Anxiety occurs when our brain detects a threat to our safety. A special part of the brain called the amygdala switches on and a whole bunch of amazing chemicals are released and body systems activated so that we can either fight the threat, run away from the threat or freeze until the threat passes.
This is really useful when our safety is actually under threat, however sometimes we can experience these symptoms when we are actually quite safe. At these times, its helpful to have a few strategies to use to get the message to our brains that we are OK.
Different things work for different people, so have a play around with these and see what works for you (note – sometimes these things take some practice!).
If you have a faith in God, or even if you are just testing it out, you can ask God to give you peace. God completely understands that anxiety is part of our human experience, but he doesn’t wish for us to be in distress. In fact He says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus“. Philippians 4:6-7.
There are lots of these available. One of my favourites is the 3 second breath:
As you breath in, count slowly to 3. Pause, holding your breath for the count of 3. Breath out pretending you are breathing through a straw, counting to 3.
Repeat this as many times as you can. This is also good to practice throughout the day.
If you can, move your body. Start walking. If you can’t walk, do some stretching. Reach up as high as you can, bend down toward your toes, swing your arms from side to side. Jump on the spot. Bounce a ball or do some skipping.
Picture a place or recall a memory where you felt calm and at ease. Imagine what that place looks like, the sounds you could hear, what the weather would be like. Imagine how good you feel when you are there.
Write out all the thoughts your mind is telling you:
Our minds can become very busy with many thoughts going around and around our brains. Some of these thoughts are not always helpful. By writing them out we can get them out of our brains and become a bit more objective.
Draw your thoughts:
If words aren’t your thing, you may choose to draw your feelings and thoughts. You might draw something that you are worried about. You could draw a picture of what you look like when you are worried and what you look like when you are calm.
Listen to Music:
If you are in a situation where you are able to listen to music, put on something that calms you and makes you feel good. If you are not able to listen to music, start singing or playing a song or tune in your head. You might like to play with it a bit, speed it up, slow it down, change the lyrics.
Talk about it:
Some people find it really helpful to talk to someone about their feelings. This helps to get them out of your head and feel a bit more in control. Tell a person you trust such as a parent, teacher, school counsellor or family member.