Below are some anxiety reduction exercises I suggest you try:

Download the Headspace App on your phone or device (it has the orange ball icon). There are several free meditations and other specific ones you might enjoy.  Each one also has a video with some helpful information about mood and the mind/body’s reaction to distress.

Breath, Hold, Count:  Take a slow deep breath in, hold the inhale, and keep holding it while you count to 3.  Then slowly exhale, hold the exhale, and keep holding it while you count to 3.  Repeat this 5 times.

Orient Times 4:  Slow down your thoughts by re-orienting yourself and directing your attention to the very present moment (to the here and now), and focus on:

1. Person (are you alone; take note of who is around you)

2. Place (identify where you are: starting from the state, city, street, building, room, furniture you’re sitting on)

3. Time (identify the year, month, date, day of the week, exact time of day)

4. Situation (what’s the current circumstance, purpose, what are you doing there)

Change environment: Step outside, shift your seated position, stand up and stretch, look outside a window, go for a walk, go to a different room momentarily

Label the thought or feeling:  Practice naming it, “That’s my anxiety.”  Track where it’s at between 0-10.

Train/Clouds: Imagine sitting on a train and think of your anxious or racing thoughts as scenery going by.  Imagine laying down on a beach or at the park, and think of your anxious thoughts as the clouds moving across the sky.  Imagine sitting outside at a coffee shop, and think of your anxious thoughts as the cars driving by.

Calendar charting of successes:  Instead of identifying yourself as an anxious person, begin tracking moments in the day where you felt less anxious or no anxiety.

Replenish your mind and soul with books and YouTube videos that are inspiring and empowering.  Anything by Brene Brown, Maya Angelou or Glennon Doyle Melton are a good start.  Click on this one -> Brene Brown TED Talk

Slow down:  Anxiety is rapid.  Meditation is a great way to start training yourself to slow down your nervous system, practice redirecting your thoughts, managing stressors more effectively, improving patience, and decreasing reactivity.  You can try this one right now.  Do a one minute mediation by setting your timer on your phone, closing your eyes and think about every inhale and exhale moving through your body.

Give yourself permission to have your feelings:  Even if no one understands or they get disappointed, remind yourself that you have every right to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Don’t wait for someone else to validate your feelings. 

Ask yourself:

“What do I really think about this”

“Does what I’m about to do really benefit me?”

“How do I feel when I’m not around those people/that person?”

When you receive very difficult news or a large change happens, remember the often “the lowest points in our lives create our highest opportunities.” – Dr. Jeff Blume

As therapists, we assess and diagnose clients based on the criteria mapped out in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  It’s the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health providers in the United States, and it gets updated every few years.  It contains the diagnostic criteria for every psychiatric disorder recognized by the United States health care system.

A brief anxiety lesson:

To start off, anxiety is a natural feeling that most of us get from time to time.  It’s that worry, nervousness, or unease we experience about a circumstance or something that has an uncertain outcome.  Yes, it’s a normal reaction to stressful situations.  Although, when that feeling becomes obsessive or overwhelming, it can affect many areas of our lives, and can make it unbearable to do everyday things or handle relationships.  This is the point at which some of you might have found yourselves googling symptoms of anxiety or how to deal with anxiety.

There’s evidence based research suggesting that both biology and environment can contribute to anxiety disorders. Many adults with anxiety disorders have often reported memories of feeling anxious early on in life during childhood.  Anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

“If that’s anxiety, then what’s a panic attack?”

The exaggerated thoughts, and obsessing over “what if” in unknown situations, are often accompanied by physical symptoms. A panic attack is the sudden physical and emotional acute feeling of overwhelming fear and anxiety.  Your body will give you strong messages, such as rapid heart rate, hyperventilating, flushed face, sweating, tense muscles, and headaches.  Because of its physical symptoms, it’s often confused with being a heart attack, and it’s indeed important to rule out any medical issues (particularly with difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations).  Some people feel like they can’t talk or it can be so intense, they are feeling like they are dying.  Panic attacks usually feel like they come on out of nowhere, and they typically reach their peak at 10 minutes. Some people just experience it once in their lives, while many others have recurring panic attacks over the years.  It may be an isolated event, or a symptom of a specific phobia or anxiety disorder.

The DSM-5 lists several diagnostic categories for Anxiety Disorders:

Separation Anxiety Disorder
Selective Mutism
Specific Phobia
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
Panic Disorder
Panic Attack
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
Other Specified Anxiety Disorder
Unspecified Anxiety Disorder

“I can relate.  Now what?”

The most important thing to keep in mind is that anxiety and panic attacks are treatable.  If any of these symptoms feel familiar, the next step would be to have a consultation with a therapist or mental health professional. Assessment and treatment for anxiety and panic attacks can range from individual weekly therapy sessions to more intensive therapeutic support, based on each client’s needs.  Treatment includes the use of various therapeutic approaches (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Based Therapy, Exposure Therapy) that address cognitive functioning and mood management.  Some cases require medication or a higher level of care, if the symptoms of anxiety are severely impacting daily functioning.

If you’d like help with stress and anxiety, or want information for a loved one:

Quick Anxiety Tips