close of hand of woman practicing relaxing techniques

When it Comes to Calming Anxiety, Practice Makes Perfect

Jennifer Newton Martin, LPC, CC

5 Ways to Calm Yourself When you are Feeling Anxious.

Have you ever practiced calming your anxious thoughts and feelings? If not, it might be time to come up with a routine to lessen your anxiety. It isn’t uncommon, especially during the current COVID pandemic, for the uncertainty around so many aspects of life to feel overwhelming.

Here are things that you can practice to lessen the anxiety you are feeling.

5 techniques to practice when your anxiety is getting the best of you:

1. Deep Breathing.

Woman smiling
Often when we get anxious, we start taking short, shallow breaths. This actually increases the carbon dioxide in our bodies and this increase worsens our symptoms. When you feel yourself starting to panic or become anxious, be intentional about pausing and taking a few minutes to practice deep breathing.
  • Take a deep breath,
  • Filling your lungs completely, hold it while counting to five,
  • Exhale slightly longer than you inhaled, letting out all of the carbon dioxide.
Practice repeating this until you feel the anxiety lessen.

2. Self-talk Matters.

Mature couple embracing.

Practice new ways of thinking. We are often tempted to catastrophize or over exaggerate the negative aspects of situations. However, research shows that we have more control over our feelings than we might think.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often an effective therapy for anxiety and depression because it focuses on changing our thoughts and thought patterns. Sometimes simply reframing, or describing our situation in a more positive light, helps us to control our anxiety. Practice rewording how you talk about your situation to yourself and others and see if this helps to lessen your anxiety.

Sometimes just processing your feelings with another can help to alleviate anxious symptoms.

3. Practice talking through worst-case scenarios.

Woman smiling, leaning on wall

When you feel overwhelmed with anxiety over the future or a decision to be made, consider — within reason — the worst that could happen. Focus on a complete picture of what the worst thing that may occur and how you would respond. Then, immediately think of a time when you have overcome a similar circumstance or event. Often, our fear of the unknown is actually worse than the realistic possible outcome.

This exercise helps decrease anxiety by giving you a sense of empowerment. Once we name the worst situation likely to occur and problem-solve how we might overcome it, we feel empowered to take action and we lessen our anxiety.

4. Seek support.

Two teenager boys walking with skateboards

Never underestimate the power of a support system. Whether you prefer to confide in your partner, a parent, a friend, or a therapist, sometimes just processing your feelings with another can help to alleviate anxious symptoms.

If you don’t have someone in your life who can be a safe confidant, a therapist may be a helpful option. A therapist can help to normalize your experience and offer alternative ways to think about your situation.

In fact, research indicates that even for individuals taking medication for depression and/or anxiety, individuals usually experience the greatest improvement of symptoms – including less anxiety– by including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in their treatment plan.

Ammirati Counseling is a boutique counseling group with offices in Bannockburn and Downers Grovers. Therapists also offer private therapy via remote online. They provide comprehensive care to children, teens, adults, couples, families, and the LBGT community.
Jennifer Newton Martin
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