Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety is common when we experience changes or transitions in our lives. It is often linked to stress, which is one of the many triggers of anxiety. Anxiety can affect us both emotionally and physically. Anxiety symptoms include muscle tension, irritability, feelings of worry, nervousness, or fear, racing thoughts (i.e. your mind going a million miles a minute), and sweating. Anxiety is a normal feeling and response. Although many people believe anxiety is a sign of weakness, those feelings are common for anyone facing an essential transition or crisis.

Anxiety can be managed in several different ways. Practicing deep breathing exercises is one, simple way of managing anxiety symptoms. In times of crisis, our anxiety is triggered and our minds and bodies tend to be on “overload.” Calm breathing is vital because it assists in slowing down your breathing, allowing your body to reach a calm state. It is important to take some time to just sit and breathe. With those living busy lives, it can seem impossible to find the time to relax and breathe. But with the quick exercise described below, you can practice almost anywhere and everywhere!

Before practicing this technique, I recommend you get your mind and body ready. For example, finding a quiet place can be helpful. Sometimes, closing your eyes is helpful as well. The following technique is called “calm breathing” and is taken from http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/CalmBreathing.pdf

Some simple steps you can practice when you experience anxiety symptoms:

  1. Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds)
  2. Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
  3. Exhale slowly through the mouth (for about 4 seconds)
  4. Wait a few seconds before taking another breath

Taking 5 minutes to practice this daily can be useful. Once you feel comfortable with this technique, you can increase the time to up to 10 minutes. You can also incorporate mind visuals. For example, while practicing this technique, you can close your eyes and picture something that calms you (e.g. the ocean or a meadow).

While this technique can be helpful, it is advisable to seek professional help should you feel your anxiety symptoms worsen over time or severely affect daily activities such as school and work. Should you feel you are faced with the more pronounced effects of anxiety, I find that having a safe environment to talk about your anxiety and what triggers it is important (e.g. individual psychotherapy). Therapy can provide an environment where you can explore symptoms and how it affects your mind, body, and daily interactions. In therapy, you can discuss further ways to manage your symptoms of anxiety.

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