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  • Writer's pictureCarolee Coleman, LCPC

Three Ways to Stop Anxiety

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Here we go again. It can come on at any time. The familiar feeling of tightness in your chest, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and thoughts may begin to race. Anxiety is…unpleasant, to put it mildly. Living with anxiety is exhausting. There are some steps you can start taking today to help manage your anxiety.

1. Exercise. Exercise is a researched and proven method to help decrease anxiety. Activities like yoga, can have immediate impact. This type of activity requires concentration on the body and can interrupt the brain from clinging to thoughts that are reinforcing anxious feelings. Going for a walk is excellent too. Its highly accessible and the change of scenery can also act as a distraction while boosting feel-good endorphins! Bonus points if you take time to notice small details of nature while you are out there!

2. Relaxation techniques. The number of relaxation techniques are endless, but here are two of my personal favorites: 4-7-8 breathing exercise and progressive muscle relaxation.

4-7-8 breathing is simple AND you can do it ANYWHERE. Here is how you do it:

1. Exhale completely, making sure lungs are empty.

2. With your mouth closed, inhale through your nose for a count of 4 (try to make this a deep breath filling your lungs- yogis out there, think belly breath).

3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.

4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Don’t forget to empty those lungs.

5. Repeat this process at least three times, more if needed.

If you are trying to fall asleep, it can be helpful to set a lofty goal of something like 10 times (or more!), especially if anxiety has really taken hold.

Progressive muscle relaxation. This sounds more complicated than it is… all you are doing is intentionally tightening specific muscles, holding, and releasing. I highly recommend doing GUIDED exercises. It helps with focus and we know focus isn’t always a strength when in the grip of anxiety 😉

Here is a link to a guided progressive muscle relaxation that I like.

3. Get help. If you have someone in your support system that you can talk to and it helps, that is wonderful. Be mindful of who you share with, sometimes the wrong person can inadvertently make you feel worse by not recognizing that anxiety thoughts are not always reality and/or by offering unhelpful advice, like…”Just get over it”. Talking to a therapist that understands anxiety can help. A trained therapist can help you to identify unhelpful thoughts and work with you to strategize how to decrease the impact, and even work toward changing the unhelpful patterns your brain keeps repeating to healthier ones! How exciting is that???

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