1. Breathing exercises
A sign of an anxiety attack is short rapid breathing. By forcing yourself to take long, deep breaths you allow the vagus nerve to activate which tells the body that there is no real immediate danger.
Two easy techniques to remember are:
- The box breath (inhale 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds) and
- The diaphragmatic breathing (inhale 5 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale 8 seconds).
A rapid heartbeat is a common symptom so tapping at a regular slow interval over the heart or middle of the forehead, wrist, chin or upper lip combined with deep breathing helps slow the heart rate.
3. Label your feelings
Sometimes the physiological reactions can creep up on you when you are doing the most mundane tasks and you may need to actively recognise your thoughts to pinpoint the origin of the anxiety. Once you have identified that you are feeling anxious, it may help to label that feeling verbally, “I am feeling anxious” or “I am feeling fear”. Once labelled, you may often find the feeling dissipates rapidly.
4. Challenge your thoughts
A quick question to ask yourself when entertaining thoughts that promote anxiety is “is this thought true?” and “is this thought helpful?”. Often anxiety arises as we entertain “what if” thoughts that disassociate us from reality. Asking is it true or helpful helps us discard untrue or unhelpful thoughts.
5. Anchor to reality
By engaging our senses we become aware of the current reality in the world around us. Helping us control not just our thoughts but the physiological responses to those thoughts. To use the senses during an anxious episode, name five objects in the room around you or close your eyes and try to identify five sounds. To use the sense of touch, pet your dog or outline the shape of an object with your fingers.
Whilst these hacks may help you through occasional episodes, if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed regularly, it may be more helpful to speak with a mental health professional on oDoc from the comfort & privacy of your home. To consult, please download the oDoc app here.
- Anxiety Signs & Symptoms, Mind UK
- Breathing exercises for stress, NHS.co.uk
- What is EFT tapping? Healthline.com
- Anchoring yourself in reality, Psychology Today