Anxiety attack comes when we least expect it. Like a cat, it sits there, waiting for you to walk by. Then it will jump to your suprise.
Having dealed with anxiety myself, I have used a few tricks that have successfully reduced the “flare”.
These tips are by no means aimed to replace a therapy, but a simple aid to help yourself when you can’t have a therapy yet. They’re all free and easy to do.
1. Breathe Slowly
As simple as it might sound, breathing helps us regulate our emotions. It calm us down. Managing our breath is the first key to manage our anxiety.
During a “flare”, your breathing becomes shallow. When it happens, observe the tension you feel in your body and slowly take a breath. Notice how it makes you feel.
You don’t need to take a deep breath just yet. In fact, some people experience chest pain during the attack, which makes it difficult to breathe deeply. So, do it slowly and gently.
I learned this in a meditation class I attended many years ago. The seniors could take a very long breath. Meanwhile, I kind of snorted the air. But later, thanks to the instructor’s reassurance, I followed my own pace.
Stanford scientists have identified a tiny cluster of neurons in the brainstem that link respiration to anxiety and relaxation. This “pacemaker” shows us that how one breathes greatly affect one’s mental health.
2. Drink Water
Dehydration doesn’t only affect your physical body but it can also trigger your anxiety.
When you don’t drink enough water, you’ll have poor blood flow. As the result, your hormones will fail to reach their destinations. Lack supply of water makes your body tense. You may also have increased heart rate and dizziness as well. All of these physical discomforts can trigger your anxiety.
A world-class trainer, Amanda Carlson, RD, said that dehydration increases the level of cortisol, which makes you more prone to stress. While drinking lots of water doesn’t magically remove stress, it can help reduce the symptoms or at least prevent your stress from getting worse.
3. Reduce or Quit Caffeine
Coffee tastes great, but too much of it may not be good for your mental health. This is because caffeine in coffee (also tea, energy drinks, and coke) can trigger anxiety symptoms. It’s not because caffeine dehydrates you (this theory has been debunked), but because it affects how your organs function.
A low dose of caffeine (50 to 200 mg) is considered safe. Symptoms such as nausea and increased heart-rate may occur when your daily caffeine intake exceeds 400 mg.
Just for an example, there’s about 360 mg caffeine in Starbucks’ grande Blonde Roast; and 475mg in its venti cup.
4. Lie Down
Savasana is used to close a yoga session for a great reason. It’s relaxing. It gives you a sense of rest, a needed stop, you owe to body and mind. It helps you ground yourself, making you more aware of your physical body.
There are also some meditation techniques that you can do while lying down. But if meditation is not your thing, you can use a weighted blanket, or layers of blankets, to aid your body to relaxation.
Weighted blankets have been proven to reduce anxiety. However, you may want to skip this technique if you have breathing problems.
5. Listen to Nature
Listening to nature sounds is relaxing because our heart rate is affected by the kinds of sound we listen to. This is especially true if your anxiety is caused by trauma. Nature sounds shift your attention to the outside world, easing the burden of your mind.
It is not be possible to be out in nature, you say. Not in winter. Not in a rainy season. Not in this pandemic.
There are many kinds of white noise and relaxing music on YouTube. You can listen to them for free. Some even have an accompanying relaxation music and a great video depicting nature.