Anxiety. It’s a thing we all struggle with from time to time. In some ways, anxiety can be productive, even useful. For example, when we need to get ourselves hyped up to handle a difficult situation or to concentrate fully on a problem. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes too common. In some cases, when it becomes constant. Anxiety was only ever meant as a fight-or-flight stimulus, to push you to make a quick decision when facing danger, so when having it hanging over your head all day every day becomes pretty exhausting. You start to feel drained from the moment you wake up, fail to concentrate fully at school or work, and then come home a find it hard to settle down to homework or even fun things like tv and games, because you feel all the time like there’s something important you should be doing.
When left unchecked, anxiety can turn into a full-blown panic attack, which nobody wants. Symptoms of anxiety getting out of hand can be shortness of breath or a pounding heart (the one I always get if I get into bed anxious at night). Here are some concrete remedies to help you deal with the symptoms of anxiety, and calm yourself down enough that you’re able to study happy and be productive.
1) Deep breathing
We’ve talked about this one before on the blog. As I said then, it’s all about breathing out for longer than you’re breathing in. That way you properly expel the carbon dioxide from your body and the sweet, sweet oxygen helps you start adjusting your stress responses straight away. In case you don’t have time to flip back over to that article, here’s the gist of what I said before:
There’s a very well-respected technique called “7-11 breathing”... The basic idea is that you breathe in for seven counts and then out for eleven. If you can’t breathe in and out for that long, you can breathe in for three and out for five, or in for five and out for seven, as long as the out breath is longer than the in breath. The reason this works is because when your breathing gets high and tight, you aren’t actually expelling the carbon dioxide from your lungs, which means you aren’t then refilling them properly with oxygen, which (as you all know from Biology…) means your brain can’t function to the best of its ability.
If you want some guided help with breathing, the Calm website also has a space where you can practice breathing in time with it. It’s really cool; just a circle that expands on a “breathe in” and contracts on a “breathe out.” Give it a go!
2) Counting backwards
If you feel like your anxiety is creeping in on you, try this distraction suggested by Rob Cole, clinical director of mental health services at Banyan Treatment Centers. Start counting backward from 100 by 3s. The act of counting at random intervals helps you to focus and override the anxious thoughts. By controlling your thoughts and focusing on something outside yourself you will being to feel calmer. This one is also really good if you’re struggling to fall asleep. It’s sufficiently hard enough that your brain will focus on it rather than other, distracting, wakeful things, but it’s also easy enough that your brain can switch off.
3) Grounding yourself
Grounding yourself means reconnecting to the world around you. Tune yourself into 4 things around you that you can see, 3 things you can touch, 2 that you smell and 1 you can taste. The reason it works is because it forces you to consider something outside yourself, and that helps you to relax and remember that your problems aren’t the centre of the universe and that they will not overwhelm you.
4) Moving around
Part of that high-breathing, heart-pounding anxious feeling is pent-up restless energy. Sometimes getting up and jiggling it about a bit can help dislodge it and allow your body to re-settle back into its normal rhythm. Whatever you do, don’t lie down and give in to it; your heart will only pound harder and you’ll become more and more aware of it rather than dissipating it. Try a few star jumps, or a couple of yoga poses. I find going through a short Vinyasa flow (if you don’t know what this is, check out Yoga with Adrienne here for an explanation or here for a short beginners’ sequence you can try!), with good deep breathing, is really helpful if my heart rate is up. But, like I said, a few star jumps, or some high knees, or even a micro-dance party to some feel-good music is a great way to calm yourself down.
5) Freezer Packs
I know, I know, this one’s a weird one. But it works! Keep about 4 ready-to-go ice packs—2 big and 2 small– in your freezer. When you feel anxiety coming, take one of the small ones in your hand and rub it from the middle of your chest down to the bottom of your belly, slowly, and over and over until your heart rate starts to mellow (over your shirt, of course- you don’t want to make yourself freezing!). This moves the hyper energy down from your chest and alleviates chest pain. Once you feel as though you can breathe again, place the 2 big packs on your lower belly or lower back, and the 2 small ones in the palms of your hands. Holding small smooth ice packs in both hands with palms up does wonders for panic, and is a really good tip to know about.
Hope that helps! Check out our Youtube channel or our podcast tomorrow for a new episode on anxiety relief, or head over to our website to find out how Study Rocket can take the stress out of your study.
Study Rocket. Study Happy.