Anxiety is a very unpleasant state of being. And it is not ‘just in our head’! Anxiety is felt throughout our bodies and is accompanied by body sensations such as tightness in a chest, butterflies in the stomach or palms sweating. Experiencing anxiety, although unpleasant and even scary at times, is very normal.
I have suffered from my share of anxiety in my teens and as an adult, and I can openly tell you from my experience that when anxiety gets out of hand it can be very debilitating.
I know from my training as a therapist that when it comes to addressing anxiety personalized treatments are the best approach. That said, I wanted to share with you a few simple tools that are neuroscience and physiology based and thus can work universally to manage acute symptoms of anxiety for almost everyone. Notice that I used the word manage as we are not getting to the root of your anxiety and treating it, but rather these tools can help you get a handle on it in the moment.
Hack #1 Fire up those muscles! As weird as it might sound, doing something that involves exercising large muscles in your body will help resolve some of the anxiety tension.
- When we are anxious, it is like a fire alarm going off in your mind, specifically, in the amygdala, fear response part of our brain. The alarm initiates a number of reactions in your body like sprinkling adrenaline and cortisol (stress response hormones) in your blood stream. This is to prepare you to fight or flee a dangerous situation. That feeling you might feel like you are going to burst is that energy needing to get out. Use up that energy by doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall, walking briskly, or running.
- You can also do this hack in a discrete way if you are in a meeting, at work or school.Stretch your hands underneath the desk, turn your palms so they are facing the desk and push up as hard as you can for a few seconds. Continue to breathe while you are pressing up. Once you feel muscles tiring up, take a break and repeat it as many times as needed. Another option is to push on your chair with your hands as if you are trying to raise your bottom of it. Breathe while doing it and take a break once your muscles feel exhausted. Repeat as needed.
- By doing this you will burn through this excess of cortisol and adrenaline and take the intensity off the anxiety experience. Try it out right now and notice how you feel. You don’t have to feel panicky to see the benefits. This tool can also help you feel more grounded and confident and is great to use to combat everyday stress. For the most benefit, practice it regularly so when anxiety hits you will be in the habit of doing it.
If you like this hack add it to your First Aid Anxiety & Panic Kit. But don’t stop here, check out my next article for Neuroscience Hack #2!
Your Global Therapist,