Be it an interview or a presentation, for as long as I can remember, facing a group of people makes me anxious. In my mind, this is a mountain I can’t cross, and it brings along sudden sweats and breathlessness. Anxiety is common, but sometimes, it begins to take control of your life. According to Medha Sharma, a counselling psychologist, based in Delhi, “According to The American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is ‘an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.’” She further adds that when the symptoms of anxiety start interfering with one’s daily life, it can turn into a disorder.
During such times, it is imperative to practise and maintain control over one’s mind and not get carried away by negativity and uncertainty. Here are a few tried and tested techniques to deal with anxiety, recommended by mental health experts around the world.
1. Deep Breathing
When you are anxious, you will notice that your heart rate is faster than usual. It’s possible that it is accompanied by dizziness and profuse sweating. The first (and the easiest) technique to try in these circumstances is to focus on your breathing to align your mind and body. Just follow these steps:
Step 1: Sit in a quiet and comfortable place. Put one hand on your chest, and the other, on your stomach.
Step 2: Breathe in slowly through your nose. Now, pay attention to the movement of your hands. The hand on your chest should remain still while the hand on your stomach will move slightly.
Step 3: Slowly breathe out through your mouth.
Step 4: Repeat this process at least 10 times or until you begin to feel calmer.
Thinking about your “happy place”, or your favourite activities, or even your comfort food can help you when you’re anxious and stressed. Wondering how? Here’s what you have to do – imagine yourself at your favourite holiday destination, whether it is the mountains, the desert, or the beach; just you and the surroundings. When you picture yourself in a calm, serene environment, you allow your mind and body to feel as though you are experiencing the moment. This helps take away the stress from the current situation, and helps you deal with the situation in a more level-headed manner.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Did you know, your muscles develop tension if you are stressed often? This will further intensify a situation you might be dealing with.
This is where Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) comes into play. The idea behind this is to decrease the rigidity in your muscles, while letting in calmer thoughts. It involves focusing on the targeted muscled groups, breathing in while tightening them and breathing out while releasing them to reduce the strains. As you focus on releasing the stress from your body, you can also quieten and soothe your mind. It takes some practice, but PMR can help you understand when your muscles are constricted and release the physical discomfort that is contributing to your anxiety.
4. Yoga And Meditation
These work wonders if you often suffer bouts of anxiety. While yoga helps in releasing the tension from the body, meditation assists in improving concentration, and in feeling balanced, calm and focused. As per your liking, you can either practice this early morning or before bedtime. You can try some asanas such as the Child’s Pose, the Tree Pose, and the Extended Puppy Pose to name a few.
In a larger social setting, when you feel your anxiety getting the best of you, this is one of the easiest and effective exercises to do. Find a quiet space away from people. Close your eyes and count, slowly. Keep going until you feel calmer.
The concept of mindfulness is being present in the moment, and your surroundings without judgement. This helps soothe the mind. Here is how you can achieve it:
Step 1: Find a quiet and comfortable place and close your eyes.
Step 2: Focus on your breathing and how your body feels.
Step 3: Now shift your awareness to the sensations you observe in your surroundings. Ask yourself ‘What’s happening outside of my body?’ Notice what you hear, smell, and feel in your environment.
Step 4: Alternate between your awareness several times from your body to your environment and back again until your anxiety starts to fade.
7. Interrupt Anxious Thoughts
It can sometimes be difficult to control your mind when you’re feeling anxious. It can make you believe that the negative thoughts floating around in your head are true, and adds to the stress. But it is important to remember that you are more than your anxious thoughts, and try to interrupt them every time you start feeling overwhelmed. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Be aware of your thoughts and how they’re making you feel. It’s good to trace your trigger points.
- Try different ways of interrupting your anxious thought process, such as:
o Singing a silly song about your anxiety to an upbeat tempo, or speaking your anxieties in a funny voice.
o Choose a nice thought to focus on instead of your anxiety. This could be a person you love, your happy place, or even something you look forward to doing later that day, such as a nice dinner.
o Listen to music or read a book.
o Be conscious when you shift your attention from your anxiety to a task at hand and notice how you feel.
Please Note: For those who have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, the symptoms might aggravate with this method, so it is recommended to reach out to your doctor for an effective alternative.
Self-care is an important aspect of your overall wellness. It is not only limited to following a skincare routine, or having ice-cream while you watch your favourite show or movie. It also involves staying in the present and being more aligned with your surroundings, journaling your thoughts, especially when you get anxious, and following the relaxation techniques mentioned above when you really need it.