questions like “What if someone breaks into my house?” “What if my parents die?” “What if I can’t pay the rent?” One of the best ways to combat the vicious cycle of “what if?!” is to focus on what is actually happening right now. Push everything else out of your mind. Say it out loud if it helps: I am sitting on my bed. I am drinking tea. I am safe.Source: Harvard University
2. Breathe. Draw a breath in. Let it out. Repeat. Feel the air pass through your lips. Allow the world around you to melt away as you focus all of your energy on slow, steady breaths.
3. Listen to music. Put on your favorite song to spark some good memories. Listen to an album with lyrics that really resonate with you. Try classical music to calm racing thoughts. Music has the power to change the atmosphere of a room and make you feel better.
4. Let some emotion out. Sometimes anxiety is simply a manifestation of emotional overload. A really good, brief cry can work wonders. So can journaling. Get those feelings down on paper and out of your head!
5. Sip on something. Wine, tea, or whatever your beverage of choice, it’s calming to hold a cup in your hand and take slow, thoughtful sips.
6. Phone a friend. Think, “Whose energy would feel soothing right now?” and then call them or make plans to meet up.
7. Take a bath. Light some candles, put on some low-key music, feel the water on your skin, and just breathe.
8. Do yoga. The repetitive movement and slow breathing is a great physical and emotional release. If you don’t have any yoga experience, no worries–just do some simple stretches and focus on your breathing for a similar effect.
9. Watch a movie or TV show. This is a great way to get out of your own head. You can watch something new to keep you distracted, or an old familiar favorite to help calm you down. For me, the “Seinfeld” theme song brings instant comfort, no matter how freaked out I am.
10. Play with a pet. Animals can be wonderful distractions when you’re feeling anxious. Play with your cat, snuggle with your dog, or just show them some love in general. In no time, you’ll be purring too.