Alyssa Raiola for Greatist shares 8 quick tips to calm down and take control of your anxiety.
8 Fast Ways to Calm Down When You’re Anxious AF
There are plenty of great ways to relax, from sweating it out to doing something nice for others to taking a nice, long stroll in nature. But when you’re about to walk into a big meeting with your boss or finally meet Tinder bae IRL, ain’t nobody got time for a walk in the park. Next time you feel that rush of anxiety—and that red face—coming on, try one (or all) of these easy tips to calm down before anyone sees you break a sweat.
1. Think about pancakes.
We’re always down for pancakes, so we were pretty stoked when Meg Jay, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter— and How to Make the Most of Them Now, told us to think about the breakfast treat during a stressful event, like a performance review.
If your manager suggests things you can improve upon (such as replying to emails more professionally or turning around reports more quickly), think of them as pancakes on the griddle. “You need to take them off the stove, turn on a fan, or open a window,” Jay explains, “but the house is not burning down, so you don’t need to run screaming from the place.” In other words, if a meeting is getting you all worked up, thinking about “pancakes” can put it into perspective.
Similarly, turning to Mother Nature (whether it’s looking out a window or Googling some awe-inspiring photos), can help your stresses seem small compared to how huge the world is. It can also help clear away inner turmoil, research suggests. Finally, as Tiffany Cruikshank, a certified yoga teacher and author of Meditate Your Weight, says, remind yourself (in your head or out loud) that everything passes. And think of past experiences where that has been true.
2. Count your breaths.
You’ve probably heard that breathing can help you calm down, but have you actually tried it? Thought so. Here’s an easy place to start: Take five conscious, deep breaths anytime you feel stress coming on, Jay suggests, so your body starts to receive the breaths as a signal to calm down. Cruikshank suggests inhaling for three or four seconds and then exhaling for one or two seconds longer.
Whichever breathing exercise you choose, it’s best to stick with one, consistent method that works for you. “Having a regular practice of some sort is really the way to train the mind and the nervous system,” Cruikshank says—just like training a muscle.
3. Imagine being in your favorite yoga pose.
Or doing any other exercise you love. Picture something that’s particularly relaxing when you start to get nervous, Cruikshank says. Even if you can’t launch into tree pose or sneak out for a run, imagining the feeling of a calming activity can help you chill out.
When you conjure up the specific details of what it feels like to be on a nice, long run or killing it at kickboxing class, you’ll be surprised how your nervous thoughts will begin to drift away.
4. Wiggle your toes.
Mindfulness is a term that gets tossed around a lot, but at the most basic level, it’s all about being grounded or centred, and aware of your body in some way. Go ahead and “ground” yourself: Focus on your feet, pushing them into the ground or wiggling your toes (easier in sandals!) to check in with your body. “Picking one point of your body to focus on helps direct your body into relaxation mode,” Cruikshank says.
We can’t control the way our bodies respond to stress (thanks, evolution!), but there are ways we can train—and maybe even trick—our minds to go from freaked out to excited or calm. It’s also important to remember that anxiety is something everyone faces at work and in life, but not everyone has an anxiety disorder, which requires professional help, not a few quick tips.
Finally, stress at work (outside the normal “Ahh! This meeting is a really BFD!”) could also indicate that you may be in the wrong job. “Listen to the things you say to yourself when you’re feeling anxious at work,” Jay says. There’s a major difference between “I really don’t want to do this” and “I really don’t want to fail at this.”
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