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On Edge? Try These Anxiety "First-Aid" Remedies

anxiety stress Dec 06, 2020

If the intensity of the world has you feeling anxious—you’re not alone. Fear, uncertainty, and stress are completely normal reactions in the face of the urgent headlines we are bombarded with on a daily basis. But there’s a very important reason why getting a handle on these emotions should be at the top of your priority list.

I’ve mentioned before that prolonged stress and anxiety wreak havoc on your health. Well, one of the primary ways they do that is by weakening your immune system. And obviously, a weakened immune system is the last thing any of us want right now.

So today, I’m going to walk you through my “Anxiety First Aid” technique. It’s three simple steps you can take anytime, anywhere to help calm and center yourself. And, in turn, help protect your precious immune system. More on that in just a moment.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about another way to combat the anxiety surrounding coronavirus… 

Mindset shifts

The one thing we all have control over is where we choose to point our attention.

Rather than worrying about aspects of COVID-19 that are out of your control, I encourage you to channel this excess nervous energy towards what you CAN do.

Not sure where to start? Well, reading up on recommendations from reliable public health sources, like Johns Hopkins University and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is an obvious first step.

Beyond that, think about ways you might adjust your mindset towards our unique challenges.

For instance, here are a few of the mindsets my family and I are currently using:

Staying informed: Similar to ocean waves, the nature of the pandemic is ever changing. You may have heard that the first rule of being on the shoreline is to never turn your back to the water. 

The same mindset applies here. We’re keeping daily tabs on what is happening locally and planning accordingly.

Protecting others: Thankfully, my family and I are healthy. We want our friends and neighbors, — especially those most vulnerable—to remain healthy too. That’s why we always use precautions like hand washing and face coverings anytime we’re out in public. 

Giving each other room to vent: We’re getting better at allowing each other to express frustration and moodiness without taking it personally. This one mindset shift has gone a long way to helping our household stay cohesive.

But I’m still human. 

And watching the news or reading the latest headline on this outbreak can still make my thoughts race, my palms sweat, and my heart rate spike.

So that’s when I turn to my “Anxiety First Aid” technique.

My Three-Step “Anxiety First-Aid” Technique

I recommend performing this simple, three-step technique the moment you recognize you’re feeling worried, anxious, or stressed.

Feel free to perform this sequence multiple times per day—whenever and wherever you need it.

1. Burn off excess cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone your body releases when it’s stressed. Normally, levels naturally go back down when the “threat” is gone. But when you’re faced with ongoing stress, cortisol levels can build up in the body, which sets off a domino effect of negative health consequences—starting with compromised immunity.

Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to “burn off” excess cortisol. You can go for a brisk walk, dance to your favorite music, or even just do this brief series of movements: 

Shake your hands vigorously (like you’re trying to fling water off of them) for 10 seconds.

Do the same with your arms, feet, and legs.

Then gently clap your hands all over your torso and legs, like you are playing your body like a drum.

2. Slow down your racing thoughts with “square breathing.

If you’ve ever taken a few deep breaths when you felt particularly stressed, you already know how effective the simple act of breathing can be in helping to regulate emotion.

This particular technique takes it a step further, and really allows you to shift your focus to your breathing, which has a significant calming effect—both physically and psychologically. 

  • Breathe in for four seconds
  • Hold this breath for four seconds
  • Exhale for four seconds
  • Wait without breathing for four seconds

Continue this breathing pattern for at least three minutes, or until you feel calm.

3. Strengthen your vagal tone.

Vagal tone is an indicator of how quickly your vagus nerve helps your body bounce back from stress. Your vagus nerve combats stress by triggering the release of “feel good” chemicals (like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine). The higher your vagal tone, the more resilient you are. 

Here are two easy ways to strengthen it:

  • Breathe in slowly. With your mouth closed, make a humming sound as you exhale. Do this 6 to 12 times.
  • Hum along to three of your favorite songs.

    Be sure to stop and take breaks as needed, especially if you feel dizzy.

Feeling stressed is an inevitable part of the current coronavirus situation. But this simple “Anxiety First Aid” is something you can do anytime to help get a handle on it, before it spirals out of control. I encourage you to share this technique with your friends, family, and anyone else who might be feeling especially anxious these days.

The main takeaway here is that it IS possible to remain calm, even in intense circumstances. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself—and your immune system.

 

Be well, Jim

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