Updated: May 27
It is estimated that over two million people in Australia have some form of anxiety. At its best, anxiety can be a motivating or protective force, however, in its extremes, it can be a lonely, exhausting, and debilitating experience.
If you are experiencing mild anxiety, it can be useful and empowering to have a toolkit of things to try in order to interrupt an anxious response. Some of these tools include:
Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or time-consuming. It may be as simple as enjoying a daily walk or doing some yoga online, and these sessions can be broken up over the day. Gentle exercise may be best if you are experiencing anxiety as it seeks to return balance to your body, while additionally boosting circulation, creating energy and vitality, reducing nervous tension, and improving your health.
2. Reframe the sensations
It is often helpful to reframe the physical symptoms that are felt when you are experiencing anxiety, as it can help to normalise the sensations. Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as fast breathing, sweating, raised heart rate, and shaking, would all feel normal if you were exercising. In fact, anxiety is the body behaving as if it’s exercising when it is not and these symptoms would actually be useful if we needed to protect ourselves from real threats. Therefore, another way of looking at anxiety is as an inappropriate exercise response. Reframing anxiety in this way can act to lessen its hold on us.
3. Breathe (or don’t!)
A common symptom of anxiety is hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing) and breathlessness. Breathing techniques, such as square breathing, slow-count breathing, and even breath-holding, can be used to effectively reduce hyperventilation.
One easy-to-remember technique is square (or box) breathing. Imagine a square shape with a line at the top of the square progressing horizontally from left to right as you breathe in to the count of four. As you hold your breath to the count of four, imagine drawing the right-hand side of the square progressing downwards. Now imagine the line at the bottom of the square progressing horizontally from the right to the left as you breathe out to the count of four, and then as you hold your breath to the count of four, imagine drawing the left-hand side of the square, progressing upwards.
Similarly, deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing has the effect of calming anxiety right down. Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of three, with a slow extended out-breath to the count of seven. Slow-count breathing allows you to focus on the counting and the longer exhalation, rather than anxious thoughts.
Another technique for an acute anxious reaction is to hold your breath for as long as comfortably possible. While this may seem counterintuitive, breath-holding can alleviate feelings of breathlessness by preventing the release of carbon dioxide. Feeling breathless isn't caused by not breathing in enough oxygen, rather it is caused by breathing out too much carbon dioxide, and holding the breath prevents this. Holding the breath for 10 to 15 seconds and repeating it a few times will 'reset' breathing to a normal pattern.
4. Singing and Music
One of the common symptoms of anxiety is racing thoughts and sometimes we just need to escape all of that mind chatter. A simple way to interrupt unhelpful thoughts is to play and concentrate on some calming music. Jason Stephenson offers some great relaxing music and meditations to gently chase away anxious thoughts.
Similarly, singing or playing a musical instrument focuses our attention and can move us away from anxious thought patterns.
5. Australian Bush Flower Essences
Grey Spider Flower is a single flower essence remedy used to resolve feelings associated with anxiety and perceived threat, while combination remedies, such as Calm and Clear and Emergency Essence, may be useful for moderate to high levels of anxiety and stress (Shealy, 2012).
6. Essential Oils
Lavender, Geranium, and Bergamot oils may be helpful in times of stress and anxiety.
7. Immerse yourself in nature
If you are feeling stressed and anxious, one of the best things to do is to take some time in mother nature. It is so easy to get caught up in our lives that we forget what a treat to the senses this is!
This may be as simple as spending time with your bare feet on the grass, rugging up for a wintery beach walk or a hike, or stargazing at night.
8. Homeopathic remedies
Several remedies may prove useful for mild anxiety, including Aconite, Arsenicum, Nat.mur, Calcarea, and Ignatia. It is wise to seek out a Homeopath for the best advice on an individualised plan of treatment (Shealy, 2012).
9. Small tweaks to diet
Include oats as your breakfast of choice! Oats are a valuable source of thiamine (Vitamin B1) and pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), which act as gentle nerve tonics (Shealy, 2012).
10. Enrich your senses
Another way to bring our attention to the present is to choose to do an activity mindfully throughout the day. This could be as simple as having a cup of tea – but mindfully attending to the process of making the tea, watching the steam rise, noticing the smell, feeling the temperature of the cup, and taking mindful sips.
Other daily activities that can be practiced mindfully include washing the dishes or having a shower. In fact, almost anything can be turned into a mindful activity if you are present in the moment. All you have to do is concentrate on seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, feeling, and breathing.
11. Show me the evidence!
Challenging unhelpful thoughts can be a good way to reduce anxiety. It can help us to remember that our thoughts are not always true. By looking at your thoughts in a detached manner, you can ask yourself is there any factual evidence to support these thoughts? Is there an alternative way to look at the situation? What is the worst-case scenario? Do these thoughts really help you?
If the anxiety you are experiencing is persistent or overwhelming, Counselling and Hypnotherapy can help you to try to understand why this is occurring by exploring what is going on in more depth, while also assisting in dialling down an anxious response. If you need further help with anxiety, please don’t hesitate to get in touch through the contact form below.
Do you have any tips that have helped you when you have experienced mild anxiety?
Shealy, C.N. (2012). The healing remedies sourcebook. Harper Collins Publishers.