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Very often, faced with anxiety and panic, we feel complete impotence and total decay. The lack of control over the situation and the instability of external factors accumulate and completely take away the feeling of security even in your own apartment.
At the moment it may seem that trying to fix the situation is useless, but it is not. We have put together some actionable tips for you to help reduce anxiety at home.
Before moving on to specific recommendations, let’s get one important point straight away: Feeling anxious during times of instability is natural and normal.
You are probably worried about your future, worried about your relatives, and at the same time trying to continue working – even the most seasoned stoic would hardly have coped with such a volume of stressors calmly, without panic.
If the advice we have offered will work slowly, you should not put pressure on yourself with the thought: “I am wrong, nothing helps me.” Always keep in mind that not all tips may work in your case – but not because you are somehow different, but because everything is very individual.
And remember that always, in any incomprehensible situation, you can seek professional help from a psychotherapist. They will select individual work mechanics that are best suited for your specific situation.
Learn to recognize and end your stress cycles
What is your first reaction when faced with stress, whether it’s breaking news or a potential phone call with your boss? In fact, it can be different, but it always comes down to our usual evolutionary survival strategies: hit, run, or play dead.
For example, we may abruptly remove social media entirely to isolate ourselves from the news. Or, to the last, endure the call with the boss, pushing the unpleasant.
However, in the first case, we will soon encounter a feeling of even greater lack of control over the situation, and in the second, we will eventually contact the boss anyway, only more anxious and “twisted”.
While at home, facing the stressor within your four walls, end the stress cycle with a physical action. Repeating soothing words in your head may raise your general spirit, but it will not remove hormones from the body, the release of which “sponsored” stress.
If the level of physical fitness allows, you can take a mat, spread it on the floor and start doing different planks, push-ups, squats – and so on, for which there is enough imagination and physical fitness.
You can just start frantically jumping and running in place. You can turn on YouTube and find a small high-intensity workout like this one for 12 minutes.
If you don’t have the strength for sports (and this is more than normal), there are other options for completing the stress reaction – hugs (with a person or with a pet, any living creature will do), art therapy (drawing, puzzles, coloring) and even just walks from the couch to the kitchen.
Of course, it will be difficult to immediately change our habitual reactions. That is why we advise you to take a notebook and try some time after the last attack of panic or anxiety to write down what scenario your stress cycle followed.
What started it, what were the physical manifestations, how did it end. Hang the resulting list of stages in a conspicuous place: above the workplace or on the refrigerator in order to constantly stumble upon it and remember the course of your reaction.
By understanding how everything works, you will be able to make small adjustments in a measured manner.
Enter small (but regular) physical activity
Raise your hand if you’re tired of seeing “just exercise” advice in every text about dealing with anxiety. We understand! After all, for many, sport is already a stressor. And due to health problems, some simply cannot afford exhausting cardio workouts or stretching marathons.
Authors of the book “Burnout. A New Approach to Stress Management Emily and Amelia Nagoski offer a simple way to deal with stress at home:
- lie down on the sofa, bed or on the floor, close your eyes and breathe calmly;
- begin to gradually strain individual parts of the body – from the feet to the head;
- in the process, note the most constrained muscles of the body – they are the physical manifestation of stress;
- imagine that with each exhalation you get rid of the stress in your body;
- repeat as many times as you feel comfortable.
And if you are still tuned in to full-fledged sports loads, choose workouts that you can repeat regularly. You should not take something too difficult and exhausting if the last time you squatted and did push-ups was two years ago.
After a sudden bout of “workout like the last time” without preparation, you will most likely have a lot of pain in your body, and this is additional discomfort that will not help overcome stress. Plus, don’t set yourself the big goal of exercising every day – just start with a couple of times a week.
Let it be comfortable workouts for 10-15 minutes, which you will definitely squeeze into your schedule and can repeat regularly. In the long run, this will greatly help to deal with stress. And if you need extra motivation to exercise, keep it in mind – for example,
In a moment of panic, actively explore your apartment or room
As soon as you feel your thoughts begin to spiral into a panic spiral and you become scared, heavy and terribly anxious, concentrate on your physical environment. Take a look at what is around you. Here, for example, a sofa.
What colour is it? What does it feel like? Do you have any funny or just memorable story related to it? Or, alternatively, take the walls. Maybe you glued this blue wallpaper with these very hands? Or do you know that somewhere over there, the surface of the wall is curved?
Look around and describe your surroundings, saying any associations and qualities of things out loud. Remember how you bought books, assembled a rack, removed a soda stain from a sofa. Touch the things around you to understand what they are – smooth, rough, clean, sticky?
This grounding technique helps you focus on the moment and what is around you, and not on thoughts that provoke anxiety or panic.
Try breathing exercises
In moments when we experience anxiety, it often seems that nothing can help and no one can save us from this state. However, we have breath – and this is a win-win method of dealing with stress.
Although working with it will not erase the panic thoughts from the head, it will greatly help with the physical manifestations of stress and anxiety – for example, it will slow down the rapid heartbeat. Here are some exercise options:
- Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Place your right hand on your belly button and your left hand on your chest. As you inhale, inflate your stomach so that the right hand rises and the left remains in place. Start with two minutes and gradually increase the time.
- If you feel anxiety coming in, it is important for you to deal with the high heart rate. Any breathing technique where you exhale longer than you inhale will help with this. For example, five seconds to inhale, and ten seconds to exhale. At the same time, keep apps close at hand that help restore calm breathing – for example, Calm has the option to breathe along with the balloon inflating on the screen.
Feel the ground (literally)
Stressful situations are often accompanied by a feeling that the ground is being pulled out from under our feet. If this sounds good to you, try removing your socks and placing your feet on the floor. Feel your feet firmly and confidently on the ground. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that the ground is there and under you.
Try to fix what is happening in your head – what disturbing thoughts and questions appear. What are you worried about? Can you do something in the next day to correct the situation? Or is it out of your control?
If you are faced with the latter option, try to evaluate – what remains under your control? These small grounding pauses can be completed with writing practice: make a list of things that you can really do. With subsequent attacks of anxiety and panic, it will be convenient to return to it.
Prepare for periods of stress in calm moments
No, we don’t recommend that you sit back and wait anxiously for the next panic attack because of a phone call from your boss or the news. The fact is that starting to work with anxiety and unpleasant emotions at the moment when they have already arrived is a very difficult and almost impossible task.
We have already said that the herald of impending panic is a rapid heart rate, as well as rapid breathing, which soon leads to a feeling of lack of air.
When you feel calm, try to evoke these symptoms, but in a safe environment – for example, during sports activity. Essentially, during an intense workout, your body experiences the same physical symptoms as when you are under stress.
Intentionally notice your condition during sports and say: “I have a fast beating heart, rapid breathing, but I do not feel anxiety.” Write this thought down – it will come in handy during the next panic attack to remind you that you have already experienced these symptoms and nothing terrible has happened to you.
Watch your sleep hygiene
During periods of instability, our regime breaks down almost immediately. Someone because of disturbing thoughts, someone because of a long thought-scrolling before going to bed. One thing is important here: your state during periods of wakefulness depends on the quality of sleep.
As hackneyed as this advice may seem, try not to use electronic devices two hours before going to bed. The easiest way to do this is if you have a routine or even a ritual:
- read a book;
- to wash the dishes;
- do facials;
- listen to soothing music;
Yes, yes, we understand that all this sounds too simple and naive. But the hard truth is that it is these routine tasks that can replace social media scrolling, which keeps us up to three in the morning.
What if I have nightmares?
Some people probably don’t want to go to bed because they associate the rest period with nightmares. In this case, you can apply the technique of figurative-rehearsal therapy. Immediately after waking up, take a pen and paper: write down the plot of what you dreamed about.
But in the process, change any part of the nightmare so that it no longer causes you anxiety. Introduce rainbows, ponies and seals – whatever you like. After that, during the day, try to vividly imagine the rewritten nightmare in your head – with all the unrealistic and cute details that make a romantic comedy from a horror movie. Within a few weeks of regular practice, you will most likely feel tangible results.
Of course, all these tips do not provide for the individual history of a person. Perhaps breathing practices will be useful to one, while they will not work at all for another. In any case, don’t be afraid to try different options – even those that seemed like nonsense to you before.