If you are dealing with anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety and mood disorders are the most common type of mental illnesses in the United States and Canada. If you have anxiety you know what it feels like. It feels like crap! Some typical anxiety symptoms are dizziness, tension, nervous stomach, racing heart, chest tightness, muscle tightness, dry mouth, fear of dying, nausea, and on and on and on.
Good times right?
Our minds are incredibly powerful. The mind can create happiness and hell. It can lift you up as easily as it can bring you down. Now let me share something else with you. You are incredibly powerful! You are the master of your mind. Perhaps you have forgotten this. Sometimes I forget. My mind will easily spin out of control if I forget this. Left unchecked and untrained the mind can take over and cause chaos. No one is immune from experiencing anxiety; not even therapists.
The bright news is that anxiety is treatable. There are many ways to help you calm and manage and even alleviate anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety differently and a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. A therapist will work with you and help you discover the methods that work best for you.
I offer a well-known exercise to help calm and balance you while you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack. And practice, practice, practice. Use this often even when you are not experiencing anxiety. When you are in the middle of a panic attack, it is hard to remember your tools. Practicing will help you access this calming exercise and your mind and body will work together to help you ground into calm faster.
First take a deep breath. Breathe into your belly so it rises and falls at a slow even pace. If it helps, put one hand on your belly to make sure you are breathing deeply. Deep breaths send signals to the mind that everything is safe – that you are safe. Take at least 3 deep breaths – more are always okay.
- Look around you and name 5 things you see. Look at each object’s shape, size, color, and texture.
- Look around and name 4 things you feel. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel your skin against your clothes or rub your fingers together. Press your lips together or feel your teeth with your tongue.
- Look around and name 3 things you hear. Hear the clock ticking. Hear the traffic outside. Hear the birds, wind, or rain.
- Look around and name 2 things you smell. Smell any nearby perfume. Smell some spices from your kitchen cabinet. Smell your hair or skin.
- Look around and name 1 thing you taste. Taste in your mouth. Taste a piece of your favorite food.
This exercise can be done as many times as needed. It can also be adapted. If you can’t remember the sequence of numbers, just choose a single number for all the senses.
And remember this: You are powerful!