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3 Quick and Simple Things You Can Do Right Now to Lessen Anxiety

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Anxiety has the frustrating ability to boot you out of the driver’s seat of your life. Stomach twisted up in knots, pounding heart, racing thoughts… it’s hard to get much done when you feel on edge all the time.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help keep anxiety at bay. Here are three quick and simple things you can try today.

1. Triangle Breathing

I know, I know… I hate to be the 100th person to tell you this, but deep breathing is one of the quickest, most effective ways of calming your brain and your body. I’ll give you the simplified version of why deep breathing works — taking deep breaths triggers neurons in your brain that tell your body it’s time to relax. When your lungs expand and contract slowly, this in turn signals your heart to slow down, which has an immediate calming effect. Pretty neat, huh? Here’s a simple, effective breathing exercise that you can do in under a minute:

Steps for Triangle Breathing

1. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly and steadily through your nose for a count of four.

2. Hold your breath for a count of four.

3. Exhale slowly and completely for a count of 8.

Doing steps one to three is considered one round. Repeat up to four rounds at a time. If you’d like to do more, just make sure to take breaks by doing regular breathing in between.

You can adjust the counting accordingly to whatever feels most calming for you. The important thing to remember about triangle breathing is that the exhale (step three) should be the longest part of the breath cycle. You can also visualize tracing the lines of a triangle as you breathe. Pairing deep breathing with visualization can help you stay focused on the exercise.

(Triangle breathing is a client favorite because it’s quick, and you can do it just about anywhere!)

2. Guided Meditation on Youtube

This is a common one I recommend for clients who have a hard time shutting their brains off (totally normal, by the way — it’s a big part of anxiety). The only requirements for this one are Youtube, audio (headphones are preferred) and about 10 minutes where you can sit or lie down undisturbed.

Just type in “Guided Meditation” on Youtube and find one that you like. Other videos you can search for on Youtube are “Guided Meditation for Anxiety,” “Guided Visualization” and “Guided Body Scan.”

I recommend shorter guided meditations (fewer than 10 minutes) when first starting out. These are oftentimes easier to get through — both for meditation beginners and novices alike!

3. Take a Walk

While walking is great because of the physical movement component, there’s actually another important reason why walking can help decrease anxiety: bilateral stimulation.

Bilateral stimulation is any kind of stimuli that alternates left and right. It’s actually one of the core components of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) due to bilateral stimulation’s relaxing effect on our body and our mind.

While going for long walks isn’t always accessible, even just going for a short walk around the block or within your apartment complex can provide some quick relief.

If anxiety has begun to wreak havoc in your life, know that help is out there. Reach out to a trusted love one or connect with a mental health professional who can guide you through learning how to manage anxiety. You don’t have to go it alone. Sometimes you just need someone to guide you through the stuck parts in life, and that’s OK. It takes courage to ask for help.

Unsplash photo via Darius Bashar.

Follow this journey on Conquer Counseling.

Originally published: January 20, 2019
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