I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m feeling really anxious I have a lot of trouble remembering what I can do in that moment to calm myself down. I like to keep a checklist of strategies that work for me on my phone, and this page is honestly just a big old list of things you can try when you’re feeling really anxious. Personally, I would try to them in the order that they’re listed(at least the first few), because sometimes you really just need something simple.
- Lean into it. The more you can accept and even welcome anxiety, the less tension you’ll create by fighting it and the less anxious you feel. This is difficult and takes a lot of practice, but it honestly works. Find a phrase and repeat it to yourself as you slowly breathe. I like to use “I want to feel anxious. I want to practice.”
- Ground yourself. List all of the things you can see, hear, taste, the number of like objects, etc. This is called grounding, and it’s one of my go-tos. I like to list 4 things I can see, 3 I can touch, 2 I can hear, and 1 I can smell. For the next go-round I like to rotate that and list 4 I can touch, 3 I can hear, 2 I can smell, and 1 I can see. Keep repeating until you feel calmer.
- Take 10 deep belly breaths with your hands on your belly so that you can feel it expand. If you’ve never done that before or if you need a little extra help to slow your breath down, try xhalr.
- Drink some water and/or eat a snack. I know. I know. You feel nauseous. I know. But sometimes what we think is nausea is actually very insistent hunger. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve felt anxious and drinking water or eating has immediately made things much, much better.
- Do something physical. If you can, take a walk OUTSIDE or do a light yoga flow. I often can’t because I’m teaching, so I like to clench my fists and then unclench them a little with each exhale until they’re fully open.
- Take an anti-nausea something. Ginger pills work best for me, but I’ve been known to carry Tums or Pepto Bismol chewables with me.
- Use the SOS meditations on Headspace. If you have the app, great. If not, find them here and here.
- Cry. Crying is a physical reaction to stress, NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS, and if you’re in a space where you can let go and cry for a few minutes, do. It’s therapeutic.
- Read notes from yourself and/or people close to you. See an example here.
- Reach out to someone who is empathetic and supportive. Someone who will say things like “that SUCKS, I’m so sorry” and not “Just relax!” or “Get over it!” Those people don’t get it.
- Take a shower. Sometimes it just really helps to have a physical cleansing.
- Color. There are lots of apps, you can have an analogue book, or I personally like to play color sudoku.
- Give yourself some shocking sensory input. Wash your face with a very cold washcloth. Dunk your hands in a bowl of ice water. The shock of this can help you break thought loops. I would avoid doing something like this with heat because 1) burns and 2) heat can make you nauseous.
- Write. Sometimes we know why we’re anxious, and sometimes we don’t. Jotting down what you’re feeling and thinking in the moment can help you figure out your triggers and also discover any thought tricks your brain is playing on you, especially when you go back and read it when you’re NOT anxious.
- Face it. Often this is more of a management type thing, but case in point: once the thing that was making me anxious was a meeting with my boss that I knew would be tense. I thought about cancelling, I threw up in the bathroom, and then I went to their office and said what I needed to say. And I felt SO. MUCH. BETTER.
- Create a document for your partner that tells them what to do/not to do. See mine here.