Your heart starts beating so fast you’re convinced you can see it in your chest. Your hands, armpits, forehead are sweating profusely. You may be trembling, breathing rapidly and experience stomach cramps. What’s going on? This is the body’s response to Anxiety. It’s important to note that this is different to worry. Worry is a very real emotion experienced through anxiety. However, anxiety in itself has often deeper psychological and physiological effects.
When we feel very anxious the brain triggers the nervous system to release stress hormones. Your brain perceives threat, danger and a need to act to keep safe. Sometimes the trigger of this can be situational for example public speaking or an interview. Other times this level of anxiety can be a result of distressing thoughts, memories or flashbacks. For example with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)
What we need to do here is to soothe. Know that you are a separate entity from the event, the memory or the thought.
What we’re talking about here is noticing. Look at your chest and notice the rise and fall. Concentrate on how you’re breathing. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Sometimes it’s helpful to hold the breath for a few seconds as you breathe in for added concentration.
Talk yourself through breathing. For example “I breathe in relaxation, I breathe out stress” Visualise breathing out stress.
Positive self-talk is key. Soothing, calming statements to counteract the brain’s response to threat. So what might this sound like for you? Some examples include: “You are safe”, “You are okay”, “That event is in the past”, “You have gotten through this before”. “You are human.”
Focus on Senses
Feel the chair you’re sitting on. Jump on the ground you’re standing on. Notice what they feel like. Is the chair soft or hard? Is there a rug under your feet or is it hard concrete? Is it cold or warm? Reach out and touch these items.
What do you see immediately in front of you? Is it an object or a person(s) Mentally name what you can see.
Can you hear someone talking? If so what are they saying? What is their accent? Are they talking fast or slow? See if you can focus on the words being said; noticing the sounds, syllables and pronunciation. Maybe you can’t hear anything. Notice the sound of silence.
Breathe in through your nose and focus on what you can smell. Is it rainwater, a bakery, fumes from traffic? Stop and notice!
Are you chewing gum or guzzling water? Bring your awareness to your taste buds. What is in your mouth, what can you taste? It may not be anything at all but stop and notice what you are tasting, if anything.
The response technique to anxiety takes practice. The art is in the awareness, bringing yourself to the present and Focusing, Noticing and Separating yourself from “scary” thoughts, memories or events.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and you’d like to hear more on anxiety management or how we can help click here to speak with a therapist.