Over the weekend I went out to lunch with my fiancé. We had just finished our meal when I felt this wave of anxiety rush over me. Now, I’m not typically an anxious person, but when I feel the heaviness of my chest I know something is up and a mini-meltdown is only a few minutes away.
Yes, I still have meltdowns. No, yoga doesn’t cure them 100% of the time.
We’re all human, and whether we like it or not, there are always going to be times where we feel stressed out and want to lay on our horn at the next helpless driver that cuts us off (Ok, yes, I did this and yes, my mom and sister were on the phone when it happened. Not proud.)
But, the power comes in how quickly you can bounce back. So today, I’m going to share with you my three steps to overcoming anxiety and stress. Please keep in mind that I am not someone that suffers from an anxiety disorder so these are natural ways to avoid working yourself up into a frenzy. If you do suffer from anxiety disorder, consult with your doctor for the best option for you.
My 3 Step Hack For Beating Anxiety:
Change Your Scene
When I started feeling anxious at the restaurant with my fiancé, I knew it was time for me to get out of there. I felt isolated in the commotion of the busy restaurant and dove deeper and deeper into the story that I was telling myself. There’s not enough time to get through my to-do list…the house still isn’t clean…will I ever get a day off?
If you feel yourself getting worked up, the first step in overcoming anxiety in the situation is to change your scene. If you’re at work and a client call went sour, get up and take a walk around the block. Grab a coworker to join you and let them blab about their nightmare blind date from the evening before to distract you from your story.
When I get worked up, I know it’s time to take a break. I will draw myself a bath, grab a good book, or take a nap so I can shut out the world for 30 minutes to an hour. Try not to take more time than an hour (unless you absolutely need to) because the key is to give yourself time to unwind, not ruminate in stagnant energy.
Sometimes a change of scenery isn’t available, so in this case, I recommend moving on to step two…
Biofeedback is a breathing technique that I learned when I was going through treatment therapies for migraines. At its core, biofeedback equalizes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system so your body begins to calm down. Both nervous systems are apart of our autonomic nervous system which triggers the “fight or flight” reflex that engages when we feel stress or anxiety. So, by using biofeedback, we can move from this space of worry and tightness to release and equanimity.
In biofeedback, we inhale and exhale slowly for long periods of time. Each person has a sweet spot of length, but I’ve found for myself 6-7 seconds is good for slowing my mind and racing heart down.
You can count in your head inhale 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 exhale 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 or there are different free apps that will count for you and *ding* at the top of your inhale and bottom of your exhale. I used the app, My Calm Beat, which you can download for free. Try to maintain this breath for anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
Sometimes biofeedback doesn’t work, so that’s when I engage in step three…
List It Out
For me, anxiety comes when I have too much on my plate – or at least feel like I do. Even with the piling tasks, anxiety will paralyze me so I can’t get anything done. It is so not conducive to my busy schedule.
So, rather than balling myself into the fetal position in the middle of my living room – yes, this has been me too – I will list out everything that is causing me stress. What I find after completing my list is that I honestly don’t have too much to worry about AND now I can look at everything and execute it without emotion attached.
When you feel your next wave of anxiety rush over, list it out. Maybe you feel anxious because of a person or you’re like me and feel anxious because of all the musts that need to be complete. The list works regardless of the stress!
Let’s take social anxiety for example…
Instead of working yourself into a frenzy because you’re going to an event and only know one person, start to list out the realistic best and worst things that could happen.
I won’t have anyone to talk to so I’ll have to introduce myself to new people.
Best: I make new friends and it’s not even uncomfortable anymore!
Worst: They will not be receptive, and I don’t want anyone in my life like that anyway!
Or, I have a ton of stuff to complete before the weekend…
You could sit at your desk pissed off because your boss doesn’t cut you any slack or you could make a list and proactively get all your tasks done. The great thing about the list, in this case, is that you can prioritize by importance and complete those tasks first. You may even find that there are things that can wait until the next day or next week!
A Natural Way To Beat Anxiety and Stress
I know anxiety isn’t a one size fits all approach and it’s likely that some of these methods will resonate with you while the others may not. Try them out with an open mind and open heart, because after all, what is better than being able to combat anxiety without a trip to the doctor’s office?
Do you have any natural ways to beat anxiety? Leave a comment below to share!