Anxiety is both a physical and mental experience that can be very distracting and difficult to manage. There are a few anxiety coping skills many therapists will recommend that can help you calm down during a moment of anxiety. Choosing to slow down and use one of these skills when everything feels chaotic inside your body and brain will help immensely in the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest state!).

First, the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding technique. This tool helps your brain and body become more present in the moment by focusing awareness on your sensory experiences. Anxiety usually means we are living in the future (fear of what’s to come) or past (worrying about something that already happened), so mindful awareness counteracts it.

Second, deep breathing. Yes, this is an oldie, but a goodie. There’s a reason it is recommended so often – it works! Slow, deep breath oxygenates your muscles via your bloodstream, and activates your ventral vagus nerve (the one that we want!). Try 10 slow, deep belly breaths and then notice how you feel.

Last, cool your body down. The sympathetic nervous system that is activated during an anxious episode is preparing us to fight, flee, or freeze and heating up the body with energy. When we are resting, our body temperature naturally lowers. If you can help your body temperature drop, it will automatically help switch on the parasympathetic nervous system and bring the body into a rest/digest state. You could just go into a cooler room, or if you’re in a moment of true panic, you can go as far as to dunk your head into a cold bath!

All of these skills will help you take care of yourself during moments of anxiety. Our Abide Counselors are ready to help you learn and practice these tools together in session. Or feel free to try them out and let us know what you think!


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