It happens to us all, at some point.
The fear takes over, and no matter how irrational, the panic persists.
What can you do?
Here are my Top Ten Tactics!
No chat about my bonkers life this week (!) because I want to get straight on to this very important issue that affects so many of us…
There’s an internet full of tips for anxiety (and everything else!). Years of helping people feel less anxious, and working on my own stuff too, has taught me ten key tactics that I see working more than others.
It’s easy to convince yourself that there really is something worth panicking about, even if it’s panicking about panicking! But it might be a purely physical reaction, let’s check that first. So, the first place to start is to assess is what’s your body doing? Check these important things first:
- Are you hungry? I know eating might be the last thing you want to do but low blood sugar can bring on a pounding, racing heart, all on its own.
- Are you thirsty? Just like lack of food, dehydration can make your body behave like there’s a tiger chasing you. If you have a hangover the dehydration and alcohol withdrawal can really make it feel like that tiger is coming. Dehydration also gets in the way of thinking straight. Get some water, quick. And lots of it.
- Have you had too much caffeine? See both above points, ie, eat and drink to dilute it. Try taking a walk or even a run to work it off.
- Are you suffering from lack of sleep? Find a way to take rest, even if you don’t actually sleep. Try a ‘yoga nidra’ rest video from YouTube, 45 minutes of Yoga Nidra can feel like a two-hour nap.
- Body Posture and Breathing
Notice your stance, shoulders, jaw, facial muscles. Changing the way you are holding your body can seriously change the way you feel. Holding yourself in a scrunched up, head down posture will make it harder to change the way you feel. Stand, walk, hold your head up, do what you need to do to totally feel differently, first in your body and then your mind can follow.
SHAKE! Shaking your body, every part of it, resets your nervous system and gets the blood flowing. It really works. There are physicians in Africa who swear by it and see huge results. It’s about changing the chemistry of your body and snapping the nervous system out of a reaction that is not helpful to you.
BREATHE! When we start to panic, our breath gets short and shallow. This makes a loop, making the heart race and telling the brain and the body that ‘Houston, we have a problem’ so that it sets off the stress chemicals adrenaline and cortisol. When you start to breathe a little longer, a little deeper, your heart rate slows down, the stress chemicals ebb away and you change your body and mind reactions.
- Get outside.
Move, change what you are doing. Use cold water on your face and wrists. Take exercise to generate different chemicals in your body. Fresh air is so magical and if you can get near some trees, it’s even more powerful. If you’re near some grass, get your bare feet on it and imagine you’re grounding like a tree sending roots down. Breathe deeply.
The next thing to check is what’s going on in your head. If there’s an actual situation that is making you nervous (like a speech, an exam or difficult person). If it’s not an actual situation that you’re worried about, notice what thoughts you’re having. Noticing might be easier if you write it down. Then imagine someone else is reading it, does it make any sense? Are there stories you tell yourself about this is the way I feel, therefore it means that about me? Is it really true? Can you see another version of that story, that maybe you’re a good person? Also see 9 if you have an actual event coming up
- What you see and think
Notice what you’re picturing in your head about what has happened or might happen. Are you watching a scary movie in your head? Visioning is a process of taking control by directing that movie and changing the script. Think of people who love you, picture the best outcome ever for tomorrow, imagine what it would look like if life from now on was better for you, what would you want to see?
- Talk to yourself
This too will pass. Create your own mantra. Have questions ready, like “What do you need right now?” and answer the questions. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. If you’re cross and tell yourself off for feeling this way, what do you think that does to how you feel, help or hinder your recovery? Be kind in your mind.
What are you watching, listening to, reading or experiencing that could be contributing to the feeling of anxiety, or, at the very least, not helping? If it’s loud, frantic music, someone shouting or perhaps the TV or radio news, this will be picked up by the survival part of the brain as a potential threat and it won’t be helping you at all.
Get yourself into the best place for calm including getting away from clutter, busyness or tasks waiting to be done. If it’s not possible to leave where you are, it’s possible to create that feeling on the inside. See below, in ‘techniques’.
- Slay the dragon
Write down or talk to someone about what you feel anxious about. If you can pinpoint the real culprit, you can either realise its not a real threat – in which case you need to work on the physical symptoms – or work out what action you need to take to sort out the problem. For instance, if the problem is you are overwhelmed, work out what can you do in easy stages to work through the tasks, who can help, what can you choose to not do etc. Unpacking the problem can help enormously.
- If it’s an actual event, get prepared.
What you need to do so that you really know your stuff and are as prepared as you can possibly be? Even if it makes you feel silly to drive somewhere in advance so you know the way or admit that you don’t know how to do something. It’s worth it, isn’t it, not to feel this way? Do the thing you need to do.
Bear with me. Even a fake smile sets off feel good chemicals in the body. Smile as wide as you can, as if you’re exercising your mouth. You might feel a slight lift straight away or you might not. Do it anyway, it’s working behind the scenes to help you change the chemicals that are affecting you.
Longer Term – Make a Plan
What can you do each day to start from a more relaxed place? How can you begin to shift habits that have contributed to unrest and anxiety? (coffee, sleep, food, people, rushing, lateness).
Is there something bigger you need to sort, perhaps something you’ve been ignoring or avoiding that is the real cause? (wrong job, relationship, commute, diet, addiction)
Do you need to get some support to make the changes in your habits, feeling etc? Think about having a coach or some kind of talking therapy, EFT or other mood-shifting, stuff-sorting therapy. I have a whole collection of relaxation and other videos and audios on YouTube, have a look at mine and others.
Do something, because you really ARE worth it. You can, and will, feel better.
If you would like to hold on to these tips so you can access them in the moment, print them out or pass them on, you can get a free PDF right here with them all on a two-page PAMphlet (lol)