There are many strains and causes of anxiety. One type may stem from vulnerabilities in a person’s sense of self due to childhood injuries inflicted by an emotionally unavailable parent. A second kind may be a result of past trauma that unconsciously triggers feelings of fear. A third category of anxiety may originate from involvement with a toxic person who masterfully exploits otherwise manageable insecurities.
Additional types of anxiety, for example social anxiety or phobic anxiety, may be related to all sorts of anxieties that metastasize if left untreated. Small anxieties may have intensified and are unconsciously generalized to different situations in a person’s life. One typical form of anxiety, however, is related to the demands, expectations, and stresses of everyday life. This type of anxiety is normal and expected, but if left unattended, it may have a monstrous impact.
One of the most effective ways to treat intense and debilitating anxiety is to see a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people recover from childhood wounds, heal from trauma, recognize the existence of a toxic relationship in one’s life, or assist the person in unpacking irrational fears. Yet the typical, but beastly anxiety that most human beings experience as a result of the demands of daily life may be surprisingly easy to manage with five tools.
Using a metaphor to understand the basis for the techniques can be helpful initially. Visualize a glass of water. A person is the glass and anxiety is the water. Everyday life fills the glass up. Expectations, demands, stress, and worry pour into a person on a minute-to-minute basis. The glass fills rapidly and often makes a person feel as if he or she is drowning. Yet, pouring a little water out at a time keeps the anxiety at a manageable level. The person feels less anxious and more at peace.
If a person avoids waiting until anxiety seizes him or her and instead is diligent about keeping a low level of water in his or her glass, the threshold for anxiety may increase. This may help a person feel more resilient instead of fearing that he or she is at the mercy of anxiety.
Five strategies to lower anxiety levels can seamlessly incorporate into a person’s day. Alternatively, meditation, although extraordinarily useful and grounding, is often difficult to implement in a hectic environment, especially when thoughts are racing. Exercise is also a useful way to manage anxiety but often takes time. The five suggestions that follow immediately help a person feel less anxious and are easily implemented.
- Laughter therapy. Pull up a favorite comedic sketch, funny YouTube video, or SNL skit and laugh for 10 minutes. Laughter reduces anxiety, improves health and sleep, and alleviates pain. This technique is easily implemented on a train, bus, or while waiting in line for morning coffee.
- Escape outside for 10 to 15 minutes. Research shows that being in nature reduces anxiety dramatically. Stop in the office courtyard for a moment at work and take several deep breaths of fresh air. Quickly walk the dog around the block before dinner. Step outside and get the mail. Sit on the patio and gaze at the stars for five minutes before bed. Nature is the ultimate therapy.
- Sing in the car. On the way to work, put on your jam and sing your heart out. Singing is an incredible anxiety buster. Singing in the shower can help alleviate nerves before work. Sing loud.
- Cuddle a child or a pet. Physical touch is an amazing way to reduce anxiety. Routinely give your child a bear hug in the morning before he or she leaves for school. Give your pet a scratch and a nuzzle before you head out the door. Snuggle with a child or pet on the couch at night before heading to bed.
- Say you are anxious: “I am anxious about tomorrow.” Verbalizing a feeling state to an empathic person not only helps dissipate the anxiety, but the empathic person may offer healing statements: “You are worried. I get it. The presentation is important. You don’t want to fail. I understand. But you know your stuff. You got it.” Receiving empathy allows a person to feel less alone in his or her plight and also connected to the loved one who understands. This experience may be extraordinarily anxiety-reducing.
If a person routinely incorporates these techniques into a daily routine, he or she may be able to keep anxiety at a manageable level. If anxiety is under control, the person may feel increasingly mindful and grounded which will help improve his or her work, relationships, and life. Although anxiety is a painful aspect of being human, having the capacity to regulate it feels empowering.
Dufey, M., & Wilson, J. (2017). Short-Term Effects of the Empathic Talk: The Role of Perceived Empathy, Interpersonal Dispositions, and Vagal Tone on Experiencing Depth. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 20, E61. doi:10.1017/sjp.2017.58