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Before I had kids, I knew what anxiety was, I understood people struggled with it, but I was never fully able to comprehend how or why it affected them. I always wondered if you knew your anxiety was illogical, why couldn’t you tell yourself that and stop it in its tracks. However, I also understood from people struggling with anxiety that they knew it was illogical and could tell themselves that, but it didn’t stop their bodies from reacting.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy. I’d be in the middle of a perfectly normal day and suddenly feel alarmed, like something wasn’t right. At first, because I’d never had anxiety, I didn’t realize what it was–which made it even more worrisome. After it started occurring two, three, four times a week, it became obvious. At my worst point, I remember awaking from a dead sleep alarmed, heart pounding, sweating, and 100% convinced something was very wrong. Being pregnant, it was always a difficult balance between is this anxiety or is this something related to the pregnancy I should actually be concerned about.
I started bringing it up almost every time I went to my OBGYN’s practice and always got the same answer of basically, “Oh, that’s completely normal. Try not to worry about it.” *eye roll*… thanks. On top of that, my husband is of a very rational, science-based mindset, so it was even harder for him to comprehend or comfort me when out of nowhere I would be completely frantic over nothing.
The best way I could come up with to explain it to him (or someone who’s never had anxiety) is to think of a time when you were legitimately threatened, adrenaline takes over and your fight or flight instinct kicks in. For example, that time you almost got in a car wreck, when you saw your child waddling toward the road, etc. Anxiety is like that feeling except it occurs when there’s no real threat, and there’s no off switch. I know that logically nothing is wrong, but that high adrenaline, fight-or-flight feeling continues pulsing through your body at full intensity for several minutes regardless.
It became obvious there wasn’t much anyone around me could do to help, and I couldn’t change the circumstances originally–or at least primarily–causing my anxiety (pregnancy/hormones). So, I had to take matters into my own hands, do some research and figure out from experience what helped ground me when I began to feel anxious.
Below, are six tips that have not only helped me personally calm anxiety but also several others that I know of or have shared these tips with…
1. Utilize Your Five Senses
For the life of me, I cannot remember where I heard or read this, but it seared into my brain when I did find out about it. I remember trying this method the very first time I had an anxiety attack after hearing about it and feeling that it helped my anxiety level out much quicker than normal. It’s simple:
- Find five things to look at.
- Seek out four things you can touch. (your pants, hair, seat, etc.)
- Listen for three different sounds. (is there a t.v. on, can you tap your finger, etc.)
- Recognize two things you can taste. (lick your chapstick, take a drink of water)
- Pick out one scent–anything you can smell. (even if it’s just your hand or hair)
The idea behind this is to get your mind off anxiety and refocus it by re-associating you with your surroundings and in turn, hopefully, your body realizes much quicker than normal that there’s no legitimate threat. What I like most about this method is that you can inconspicuously use it anywhere. For example, if you’re in the middle of work, on the Subway, or in any situation where you don’t have tools available to you or don’t want to draw attention to yourself, give it a try. It can’t hurt!
2. Change Location
Sometimes, you’re in a situation where you don’t have the ability to get up and leave or go somewhere else. That’s fine–there are plenty of other methods to try. However, if you do have the ability to leave, go outside or even get up from your desk and walk into the bathroom, changing locations can be one of the quickest ways to diminish anxiety. Many times if you’re able to physically move somewhere else, you can mentally trick yourself into thinking you’ve removed yourself from whatever may have triggered the anxiety.
You’ve probably noticed–whether in movies or in real life–that people say something like, “I need to get out of here” or “I need some fresh air” when they start to feel overwhelmed. And once they make it into another room or get outside, they’re able to calm down and breathe–the same idea.
3. Create a Mantra
I know, tacky, right? I totally agree, but funny thing is, this is the method that works for me when nothing else will. When I’m preparing for an event I know I could easily send myself into an anxious spiral over (interview, meeting someone new, traveling), I can repeat something positive in my mind and completely shut out the thoughts that make me anxious. Or when I’m in the middle of feeling anxious and nothing else is working, the only thing I have left to do is tell myself something over and over again, rewire my thoughts and calm myself down.
I think mantras go hand in hand with meditation–which I haven’t personally tried so I won’t recommend it–but the whole idea is to get back control over your own mind. My personal mantra is always: “You are calm. You are cool. You are confident.” <––And this is not cool as in the hip kid in high school; it’s cool as in temperature because I get overheated easily. I find coming up with a mantra works best when you pinpoint what you feel makes you lose control (in my case, nerves, heat, and in turn, lack of confidence). Then, find a way to positively address it in your mantra.
4. Cut Out Caffeine
This is also the one that causes me to involuntarily roll my eyes or make a loud raspberry/fart noise with my tongue. To be 100% honest with you, I only tried cutting caffeine when I got so desperate and so fearful of every little thing I was doing potentially causing me to panic that it was finally worth it to cut out one of my favorite things in the world: coffee. In April after having some major, ridiculous panicking during what should’ve been some really fun outings and traveling, I completely cut out caffeine and haven’t looked back.
After doing some research on adrenal fatigue and my husband finding some forums referencing anxiety/hives in connection with caffeine, I knew this was probably the last major route or dietary restriction I had left to try. And go figure, the thing that I love most was also my downfall because I haven’t had a single anxiety attack since I cut out caffeine.
Now, I have still had a couple of moments where I feel anxious, but no major anxiety, panics, nothing even close to what I was experiencing before I stopped caffeine. I do also still have the occasional dark chocolate or decaf coffee but notice little to no kickback from it.
5. Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is calming. It’s often recommended by doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, etc. to calm or help people sleep. There have been several studies showing chamomile can be a natural anxiety reliever. When my anxiety first started, I noticed it primarily occurred late at night when I was trying to fall asleep. I started drinking a cup of chamomile tea and pushing myself to go to bed earlier.
Once I implemented an evening cup of chamomile tea, I did notice less and less problems with anxiety at night. I also found the tea would generally help me fall asleep quicker and with more ease.
6. Take Advantage of Essential Oils
It seems like people use essential oils nowadays for just about everything from making their house smell great to treating a cut to adding scent to homemade laundry detergent. There are so many uses for essential oils, whether they be for comfort or health. My personal favorite–and one of the most commonly used for calming anxiety–is lavender.
Studies show lavender can be beneficial in several cases connecting to anxiety, insomnia, stress, etc. I generally place 1-2 drops on my wrists or put some lavender in a diffuser. Several other blends of essential oils (pre-made or not) also seem to help people stay calm or relieve anxiety.
Because I feel essential oils are pure and healthy, I do lean on them when I can–whether it be to relieve anxiety or add scents around the house. Because I’m an avid user of essential oils, I was lucky enough to partner up with Soothing Terra and use one of their amazing cases to store my essential oils.
I generally keep them in a cabinet but I found keeping them in a case stopped any oil residue from leaking onto surfaces (or in my purse if I have one with me) and made it easier to keep my oils on hand if I felt I may need them or want to use them. If you’re also an essential oil user or considering trying oils for your anxiety, I would suggest grabbing a case (big or small) to store them in, as well.
In which case (pun maybe intended), you’re in luck and can enter my Soothing Terra Essential Oils Carrying Case GIVEAWAY below!