5 Ways to Ease Anxiety

With all the uncertainty happening in the world today, it’s normal to feel a sense of concern, worry, or even some anxiety. Anxiety often involves feelings of fear, distress or unease, feeling scared, and sometimes even physical symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, or feeling sick to your stomach. Anxiety is a normal feeling and is often in response to events that feel out of our control. 

Much of what is currently happening in the United States is out of our control. We are facing political uncertainty, unknowns around the COVID-19 pandemic, and concern over employment, ability to pay bills, and other life routines that have been disrupted in the past few weeks. 

When we start to feel anxious, our thoughts can get quickly out of control. We might project our thoughts to a “what if” future and if you are like most people, the “what if’s” generally are not the possible good things that can happen. The good news is there are a lot of ways we can help ourselves when anxiety strikes by taking action on how we allow ourselves to think and respond.

We’ve put together some basic tools to help you in the face of anxiety. Rest assured that many people are also experiencing these feelings. We can collectively face this together with a renewed sense of hope, action, and purpose, along with a new skill set on how to manage our anxiety in uncertain times. 

1. Focus on what YOU can change
  • Make a list of the things you are worried about and decide what is in your control and what is not. 
  • For the things you do have control over, create a few ideas to problem solve them. For example: if you are worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, what you can do is practice the things recommended by the CDC to stop the infection from spreading such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, and working from home. 
  • If you find yourself in a negative thinking loop, stop. Take a deep breath. Create a mental list of all the things that are okay, that you are grateful for, that bring you joy, and that make you smile. Try and come up with at least one outcome that is not negative or frightening when thinking about uncertainties. 
2. Get Active
  • Regular exercise releases endorphins that reduce anxiety.
  • If you’ve been directed to shelter-in-place, you can still get outside for a walk, jog, or hike as long as you stay 6 feet away from other people. Being in nature has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety
3. Stay connected to others
  • Call a loved one
  • Talk to a close friend
  • Schedule a lunch date over video call
  • Play an online game with friends
  • Have a virtual happy hour with coworkers
4. Engage your brain!
5. Practice mindfulness

Try this mindfulness exercise anytime you feel like you need to take a few minutes to center yourself. Start with three minutes and build up to more time as needed. Set a timer when you first start practicing. With repeat sessions you can practice this exercise until your mind begins to wander.

Get into a comfortable seated position.

Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose. Follow this inhalation with a deep exhalation.

Continue to breathe deeply and fully, in and out of your nose. Allow your breath to be a guide to the present.

Use the mantra, “Be Present” as you breathe. With each breath in, think to yourself “be” and with each breath out, focus on the word “present.”

Remember that thoughts directly impact how we act and respond. If we can gather our thoughts to reflect a more balanced, realistic outcome we will allow ourselves to not react out of fear or uncertainty, but out of control, calm and determined place.

Written by Julie Dephue, LMFT

on March 26, 2020. Julie is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a certified Diabetes Prevention Program coach.