When anxiety strikes out of nowhere it can feel like your brain and body are working against you. You may feel fear, uneasiness or dread, along with physical sensations like an upset stomach, sweating, trouble breathing and heart palpitations. Anxiety can be debilitating and excessive worrying and fear can hold you back from living your best life. But thankfully there are lots of ways to manage anxiety. You can experiment to find some strategies that work for you, and like with any new skill, you need to practice regularly to reap the greatest benefits. Here's five ideas that could help you get on top of anxiety and continue with a productive day.

Get into the present moment

Anxiety keeps us stuck in our own head worrying about the past or future, or even worrying about anxiety. But our brains have trouble concentrating on two things at one time, so worrying stops us from being present in the now. Shifting your attention into the present moment, by using your 5 senses, can help disrupt those anxious thoughts, and can open up possibilities of enjoying the moment that you're in. Ask yourself, what can you see, hear, feel, touch or taste right now? Anything that directs your attention away from anxiety, and engages your senses in the present moment, can help. Whether it’s talking to someone else, listening to music, reading a book, practicing a hobby or having a shower - engage your senses and practice being present.

Go for a walk

Walking is an underrated way to help ease your anxieties, both in the short and long term. In the short term, walking can help release muscle tension and pump oxygen around your body, including to your brain. It also triggers the release of feel-good neurochemicals, as well as reducing stress hormones. These effects can help you think more clearly and give you some distance from your worries. Walking, especially if done mindfully, can also bring you back to the present moment. In the long term, regular exercise (in addition to a wide range of physical benefits) can boost your confidence, mood and overall mental health. And the good news is that even 30 minutes of brisk walking, three to five days a week, can help improve anxiety levels.

Try a calm breathing exercise

When we’re feeling anxious our breathing becomes shallower and faster. This throws off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body, which can further elevate anxiety. To help reduce this, practice calm breathing exercises, such as deep belly breathing. Deep belly breathing can help to lower our heart rate and blood pressure, allowing the body to relax, and decrease the feeling of anxiety. Inhale deeply for a count of 4 seconds. Hold your breath for a count of 4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4 seconds. Repeat for at least a few minutes several times per day. There are LOTS of breathing exercises around, so experiment to find some that feel comfortable for you.

Try progressive muscle relaxation

When we’re feeling anxious our body holds tension in the muscles. This can result in muscle aches and pains, as well as leaving you feeling exhausted. Finding ways to release this muscle tension helps us to feel more relaxed both physically and emotionally. One way to do this is through progressive muscle relaxation. All you have to do is slowly tense your various muscle groups, hold the tension for about five seconds, then relax each of your muscle groups. Try to stay with the feeling of relaxation in each muscle group for around 10 seconds.

Talk to others

Talking or texting with a friend or family member, especially someone who understands how you’re feeling, can help you feel less alone and less anxious. Sometimes another person can provide a sounding board and reality check on your worries. They might also let you know about a hack they’ve tried that helped them to manage their own anxiety. Or they might just provide a listening ear that can help you feel understood and cared for.

Anxiety left unchecked can become overwhelming. Seeking support from a trained mental health professional can really help if you're having trouble managing it on your own. If you’re wanting to speak with a health professional, book in to see your GP or psychologist, or start a chat with one of our Sonder team members who can help connect you with the right service.

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Information Sources: Beyond Blue, Headspace, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health and Healthy WA.

Image credit: Mad Men

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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