Life: Anna’s Guide To Beating Anxiety
Some days, anxiety feels like it might eat you alive. Literally devour you. Here’s a little guide to keeping it under control – and you won’t even have to leave your desk.
The obvious – and most popular – technique for easing anxiety is to breathe deeply, but in actual fact it’s the focus on breathing that is important, not the speed. Breathing is helpful because it helps you to think about something other than the rising panic in your throat. And there are a couple of great exercises to help you do just that.
The Figure Eight
This was one of the first techniques my hypnotherapist taught me, and gosh darn it, it’s a good one. Cross your arms at the wrist and clasp your hands together, then bring them up to your chest. Cross your legs at the ankles. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath filling your body, and running through the figure eight. It may sound kooky, but it will help you find your centre.
Sounds obvious, right? If you don’t breathe out, you probably can’t breathe back in. But the point of breathing out is to relax your upper body. Most people feel the physical effects of anxiety in their chest, shoulders and head, so focusing on releasing a breath can counter these feelings. Obviously you already know how to exhale, so just make it deliberate. Listen to the air being released, drop your shoulders. It can help to put a hand on your diaphragm, so you capture the physical sensation of your body exhaling.
Acupressure is a technique that involves applying pressure to certain parts of your body to alleviate stress and anxiety. All you need to do is find one of the three main points and push down. Try to avoid using your nails!
The lower arm one
Use your thumb to measure two lengths down from your wrist, on the inside of your arm. Make a fist before you start randomly pressing – the pressure point is the tendon that will swell up.
The wrist one
At the edge of your hand (on your little finger side), there’s a bone that sticks out. The pressure point here is right next to that bone, closer to the inside of your wrist.
The foot one
Probably don’t try this one at work, especially if it’s open plan, but the last – and some say best – pressure point is on the bottom of your foot, right next to the ball, in the soft underbelly. Use your thumb to get right in there – the more pressure the better with this one. If you can con someone else into doing it for you, you’ll be doubly relaxed!
Anxiety is a battle with your brain. And since your brain is you, it can be hard to combat it with thoughts alone. One of the best ways to tackle anxiety is to trick your brain into thinking that it’s not anxious, by diversion tactics. You fake a left, then you go right, and you charge past the anxiety.
Diversions can really be anything that will “take your mind off it”. Yes, it sounds like advice your grandma would give you because she doesn’t understand, but it does work. They work by taking the focus away from the anxiety and bringing you back to the present moment. Keeping the diversion light is recommended. Try:
- Watching a funny YouTube video (I highly recommend this one )
- Reading a book or magazine – something that will hold your attention but not increase your anxiety!
- Splashing your face with cold water
- Counting, doing mental arithmetic
- Calling someone on the phone and talking about anything but anxiety
Don’t try to cram too many diversions in, or you might get the opposite effect! One at a time is plenty. Brains need to be treated gently.
These are all techniques for coping with anxiety in the immediate term – if you feel stressed, if you have a presentation, if you feel panicked. But they work best if you back them up with a long-term strategy like Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Assertiveness or my favourite, Bibliotherapy. And don’t be afraid to try a few different ones: finding the right fit is half the battle.