“Calm down.” “Just relax.”
Do people really think it’s that simple? Why are friends and family always telling you to calm down or relax as if you are choosing to be anxious? Has saying “calm down” ever really helped anyone? I doubt it.
Luckily, there are a few quick and easy tricks to dialing down the anxiety when you start to feel worked up. But first, a little info about anxiety. We know the mind and body are connected, so that when you are anxious and worried about something, you may also experience physical symptoms of anxiety, such as heart racing, upset stomach, sweating, and restlessness. Sometimes these symptoms exacerbate into a full-blown panic attack. Yikes!
What’s happening is your body has turned on its arousal system. It goes on all at once like a light switch, but it turns off gradually like the volume dial on your car stereo. Here are two tricks to calm those physical symptoms of anxiety, which will in turn have a calming effect on your mind.
Simple, but very effective. Take long, slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm. In other words, as you inhale your stomach should be expanding, returning to its normal state as you exhale. This is the opposite of what we do naturally. Take some time to practice in front of a mirror with one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Practice when you’re not anxious and you’ll be ready the next time you find yourself in an anxiety-producing situation!
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
PMR involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in isolation so that you learn to identify muscle tension. It’s possible you may be tense a lot of the time without even realizing it! The shoulders and neck can get tight when you’re sitting at a computer or staring at your nursing baby. For other people, tension gathers in the face, leading to sore jaw and tension headaches. So, start with your face and work your way down through shoulders and neck, right arm, left arm, chest and stomach, right leg and left leg. Tense each muscle group for about 3 seconds. Then let it go and notice how it feels to be relaxed. Practice the whole body scan enough times and you’ll become a pro at pinpointing and erasing tension throughout the day!