I was on Facebook today when a friend asked the question:
“Anyone have any anti-anxiety solutions they can give me or recommend?”
The answers were so plentiful, I had to record them all here. Anxiety is on the rise and we need more discussion, not less about how we can all help each other help ourselves.
I am adding my go-to’s also, but it is so important to try many of these- even if you think they sound silly- and find what works for you because we all respond to different stimuli and we don’t all have the same stress.
First, if you have anxiety and/ or panic attacks, know what it is. Research what they mean and the theories about why this happens.
Meet with a therapist to get to the root of what is causing your anxiety.
Keep a journal about past bouts with anxiety and attacks. What triggered it? You need to understand the source of YOUR anxiety. It’s different for everyone. The best time to do this is right after you have the experience.
1) either avoid that trigger if possible
Or 2) prepare for that trigger- like going to a work location or visiting a relative.
Keep a box or a jar of what has worked for you- you will forget over time. Have a jar of all these other things that work for others so you never stop trying to learn about or incorporate new techniques. Sometimes successful coping strategies wear off and you will need to try new things.
A depressed and anxious mind lies to you. As it happens, your mind may figure out how to beat your coping skill and you’ll need to have others in your toolbox ready to try. Also, remember why you are here. You are here for a reason. More on that here.
The source of my anxiety is being uncertain of what is coming next. For me, it helps me to isolate myself, turn off everything, and remind myself of times I was afraid or uncertain in the past. They always tend to work out and I remind myself of that. I repeat a mantra like “things have a way of working out” or “I am safe” or “you are not 8 years old anymore”.
This last statement comes from a traumatic childhood experience that is probably at the root of my anxiety. A lot of techniques don’t make sense- they just work. Telling myself “you are not 8 years old anymore” works for me because I am telling my spirit that I am an adult, I can protect myself, safety is not beyond my control.
This is the post that started it all:
“Anyone have any anti-anxiety solutions they can give me or recommend?”
Here are the replies. They were so good and there were so many, I had to record them all in one place. Some have been combined or edited. I recommend you find the ones that work for you and hold on to them. The time to think about how to handle your anxiety or panic attack is not when you are in it, but before. The fix is definitely found more in the preparation, than in the response.
- There are some anxiety meditation videos on YouTube I listen to with headphones.
- Dance to your favorite music to release endorphins.
- Take a brisk walk.
- Walk for at least 30 minutes.
- If you’re dehydrated or not, slam water. (Meaning drink lots of water.)
- Take a deep breath in, hold it for one second. Then, without letting it out, take in deeper breath- as much as you can- hold for 5 seconds, then slowly let it out. Repeat. This is a relaxation technique to relax muscles, lower blood pressure, and quiet the brain.
- When I’m on the verge of an attack, usually feeling restless and a vibe of impending doom, I have to focus on my breathing and I try to go for a walk outside.
- Try a grounding technique: Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Repeat these until your heart rate comes down, or you can regulate your breathing on your own.
- Take a deep breath in while counting to 5, and let it out while counting to 10.
- Take a cold shower, pour cold water over your head, or put a cold cloth on the back of your neck. Cold water is really effective at calming our lizard brain (responsible for fight/flight/freeze) and turning our pre-frontal cortex back on. Most coping skills won’t completely stop the emotions, but they may help make them more manageable.
- I recommend TIPP skill to help with emotional regulation and distress tolerance (T-temperature of water, I- intense exercise, P-paced breathing (mindful breathing), P-paired muscle relaxation (look into progressive muscle relaxation videos on YouTube).
- If you are having an anxiety attack try Box breathing. Take in a breath for 10 counts through your nose, hold for 10, and release for 10. Keep doing this until you feel in control again.
- Take a walk in nature. 10,000 steps a day is recommended to help stave off depression and anxiety.
- Call a friend and ask them to just let you talk. They need to be a very empathetic person.
- A swim in the ocean (if you are close enough).
- The sound of the ocean waves is the most relaxing sound ever.
- EFT tapping works well for me. Look up the tapping pattern online. Essentially, it’s tapping symmetrical parts of your body to stimulate your brain on one side and then the other. This concept works well when you’re going on a walk too, if you look from one side to the other as you walk it will calm your brain down. Sometimes if things get really bad for me I will put a teaspoon of salt on my tongue which distracts your brain as you try to get rid of the salty taste (don’t swallow too much it’s gross) or I’ll take a sip of straight lemon juice which does a similar thing.
- I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But get outside and walk. Building up a sweat and boosting endorphins helps me a lot in the moment.
- Lift weights. Pump iron.
- Do push-ups.
- If you’re at home and you have a bathtub, take a hot, hot bath. The temperature shock gets you out of your brain and into your body. And the heat forces your muscles to relax.
- Hold onto an ice pack. Try to breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 4, release for 8. Squeeze your muscles while slowly moving up your body. Start in your toes and go all the way up to your face. Squeeze tightly for 10 seconds then release, do this 3 times.
- Dark chocolate. It lowers your cortisol levels fairly quickly. I have saved myself from more than one panic attack that way.
- In the middle of a panic attack, sometimes it helps me to finger trace. Taking my index finger from one hand, I slowly trace the fingers of the other. Breathing in as I go up and out on the down.
- Maybe not as effective for general anxiety, but I started having panic attacks after losing my parents. The solution that would almost immediately work for me was making an alphabetical list in my head of anything. Pick a topic: cereals, basketball teams, fantasy monsters. For some reason, this forced my brain out of bumper cars into orderly traffic.
- Primal screaming
- Any exercise
- Yard work
- Loud music and singing along to the music.
- Something physical will refocus the brain away from the mental. It works for me. A rubber band or hair elastic on my hand provides a quick way to “snap” away from panic attacks.
- Ice your vagus nerve. Read more about this here.
- I look at myself in the mirror and smack talk to myself, in as positive of a way as possible, until I feel exceptionally silly (in a fun way) and no longer feel the need to vomit. Sometimes, I’ll make faces at myself because she needs to cool the heck down.
- I lie down on my stomach and breathe.
- I use the litany against fear from Dune to stave off oncoming panic attacks.
- When I need to just not let my brain wander places it should, I count in German. It takes slightly more brain power than counting in English so my brain can’t do things I don’t want it to.
- I do sensory change, like something cold, something fuzzy…
- I make lists in my head, like top 5 albums of all time, top 10 movies, etc.
- Box breathing. Breathe in for 4. Hold for 4. Breathe out for 4. Hold for 4. With eyes closed.
- This sounds crazy, but crouch down. Arms on upper legs. It grounds you. Anxiety has been all too common here lately. These 2 things have helped a TON.
- Repeat “I am safe.” Take a deep breath then say this again. Repeat till you feel in control again.
- Go for a run.
- Hold an ice cube on your wrists and/or neck.
- Drink very cold water can help in a snap.
- Remind yourself that you are who you are no matter where you are can help if you’re getting that terrible dissociative feeling that comes with anxiety and panic attacks. Then question and challenge it to get worse. This puts it back into the present and under your conscious control.
- Guided deep breathing videos are available online. That increases the oxygen level in your bloodstream. That, plus light stretching, gentle exercise like a walk around the block and drinking extra water will help the excess cortisol flush from your system.
- I say the rosary, but any sort of rote phrase you don’t have to think about too hard will work (i.e. the Litany Against Fear, probably any number of fantasy creeds, just some kind of mantra). I don’t try to focus on my breathing. Doing that usually makes it worse for me. I start panicking about my breaths.
- This would be more of a long-term fix, but I recommend you looking into the Biophilia Effect. Basically if you can spend at least three days a week in some form of nature and taking it in with all five senses it will have great effects on your overall health, both mentally and physically.
- Weighted blanket.
- I do a lot of what others have said already. First, I always drink a glass or two of water. Then, if I have anxiety that feels like freeze-up panic, I do a weighted blanket or pillow (cat will work if willing!) with a guided meditation to relax my breathing and control my thinking (while icing the left side my neck, aka the vagus nerve). OR if I have anxiety that feels restless and lashing out at others, I go for a walk (or run on a treadmill, or dance to super loud thrashy song) and then take a shower. I may also have to lay on the floor some to get grounded. The trick is to find the combo that works for you. Xoxo
- I’ve done all the above, and when those don’t help, I go see my counselor and during high points when I can’t get in for an appointment, I medicate with Clonazapam 0.5 mg (generic for xanax).
- Deep slow intentional breaths. Breathe in through your nose, and as you exhale, imagine the anxiety actually leaving your body.
- Verbalize it. Get it out of your head. Get a list of go-to friends together.
- In situations where you feel you cannot handle the feelings on your own, call your local crisis line and talk to a crisis worker. They are a really great and can assist with regulation in the moment and connect you to resources. Typically, community mental health centers have a 24/7 crisis line. Find the number and store it somewhere you will be able to find it before you need it.
Regarding the following list- some of these things will help immediately and in the moment. Some of these things must be taken daily to prove effective.
Passionflower on a regular basis
Magnesium (best in powdered form) and Vitamin D every day
Liquid magnesium, works especially well taken at night but you can take it during the day as well.
Vitamin B complex, eggs, and salmon are good food sources if you prefer that.
Take probiotics. I really can’t stress how much the good gut health has helped me.
Eat some leafy greens.
Treatments you may not be able to get in your state or you may need a prescription for:
Lorazepam or brand name: Ativan (need prescription)
Beta blockers (need prescription)
Marijuana (may need prescription)
Propanolol (need prescription)
Xanax (need prescription)
Just a reminder, these are real responses from real people, not my recommendations. What an amazing list. Too good not to share in one document. Do you have any to add that were not found here?