You’re going about your day, and suddenly they hit you: anxious thoughts that stop you in your tracks. Sometimes, you can predict the circumstances under which anxiety might strike (think: giving a big presentation at work, or waiting for medical test results). Other times, it can take you by surprise. Either way, it helps to have strategies at hand to help you deal with it in the moment.
We asked members of the Thrive community to share their best tips for easing anxiety in five minutes or less. Try any of these methods to ground yourself and calm a racing mind the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Get out of your head and into your body
“I reconnect to my body and breath by doing a 5-4-3-2-1 scan. I look for five things I can see, four things I can hear, three things I can touch, two things I can smell, and one thing I can taste. By getting out of my head and into my body, I’m able to transition away from the mindless loop of anxiety and into a more mindful — and often peaceful — state.”
—Gillian Goerzen, health and fitness coach, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada
“My antidote to anxiety is curiosity. Why do I feel this way? Why did that person act that way? What can I do differently next time? Has this happened before? My curiosity allows me to connect with myself and my community, even people who have made me anxious.”
—Joshua Spodek, Ph.D., M.B.A., author, New York, NY
“I use a four-step technique to ground myself. I notice what is around me, then I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth, then I take a full breath in with an audible exhale, and finally, I smile. This immediately triggers the vagus nerve to relax.”
—Kerry Wekelo, COO, Reston, VA
Focus on sensations
“Anxiety is often caused by our thoughts galloping into a future we know nothing about. By shifting our awareness to the sensations in our body when we start feeling anxious, we gently pull back the reins of the galloping horses in our minds, and bring ourselves back to the here and now. My go-to strategy when anxiety starts bubbling up is to take three deep breaths, counting to four as I inhale through my nose, and six as I exhale through my mouth. Then, I bring my awareness to my feet resting firmly on the ground, and take note of the support of the ground beneath me. I ask myself, ‘Am I OK right now?’ It helps me realise that I’m not in immediate danger. Lastly, I say a few soothing words and practice a soothing gesture, like gently rubbing my forearm.”
—Isabelle Griffith, mindfulness and self-trust coach, London, U.K.
Find a self-love phrase
“Emotional freedom technique [EFT] tapping always works for me. This super simple, easy-to-learn technique involves tapping on a variety of face and chest points while repeating particular phrases. It works for emotional and physical distress. One of my favorite phrases is, ‘Even though I am really angry — or stressed ou — I completely love and accept myself.’”
—Arielle Ford, love and relationships expert and author, La Jolla, CA
Try a mini-meditation
“Depending on where I am — let’s take the office as an example — I close my door and turn my back away from it. I take a deep breath, exhale very slowly, and repeat two or three more times. During this mini-meditation, I focus on my feelings and physical sensations, and let thoughts flow by me. By the time I finish, which is usually less than five minutes, I find that I am calm and centred enough to focus on the true priority at the moment.”
—Kathryn Djordjevic, pharmacist, Toronto, ON, Canada