How to Calm Anxiety
When you awoke this morning, you felt good for the first time in a long time. It concerned you, why do you not feel worried, or panicked. Why are your thoughts not circling around your head as they always do? Everything feels calm and … dare you say it … normal.
Three days later and you feel the same. The concern is growing now, you do not really know what to do with yourself when the worries are not there. You feel scared that everything is going to crash around you and you will not find the ability to cope. Worried that maintaining the state of calm will suddenly get difficult. You fear not feeling like this forever.
The normality of normal causes you to feel anxious again.
You continually think about the ‘what ifs’ of the past and future. What if you looked silly when you arrived at work yesterday? What if you mess up when you go out later? Lots and lots of ‘what ifs’ circling through your mind all the time. A constant voice in your head, doubting everything you do and worrying about the actions of others. You feel overwhelmed, distracted and struggle to sleep.
The similarity between all the symptoms of anxiety is the focus on the past or the future. Anxiety is a symptom of the body in a permanent state of fight or flight. A required instinctual response designed to be fast. When we stay in this body state for a long period, we experience the symptoms we call anxiety.
How to calm anxiety in the day
Many people that experience feelings of anxiety find mornings the most difficult time of day. If you struggle to sleep, you feel exhausted, the shock of an alarm sends a surge of adrenaline through your body. You push snooze and throw your head under the duvet fearful of the day ahead. When you finally drag yourself out of bed you feel frazzled with little time and lots to do. If you did not feel anxious before you do now.
A calmer start in the morning will set you up for a better day ahead. It might sound silly when you do not get enough sleep as it is, but if you rise earlier, you get time in the morning to align your mind and body. Rather than fitting into the model you see as normal is there a change in routine that will suit your life?
Rise and Shine
When you stay up late you miss the most valuable hours of sleep (research shows that the hours before midnight have greater benefit than those after). Your body is set to produce sleep inducing hormones by the setting of the sun and wake hormones by the light of the sun. When you use false lighting and screens this confuses your body, and it releases significantly less of the sleep hormone melatonin. Instead of staying up late to finish the work you need for tomorrow try going to bed early, (with the sunset in summer) and rise early to complete your work with a fresh mind.
When you experience anxiety, it feels as though you have lost control of your mind. Bring yourself back to the present to help you regain control. Check in with yourself and ask, “am I safe right now?”. If not prioritise your safety. You might feel drawn to say, “yes but what if … happens in 2 minutes time?” so remind yourself to remain in the present moment. If you are safe right now the only answer you need to give yourself is yes. Initially you will feel like a stuck record as your thoughts continue to wander off and you continue to bring them back. In time your brain will adapt and recognise the safety, and learn how to calm anxiety.
How to calm anxiety at night
Anxiety is the same physiological response during the night as it is during the day. At night there is less to focus on so for some people the feelings become stronger. Remaining in the present moment is as important at night-time as daytime. There are different techniques that help with reducing anxiety and falling asleep, which also keep your mind in the present. I like to imagine myself at the top of a 10-step staircase. Sometimes I create a paradise garden at the bottom. I imagine that I slowly walk down the staircase, counting down from ten to one as I do so. The trick is to remain focused completely on the staircase. Every time I notice my thoughts drift to something else, I bring myself back to the top of the staircase.
A notebook beside the bed is useful, everyone has a different reason for the anxious thoughts that run through the mind at night. Use your notebook to jot down your worries, your plans for the next day, plans for a situation you fear, ideas that pop into your head which you worry about forgetting or anything else that is on your mind. This act of putting thought to paper helps you give yourself permission to let the thought go from your mind.
How to stop a panic attack
The first thing to keep in mind is that panic disorder is characterised by the persistent worry about another panic attack. Use thought stopping techniques to change your mindset from one of worry. Another technique is to remind yourself that if you do experience a panic attack you will manage it – this does not mean stop it or end it but manage the situation.
Deep abdominal breathing will help ease a panic attack. Count as you breathe in and out, making your breaths as deep and long as possible. Use your hand to ensure your belly is rising and falling rather than your chest.
Recognise your panic attack. The fear of death makes panic attacks worse. Remind yourself that it is a panic attack and temporary. Use the techniques you know to calm your body and allow the attack to pass. Let yourself be still and try not to fight yourself.
Use your senses to ground yourself and bring yourself into the present moment. Some people feel overwhelmed by their environment and prefer to close their eyes. If so, use the other senses and imagine your safe place (create one now if you have not already).
How to calm anxiety
The above tips will help ease anxiety, not everything works for everyone and not every tool works in all situations. Practise using the techniques when you feel calm, so they feel natural. This way when you experience anxiety there is more chance of remembering and using a technique that helps you.
If you enjoyed reading this you will probably also enjoy this article; Everything You Need to Know About Hypnotherapy for Anxiety