If you live with an anxiety disorder, then you’ve likely experienced symptoms that seem to appear out of nowhere. This suddenness of anxiety is common and can be one of the most debilitating aspects of the condition. With that, many out there wonder “how to reduce anxiety immediately.”
While there are plenty of “in-the-moment” techniques for easing anxiety, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Therefore, you may need to experiment around a bit to find which techniques work best for you.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at how to reduce anxiety immediately and other tactics you can incorporate to ease the condition. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
How to Calm Down Quickly: Step-by-Step Guide
When it comes to reducing anxiety, there are a few different approaches you can take. Naturally, not all these approaches will work in your favor and you may need to try another approach for effective relief.
Due to this, we’ve laid out the most universal ways to calm an anxiety attack while working towards more unique methods. For this reason, we recommend starting off with our first few points and working your way down.
1.) Breathing Exercises
When we experience an anxiety attack, it’s natural for us to also have a shortness of breath (or overall difficulty in breathing). This is linked to our bodies “fight or flight response” as a means of taking in more oxygen. ¹ However, such a response can intensify panic and stress.
So, as a means to counteract this response, most mental health professionals recommend breathing exercises. While there are a variety to consider, the most effective is the 4-7-8 breathing routine:
- Breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold that breath for 7 seconds
- Release slowly for 8 seconds
To get the most out of this exercise, you should do it repeatedly until you feel more calm. This may require you to stop what you’re doing, take a seat, and simply relax the brain and body.
2.) Recognize Your Anxiety
Upon the oncome of an anxiety attack, it can be difficult to understand what is happening. Since your mind is moving a million miles a minute, it’s only natural for you to forget your experiencing an attack.
However, you’ll like find it relieving to simply recognize that what you’re experiencing is anxiety – not reality. Through this recognition, you’re theoretically breaking the anxiety cycle. In other words, you’re putting an immediate stop to thoughts and internal messages that are subsequently making you anxious.
While not always possible, it can also be beneficial if you recognize where the anxiety is coming from. For certain types of anxiety, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or social anxiety, there are specific triggers that cause these attacks. ² By recognizing that these triggers are not reality (but rather products of your mind), you are one step closer to relief.
3.) The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
The next time you’re feeling anxious, it may help to incorporate the 5-4-3-2-1 technique in order to stop anxiety thoughts. The way this technique works is as follows: ³
- Five – Acknowledge what’s around you, from the setting you’re in to the little objects in your vicinity.
- Four – Acknowledge what you can touch, whether that be something nearby or something on your person.
- Three – Acknowledge what you can hear outside your body. This means you should listen to a nearby fan rather than your internal heartbeat.
- Two – Acknowledge what you can smell. If there’s nothing in the area for you to smell, it’s worth taking a quick walk to find something worth smelling (i.e. flowers, soap, etc.).
- One – Acknowledge what you can taste. We recommend on-the-go foods (i.e. gum or coffee) rather than full meals.
Many incorporate this technique alongside breathing in order to help ground them back to reality.
4.) A Quick Burst of Exercise
It’s no secret that regular exercise is beneficial for a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety. ⁴ However, when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack, you may find a quick burst of exercise can help to provide immediate relief.
This may look like a quick 5-minute run around the block or a 1-minute fast walk around you’re living space. Either way, the goal is to increase your heartrate through exercise rather than increasing it through anxiety.
On top of this, your quick burst of energy may prove to be useful in tricking your mind.
Since anxiety is our bodies “fight or flight response” to a perceived threat, it’s telling us there’s danger ahead. Of course, we know that this is just a trick of anxiety and there is no real danger. So, by going on a quick run or walk, you may effectively counteract this response by tricking your body into believing you’re running from the threat.
5.) Find a Distraction
If you find none of the above techniques to be effective, it may just prove useful to take your focus away from anxious thoughts. In other words, find yourself a temporary distraction.
For example, if you struggle with insomnia due to anxious thoughts, don’t simply lie awake in bed going over these internalized patterns over and over again. Instead, break the negative cycle by getting up and doing something in a different room.
It’s best to put your focus towards an activity you really enjoy as the positive feedback will help to reduce the anxiety. However, if you’re unable to participate in such an activity, you can always resolve to a simpler routine, such as cleaning or making yourself a cup of tea.
While these coping techniques can be effective for instantly reducing anxiety, they may not prove to be beneficial for treating the disorder. As such, it’s best to incorporate these strategies alongside proper medical treatment, such as psychotherapy and medication.
The purpose of such techniques is simply to reduce anxiety in the moment. To help ease you to tackle whatever your life brings next.
Still have questions about how to reduce anxiety immediately?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews: Etiology, triggers and neurochemical circuits associated with unexpected, expected, and laboratory-induced panic attacks
² U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: PTSD: National Center for PTSD: Trauma Reminders: Triggers
³ University of Rochester Medical Center: Behavioral Health Partners: 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety
⁴ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA): Get “Active and Healthy” for Your Mental Health