This post is for anyone who experiences anxiety. Meaning, this post is for pretty much everyone. =)
A lot of people interchange the words “anxious” and “eager” in their minds, but they don’t mean the same thing. Anxious means looking ahead to something with dread—it’s derived from a Latin root that means “to choke” (which explains that fingers-around-throat feeling that accompanies anxiety!) Eager means looking ahead with excitement. So the only thing separating anxiety from excitement is breath.
To help you in your next white-knuckle moments, here are a few simple but powerful ways to breathe more deeply when you are in an anxious state. I’m not suggesting that you can magically banish anxiety from your life by learning a couple of cool tricks. But I am saying that recognizing when you’re experiencing anxiety and then choosing to do something proactive about it helps that can’t-breathe feeling fade all on its own—which is way better than gritting your teeth, tensing your jaw and trying to ignore it.
May they help you find the excitement that is so often buried just beneath the panic. (These are all also great to do when you’re having trouble falling asleep.)
- Sea of tranquility acupressure point. Find the soft divot in the middle of your breastbone—when you feel a spot that feels almost sore when you touch it, directly in between your boobs at nipple height, you’ve got it. Gently press one or two fingertips in to this spot as you breathe normally for as long as three minutes. Once you notice a shift in your breathing—a sigh, or a fuller-than-normal exhale—you’ll know you’ve sent an “all clear” message to your nervous system.
- Extended exhale breathing. Sit up tall on the edge of a chair in the most peaceful place you can find. Or, for extra relaxation oomph, lie on your back on the floor. Begin breathing in for a count of two and exhaling for a count of four. After a few rounds, extend that: inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Continue for at least 10 rounds, and as long as feels good.You’ll have to really draw the belly button in to expel those last few counts of breath, which engages your diaphragm, which triggers the body’s relaxation response.
- In with the good, out with the bad. Sitting someplace quiet, think of a color that represents absolute tranquility to you – I like a Mediterranean blue, personally, but it could be any color that calms you. Then think of a color that signals stress and tension—maybe a pea green, garish red, or a muddy brown.
As you inhale, imagine that relaxing color permeating your every cell. With each exhale, imagine any pockets of gross-colored tension flowing out of your body and into the air, where it can disperse. Take five full breaths this way, imagining peace filling your body on the inhale and tension vacating the premises on the exhale.
These are all great in-the-moment strategies that can help you slow down and breathe deep. If you’re experiencing anxiety on a regular basis, take it as a sign that it’s time to commit to something that helps you feel grounded—whether it’s getting to yoga class regularly, meditating, running or talking with a therapist or coach. Anxiety can feel crippling, but it is workable!