One of the few good things that has come from my being anxious 80 – 90% of the time is that I have a long list of quick fixes for when I’m feeling particularly stressed. These are all things you can do just to calm you down in the moment, and to get you through whatever it is life has thrown at you. It’s obviously really important to treat the root cause of why you’re stressed, but sometimes you need a moment of relief before you can even get there, and that’s what these tips are for.
I used to think that aromatherapy was complete bs, that was until I tried it and now I’m hooked. It really does relax you. If I’m feeling generally quite stressed or tense I like to put on my oil burner, and fill my room with the scent of lavender and geranium, and it relaxes me in a really physical (think post-massage way). Muji have some really affordable options for these if you just want to try them out. I’m also thinking of investing in one of these roller balls for a quick fix of relaxation wherever I am.
If you’re in a situation that’s making you feel anxious, nervous, or just down right stressed, step out of it. You can always excuse yourself from a conversation, a meeting, the office, the pool for a moment. I have hidden in bathrooms more times than I care to count so that I can have a moment to myself and regain my composure. If you’re someone that feels like they can’t breathe when they’re stressed, try and get outside. If you’re someone, like me, who gets overwhelmed by big groups find somewhere you can be alone. Find yourself a safe space and take a moment out.
HAVE A DRINK (OF WATER)
First off, we could all do with drinking a little more water. Second, having a drink (the slower and steadier the better) is a great way to sort out your breathing without having to worry about counting or being conscious of it. It is very hard to hyperventilate whilst your drinking. In fact, because you’re focused on something else, and you can only breathe through your nose, it effectively resets you back to your default. This helps calm you down and gives you time to think of more active solutions to how you’re feeling.
FIND SOMETHING TO FIDGET WITH
I am a chronic ring spinner to the extent that I’ve worn away the skin under my rings. Having something to fidget with, in my case a ring, while you’re stressed is a great way to relieve nervous energy. The best things to fidget with are the ones you have to hand, or can fiddle with subtly, that way you don’t feel like you’re drawing any attention to yourself or making yourself feel self-conscious. For example, I’m able to spin my rings whilst I’m having a conversation without detracting from what’s going on, but it still helps clam me down.
LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC
Music makes you feel good, fact. Put your headphones on or turn your speakers up and put on a song that makes you happy. For me, that means something super cheesy and probably popular in the early 2000s. Whether you have a dance, sing along, or just listen, what matters is that you have a feel good distraction.
COOL DOWN (PHYSICALLY)
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m really stressed or having a panic attack I start to overheat. So, I like to go and run my pulse points under cold water and it usually starts to soothe me. If I can I also like to take my shoes off. I also feel like focusing on a physical sensation is a good way to break you out of a negative mindset and remind you that you’re here, you’re present, you’re breathing and you’re okay.
SHAKE IT OUT
This is something I used to do before exams. I would chant a little mantra and then shake my entire body like I was a dancing octopus to wiggle out any nervous energy, and it worked. While flailing madly definitely works, I realise it isn’t always office appropriate. Instead, you can try shaking out your arms, having a bathroom boogie, or even just going for a walk. Moving around (dancing, octopus style or not, or having a little power walk) releases endorphins which make you happy as well as helping work of some of the extra adrenaline in your system – if it’s fight or flight, trick your body that you’re flying by boogying down like big bird.
LISTEN TO SOMEONE ELSE
Something else I’ve gotten in the habit of doing recently is calling my boyfriend when I feel like I’m on my way to having a panic attack. But instead of talking about how bad or anxious I’m feeling I get him just to talk to me about his day, or some random podcast he’s heard. Listening to someone else’s problems, or interests, is a great distraction and gets your out of the mind space where you stress yourself out even further because you’re in a negative spiral. I will say that you probably have to choose who you call carefully. For example, don’t call a co-worked who might give you more work to do, or a friend who is likely to be super emotional too. What’s best is if you tell that someone you can trust what you’re doing, and why beforehand (“I might just call you and ask you to chat to me because I’m feeling anxious and it relaxes me, is that okay?” works well) that way they know exactly what’s going on and that they’re helping you.