7 Simple Ways to Calm Anxiety

There are times when it all seems like too much. You feel yourself being crushed under the weight of your anxiety. Your chest is tight, your head pounds, maybe you feel nauseous or inexplicably sad and despairing.

You’re not alone. Anxiety disorders affect about 18% of the U.S. population. While some anxiety disorders are severe and require medical attention, there are strategies to calming yourself down when your anxiety is moderate. Here are a few of them.


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Breathe in, breathe out. Get into a comfortable position and focus on relaxing your muscles. Stretch your arms up, opening your lungs. Hold each breath longer than normal and feel everything begin to slow down and become more manageable.


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Take the dog for a walk. Run up and down your stairs. Go for a bike ride. Do some yoga in your living room. Not only can these activities be distracting, exercise releases happy chemicals in the brain that can ease anxiety. Physical movement may also help you release some of the physical tension you’re feeling due to your anxiety.


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There are several meditative techniques you can try. Some people find mantra soothing, wherein you repeat a calming word or phrase over and over to yourself or out loud until you feel stable. You could also try mindful meditation: Focus on your surroundings, focus on your senses and your feelings, be aware but don’t be judgmental of your anxiety. Prayer, to whichever entity brings you comfort, can also be helpful.

Divert Yourself

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The old strategy of counting sheep comes in handy here; when you’re in the middle of a panic attack, it can be helpful to divert yourself mentally. Count backwards from 100 in 7s, list off the state capitals or recite a favorite poem or song. Do one or more of these until you’ve calmed down.

Find Your Happy Place

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Guided imagery uses directed thoughts and suggestions to guide your imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. Based on the idea that your body and your mind are connected, guided imagery asks you to use all of your senses to basically trick your body into believing that what you’re imagining is real. Imagine your favorite place and work on adding detail after detail until you feel yourself relaxing.

Listen to Music

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Make a playlist of songs that relax you, that make you feel good. Try to choose songs that sustain a rhythm of 60 beats per minute or less with lower tones and simple (or no) lyrics. Look for longer songs as your heart rate will eventually match the slow beat of the song as well as songs with no predictable melody (your brain won’t try to figure out what’s coming next). When you feel a bout of anxiety coming on, throw on some noise-cancelling headphones and let the music soothe you.


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Keep a journal where you can record your feelings of anxiety; try to explain your feelings as if you were explaining them to someone who has never felt anxiety. Be simple and clear, write about your triggers, sources of fear, the level of intensity of your anxiety. Writing down your thoughts gives you the opportunity to re-read them, to articulate them and to study your own patterns, giving you a level of control over your anxiety.

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