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6 Simple Ways to Manage Anxiety When It Strikes

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There is nothing like the feeling of anxiety creeping up on you unexpectedly as you are trying to go about your day.

You may be enjoying yourself with a group of friends on a road trip, or typing away at your computer in your office. You may be alone or surrounded by others. You may be having a hard day or it could be a relatively good day with no other signs or symptoms on the horizon. 

But then it begins. The tightness in your chest. The knot in your stomach. The terrifying struggle to breathe in and out. Thoughts of worst-case scenarios begin to uncontrollably make their home in your mind. You look around and wonder how everyone else can be so calm and put-together in a moment such as this. How did you get from that feeling of contentment to a feeling of terror within a split second? Your only hope is to try to get a hold of it before it overtakes you and puts you into a sheer panic.

When in a social situation, it can be hard to get your anxiety under control without drawing attention to yourself. It can be an alarming and confusing experience, but there are ways in which you can try to manage your anxiety before it becomes too unbearable.

1. Reach out.

Many times, anxiety is made all the worse because we feel that we are alone in our struggle. Reaching out to a friend or loved one to let them know what is happening can shed light on the situation for them, and can help you to feel less isolated. Many times, people are more than willing to help you get through your bout of anxiety, but letting them in on what you are feeling is key. 

2. Grounding

When we are in a heightened state of anxiety, our senses are magnified and it can be difficult to bring ourselves back to the here and now. Grounding techniques can help our minds and bodies return to the present. Personally, I wear a bracelet with the word “compassion” on it that I hold when I feel anxiety coming on, and it reminds me to have compassion for myself as well as gives me something physical to hold on to. Essential oils can also bring our physical senses back to the present and calm us down when emotions are elevated.

3. Breathe

Breathing may seem like an obvious answer, but when we are experiencing anxiety, it may take everything we have in us to focus on our breath. Focusing on the inhale and exhale can give us a good distraction as well as help calm our bodies physically. Navy SEALs have found doing square breaths helps to change what is physically happening in our bodies in response to trauma or anxiety. Try inhaling for four seconds, holding for four, exhaling for four, and holding for four. 

4. Positive statements

Positive self-talk can have a great impact on your mental state when experiencing anxiety. Your thoughts are telling you lies and the way to combat them is by telling yourself positive truths. Some statements I like to use repeatedly are: “I am worthy of love and belonging,” or “I am safe.”

5. Get outside

Getting up and going out may be the last thing you want to do when anxiety strikes. However, being in nature can take us out of our own head and give us a temporary escape. The air and the scenery can also help calm our senses and bring us to a place of feeling safe and can bring us perspective. 

6. Ride the wave

This may be the hardest one of all to accomplish but it can also be the most useful. When we experience unwanted feelings, our tendency is to want to get rid of them as quickly as possible. However, by trying to get rid of negative feelings, we often end up making our feelings even worse. Riding the wave is done by accepting what you are feeling, validating it and letting it run its course. Feelings come and go and will eventually pass, no matter how bad they may feel in the moment. Riding the wave includes feeling the emotions fully without pushing them away.

No matter how bad the anxiety may get and how scary it may be to face in the moment, remember you are never alone in your struggles. Remembering this can give you just enough strength to get through the anxiety and just enough hope for the future.

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Thinkstock photo via Zinkevych

Originally published: June 27, 2017
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