Life can get overwhelming, and it’s normal to feel anxious. Whether it’s due to work, personal challenges, or the uncertainties around us, anxiety can take over our minds and bodies. However, finding simple ways to calm anxiety is crucial for our well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore various techniques that can help you find peace within yourself, so you can face life’s challenges with strength and tranquility.
One of the quickest and most effective ways to calm anxiety is through your breath. Taking slow, deep breaths has a powerful impact on your body’s relaxation response, and there are several techniques that therapists recommend to help slow down your heart rate and calm anxiety.
Here are a few you can try, and see which one helps you the most:
- Deep Belly Breathing: Find a comfortable position and place one hand on your belly. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your belly fall. Focus on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body, and repeat this deep belly breathing for a few minutes.
- 4-7-8 Breathing: Sit or lie down in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to eight. Repeat this cycle for several rounds, allowing each breath to calm and center you.
- Box Breathing: Visualize a square or a box in your mind. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four as you trace the first side of the box. Hold your breath for a count of four as you trace the second side. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four as you trace the third side. Finally, hold your breath again for a count of four as you complete the box. Repeat this pattern for a few minutes, focusing on the rhythmic and steady breaths.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: Sit in a comfortable position and place your left hand on your left knee. With your right hand, use your thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale deeply through your left nostril. Then, use your ring finger or pinky finger to close your left nostril, and release your thumb from your right nostril as you exhale through the right side. Inhale through the right nostril, close it with your thumb, and exhale through the left side. Continue alternating nostrils for several rounds, maintaining slow and steady breaths.
The key to these breathing techniques is to focus on slow, deep breaths and the sensation of each inhalation and exhalation. Find a technique that resonates with you and incorporate it into your daily routine, using it as a tool to calm your anxiety whenever needed. You can find a few more breathing and relaxation techniques here.
Connecting with the Present
Anxiety often comes from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Grounding techniques can be incredibly helpful in calming anxiety and bringing your focus back to the present moment. Here are a few simple grounding techniques you can try:
- 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Engage your senses by naming five things you can see around you, four things you can touch or feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This technique helps redirect your attention to your immediate surroundings, grounding you in the present.
- Body Scan: Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body. Start from the top of your head and slowly scan down, paying attention to any physical sensations you notice along the way. Focus on the feeling of your feet on the ground, the weight of your body on a chair, or the sensation of your breath moving in and out. This technique helps you connect with your body and the present moment.
- Grounding Objects: Keep a small object in your pocket or bag that you can touch whenever you feel anxious. It can be a smooth stone, an anxiety ring, a worry stone, or any item with a texture that brings you comfort. When anxiety arises, hold the object in your hand, feeling its texture and weight. This physical grounding can help shift your focus away from anxious thoughts.
- Grounding through Movement: Engage in physical movement to ground yourself in your body. Go for a walk in nature, do gentle stretching exercises, or practice yoga. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you move, the feeling of your feet touching the ground, or the stretch in your muscles. Movement helps anchor your awareness to the present moment.
Grounding techniques are personal, and different techniques may resonate with different individuals. Experiment with these techniques and find what works best for you. When anxiety strikes, use these grounding techniques to reconnect with the present and find a sense of calm.
Replace negative or anxious thoughts with positive and reassuring statements. Remind yourself that you are safe, capable, and in control. Repeat affirmations or calming phrases, such as “I am calm and in control” or “This feeling will pass.” Positive self-talk can help counteract anxious thinking patterns.
This also will help you identify exactly what you’re going through and put a name to it. Recognizing and acknowledging that you are experiencing anxiety is the first step toward managing it. When you can identify anxiety as a separate emotion or state of being, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your emotions. This self-awareness allows you to observe your anxious thoughts and physical sensations without getting swept away by them.
Visualization techniques can be powerful tools for calming anxiety. Here are a few visualization techniques you can try:
- Safe Place Visualization: Close your eyes and imagine a safe and serene place in your mind. It can be a beach, a forest, a cozy room, or any location that brings you a sense of peace. Visualize the details of this place—the colors, the sounds, the smells. Engage your senses fully in this visualization and imagine yourself in that environment, feeling completely calm and secure.
- Release and Let Go Visualization: Visualize anxiety or any negative emotions as a physical object or color within your body. Take a deep breath and imagine that with each exhale, you are releasing and letting go of that object or color. Visualize it dissipating and disappearing, leaving you feeling lighter and more at ease with each breath.
- Balloon Visualization: Picture your anxiety as a balloon that is filling up with air inside your body. As you exhale, visualize the balloon deflating and shrinking, releasing the tension and anxiety. Imagine the balloon floating away, taking your worries with it, and leaving you feeling lighter and free.
- Guided Imagery: Listen to guided imagery recordings or podcasts that lead you through relaxing visualizations. These recordings often use calming language and vivid imagery to guide your mind toward a peaceful and tranquil state. Allow yourself to immerse in the guided visualization, following along with the instructions, and letting your mind wander to the calming scenes being described.
- Nature Visualization: Visualize yourself in a natural setting that brings you tranquility. Imagine walking through a serene forest, sitting by a peaceful lake, or standing on a mountaintop. Engage your senses and imagine the sights, sounds, and sensations associated with being in that natural environment. Let the soothing qualities of nature wash over you and help calm your anxiety.
Relaxing Your Muscles
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and releasing different muscle groups to promote deep relaxation. Find a comfortable position and start with your toes, gradually working your way up to your head, tensing each muscle group for a few seconds before letting go. As you release the tension, notice the difference in sensation and allow your body to sink into a state of deep relaxation. PMR can be particularly helpful before bedtime, as it promotes restful sleep and reduces anxiety that may interfere with your ability to unwind.
Sharing Your Worries
You don’t have to face anxiety alone. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or a licensed mental health professional who can provide support and understanding. Talking about your anxieties and fears can bring relief and help you gain new perspectives. Sharing your burdens with others not only lightens the load but also provides a sense of unity and encouragement.
At Focus, we have an expert network of licensed therapists who support a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety. Get custom matched to a therapist today and get the support you need to feel and live better.
Making Your Environment Relaxing
While not something that can calm immediate anxiety, your surroundings can greatly influence your state of mind. By intentionally creating a peaceful environment, you’ll have a sanctuary that nurtures relaxation and helps ease anxiety. Here are some simple ways to make your surroundings more soothing:
- Declutter and Organize: A cluttered environment can add to feelings of overwhelm and stress. Take the time to declutter your space, organizing and tidying up your surroundings. Clear out unnecessary items, create designated storage spaces, and keep surfaces clean and clear. A clean and organized space can promote a sense of calm and clarity.
- Soft Lighting: Harsh or bright lighting can be jarring to the senses and contribute to feelings of anxiety. Opt for soft, warm lighting instead. Use lamps with warm-toned bulbs or install dimmer switches to adjust the lighting according to your needs. Soft lighting creates a cozy and calming atmosphere.
- Nature Elements: Incorporate elements of nature into your environment. Place potted plants or fresh flowers in your space to bring a touch of greenery and natural beauty indoors. The presence of nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
- Calming Colors: Colors can have a significant impact on our mood and emotions. Choose calming colors for your space, such as soft blues, gentle greens, or soothing neutrals. Consider painting the walls, adding decorative elements, or incorporating textiles in these calming hues. These colors can create a serene and peaceful ambiance.
- Sensory Soothers: Engage your senses with items that provide comfort and relaxation. Place soft, cozy blankets or cushions on your furniture to create a comforting and inviting atmosphere. Use scented candles, essential oils, or aroma diffusers with calming scents like lavender or chamomile. Play gentle, soothing music or nature sounds in the background to create a tranquil auditory experience.
- Personal Sanctuary: Designate a specific area in your home as your personal sanctuary. It could be a corner of a room, a reading nook, or a cozy chair by a window. Fill this space with items that bring you joy and comfort, such as books, inspiring artwork, or sentimental objects. Make it a place where you can retreat to find solace and relaxation.
- Digital Detox: Limit exposure to electronic devices and screens, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns and increase anxiety. Create technology-free zones in your home where you can disconnect and unwind.
Listen to your own preferences and intuition when designing your space. By intentionally curating a calming environment, you can create a sanctuary that promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety, and supports your overall well-being.
Making Calmness a Daily Practice
Anxiety may be a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control your life. By incorporating ongoing calming techniques into your daily routine, you can learn how to understand your body and how anxiety affects you. Remember, recovering from anxiety is a journey that requires practice and patience. Be kind to yourself and celebrate even the smallest steps you take towards calming your anxiety.