By Betsy Spier & Erin O’Brien
Anxiety is a feeling in the body that comes from our thinking. The feeling of anxiety can manifest itself as heart palpitations, sweating, muscle tightness and soreness, inability to swallow, tightness in the throat, butterflies in the stomach, tingling in extremities, and more. The thinking that precedes anxiety can involve past traumas, fear of future events, any number of phobias, and can be physiological and neurobiological.
So now that we’ve identified that feeling, what do we do when it comes up? How do we minimize our anxiety?
One thing to recognize is that it’s incredibly common. We all worry sometimes. We all feel restless and agitated sometimes. The only difference is the degree to which we feel this.
So, what can we do when we get anxious?
There are a number of tools that are useful when dealing with anxiety, and it’s often helpful to try out several and see which ones are best suited to us as individuals.
1. Breathe It Out: Mindfulness breathing exercises are a great way to ease anxiety. There are many ways to do breathing exercises, and one of the most effective is counting breaths. Inhale for three counts, hold it for three counts, then exhale for three counts and hold it for another three counts. Repeat as many times as needed. This focus on the breath helps to take our mind off our thinking and grounds us in the here and now.
2. Write It Out: It can be helpful to write out all of our anxious thoughts, so they aren’t trapped inside our head. It doesn’t need to be structured or make sense; it just helps to get out of our heads and onto paper.
3. Talk It Out: Talking about the things we’re anxious about or even just the anxiety itself with someone we trust can reduce the anxiety, and the connection that comes from talking it out with another person can further lessen our anxiety.
An important thing to remember is that these anxious feelings come from our thoughts, which we create, so just because we feel something doesn’t mean that it is real, no matter how real it may feel in the moment. The above tools can help bring us out of those thoughts and heighten our awareness to what is real, and to be in the present moment.