We live in an age where anxiety can affect anyone at any time. If you haven’t battled with anxiety firsthand, chances are you know someone who has, whether it be a family member, a friend, a spouse, or even a coworker.
Nearly one third of adults in Canada will grapple with out-of-control anxiety at some point in their life. Anxiety can show up in many forms, from situational, social, or health anxiety, to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It can pop up during times that are highly stressful such as public speaking, facing phobias like needles or heights, overstimulating environments, PTSD, and even thinking about future events.
If we speak about anxiety in medical terms, it is defined as “a mental and behavioural disorder, characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and often irrational worry about events or activities.” Quite often, this definition makes it sound like anxiety is something that is abnormal and must be fixed. This is not true. If we can learn to welcome anxiety, befriend it, sit with it, and understand why it’s showing up, we can heal this part of ourselves.
It takes more mental and physical energy to constantly try to run away from your anxiety. All it wants you to do is listen to it — anxiety wants to let you know that you are okay.
When we start to see anxiety as tool that can be used to our benefit rather than a big ugly, scary monster, we can better manage the symptoms. If you are experiencing anxiety, here are a few things that you can do to help release what you may be feeling:
Find a quiet area to sit and take 3 deep breaths. Look around you and notice:
- 5 things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your colleague’s desk.
- 4 things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand.
- 3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath.
- 2 things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap.
- 1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air.
Find a comfortable position. If possible, lie down on a flat surface.
- Place your hand or an object, such as a pillow or book, on your belly. Your hand/object should rise as you take a big breath and fall as you let the air out slowly over a period of several seconds.
- Breathe in through your nose slowly while counting to 5.
- Hold your breath at the top and count to 3.
- Breathe out through your mouth while counting to 5.
- Let your shoulders and neck relax with the movement in your abdomen. Repeat 15 to 20 times.
- Consider adding a short phrase in your mind with the breathing such as “I am” on the inhalation and “relaxed” on the exhalation.
When anxiety pops up during an unexpected time for you, try this:
- Pick a 20-minute window during each day to feel the feelings about your anxieties. Maybe it’s your lunch hour or right before you go to bed. During that time, let your brain and body feel all the emotions that you were feeling in that moment that made you anxious and let the anxious thoughts flood in.
- If anxious thoughts or feelings arise outside that scheduled time, tell those thoughts, “I’m willing to hear you, but this is not our anxiety time. You can come back later.” Using this technique ensures you are feeling your feelings and letting your anxiety pass through you. You are still showing yourself compassion by doing this and are not suppressing the anxious feelings.
When you find yourself caught in a cycle of anxious thinking, redirect that energy onto something outside of you. You can take control of the anxious energy and put it somewhere so that you no longer have to hold on to it. This can look like many things, for example:
- Get up and go on a walk.
- Do a quick 10-minute stretch, especially for the neck and shoulders.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings.
- Take a few minutes to clean something that you’ve been putting off.
- Listen to music.
- Talk to someone you trust.
When it comes to mindful meditation, you can’t do anything wrong. There is a whole array of resources available. Look up a short 10-minute video on YouTube such as ‘Mindful Meditation for Anxiety.’ This can help you ground yourself, let the emotions pass, and redirect your day onto a new energy.
It’s important to note that these techniques can help to relieve your anxiety in the moment. There are a lot of techniques you can do for your anxiety that allow you to relieve it on your own, but it is important to know when it’s serious and when to seek help.
- Your anxiety becomes an obstacle in any aspect of everyday living, often causing difficulties for six or more months.
- Your anxiety becomes a negative influence in relationships creating barriers in life.
- Your anxiety leads to isolation producing thoughts of hopelessness or helplessness.
- Your anxiety controls your life with emotional or physical response to excessive worry.
- Anxiety about things that don’t actually threaten you.
- Panic attacks.
Our anxiety is our bodyguard; it wants to keep us safe. Anxiety is the body’s way of letting you know to slow down, and listening to your anxiety can sometimes lead to good things when used from a gentle compassionate perspective.
Blog post by Jaylee Cardinal, Executive Assistant.
Anxiety (2023) Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/anxiety
Christensen, J. (2023). Countdown to Take Control of Anxiety. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/tips-to-help-ease-anxiety
Delzell, E. (2021). How to Stop Feeling Anxious Right Now. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/ways-to-reduce-anxiety
Mayo Clinic Health System. (2021). Tips to Help Children Relax. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/tips-to-help-children-relax
Wall, K., Jantz Ph.D, G. L., & Gurian, D. M. (2021). The Anxiety Reset: A Life-Changing Approach to Overcoming Fear, Stress, Worry, Panic Attacks, OCD and more. Tyndale Momentum.