This one is so simple, so innocuous, that we often forget about it. Since we do it without thought all day every day, breathing is something we often forget even happens. But when you feel your anxiety rising and your body reacting physically, bring your awareness back to your breath. Root yourself in the sensations you feel and the depth it brings. Here’s what I do: I breath in for four counts through my nose trying to be conscious of the way the air feels, the sounds it makes, and how it feels moving from my nostrils to my lungs. I hold it for four counts and feel the way my belly and chest expand. Then I release with purpose back through my nose, making a slight sound against the back of my throat. On the inhale I envision gold light being drawn in and when I release I picture dark clouds or fog being pushed from my body. This is all super hippy sounding to some people, but shit does it help!
If you’re cooped up inside, go on a short walk outside. If you’re stuck at work and can’t go for a walk outside, head to a bathroom for a few minutes break. If you’re in a situation where you can’t physically go anywhere, close your eyes and imagine yourself walking in a field or cheese factory, or wherever the hell your happy place is. What I’m trying to say is: you have the power to remove yourself from your current situation, in one form or another. Start noticing details of the world outside of yourself. As in, “huh, how much would someone have to pay me to eat that half-sandwich in the gutter right there” or “I never noticed how bushy my bosses eyebrows are” or “what is 97 minus 3?” Pull your mind outside of yourself and move.
One of the best ways to stop thinking about ourselves is to start thinking about others. So hold a door open for a stranger, smile and say hello to the person selling newspapers outside the grocery store, google a charity you care about and send $5 or $100, contact a friend you know is going through a hard time and ask if they are okay, write a card to your grandmother etc etc. I promise you, this will help.
What song gives you strength? Courage? What song reminds you that your body responds positively to the outside world? Go find that song and reconnect. For about 2 straight months the only thing I listened to in my car was 1989. Over and over. T. Swift got me through some difficult weeks and, ultimately, gave me the courage to quit my job and pursue my dream. No joke. Music is a powerful thing.
Who is someone you trust? Go speak to them. Whether it’s in the form of writing an email, sending a quick text, calling them on the phone, or asking them to coffee. It is important to trust others with your emotions. Sometimes anxiety can make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. And maybe in the past this has been reinforced by someone reacting negatively to your emotions. This can be hurtful and difficult, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t people in your life who genuinely want to listen. Be diligent and purposeful in surrounding yourself with people who make you feel safe, validated and supported.