Put a Stop to Your Anxiety with These 8 Simple Tips

by Henrik Edberg

We’ve all been there.

You’re in the waiting room. Or just waiting somewhere. Soon it will begin. Your leg is shaking nervously. You can’t really hear that well what someone next to you is saying. Your thoughts are one big jumbled incoherent mess.

Perhaps you have a big test in school or an important meeting/job-interview. Maybe you have an uncomfortable appointment with your doctor or dentist. Whatever it is, it makes you feel worried and anxious.

Now what I’m talking about here aren’t anxiety attacks or anything that serious. I know very little about such problems and possible solutions. But the following tips have helped me handle the lower levels of anxiety and worrying that most of us experience from time to time.

  1. Take 30 belly-breaths. Actually I’ve found that just after 10-15 belly-breaths stress or anxiety will dissipate and you’ll feel a lot calmer. But you may want to take 30 just to be on the safe side. This simple exercise works remarkably well whenever you feel negative emotions like anxiety or anger trying to drag you down. For practical instructions about belly-breathing, have a look at this short article.

  1. Get good knowledge. Anxiety comes from uncertainty. Knowledge blows away uncertainty and replaces it with more certainty and a clearer picture of what is to be expected. And when you dig up some information then the problem is many times not as bad as you imagined. So, ask someone who has been where you are how it is, what they did and what´s to be expected. Read about it in books or magazines. Research and Google it.

  1. Redirect your mind. You don´t always have to think about your problems and create more anxiety. If it feels bad redirect your mind. Watch a couple of episodes of a great sit-com like The Simpsons or Seinfeld. Have a great conversation or night out. Go to the gym and really focus on the workout. When you are done your feelings will most likely be more positive. If there´s something you can do about whatever is causing your anxiety now you are in a much better position to do something about it than when you were all wound up in those negative feelings.

  1. Don’t forget to eat. The obvious “well, duh” advice of this article. But I know that if I don’t eat when my body needs to then my blood-sugar drops and I more easily become irritated, nervous or anxious. When your body needs energy feed it. If you negative emotions starts to pop up in your day without much reason then it might just mean that you need to eat something.

  1. Ask yourself: is this useful? As wrote in this article, I often stop and ask myself if a train of thoughts I’m having is useful. I have found it to be quite helpful to put a stop to negative thoughts and negative thought spirals (when you get more and more negative during several minutes while thinking about that big meeting that´s coming up). If I ask myself this question and realize that my current thoughts aren´t that useful at all then it becomes easier to just let go of them.

  1. Observe the feeling. Sometimes the anxious feeling can be quite intense and sticky. It’s hard to get rid of it. A good way, in my experience, to let go of such a feeling is to surrender to it. If you have read this blog for a while then I´m sure you have heard about this method before. But the reason I keep mentioning it is because it´s simple and more effective than you might expect at first. Here is what you do:When you feel a negative feeling then accept that feeling. Don´t try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life).Say yes to it.

    Surrender and let it in.Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. And your mind will stop putting in new energy into the problem.

  1. Stay in the present. Anxiety is a fear of the future. One way to lessen anxiety on a more long-term level is to not to think of the future more than necessary. Instead stay in the present as much as you can. This is not that easy if you are used to spend much time thinking/worrying about the past or imagining the future. So you need to work on it, just like when trying to learn a new sport or instrument.You can start by just paying attention to what is happening right now. Just focus on the scene and the sounds right in front of you. Don’t think about the reports you have finish before 5, the meeting tomorrow and what you want for dinner. Just pay attention to the present moment and nothing else for a few moments. Make it a habit and try to expand the time you can spend in the present moment before your thoughts drift away again.You can also look into some form of meditation to strengthen your connection to the now. And I recommend picking up a copy of Eckhart Tolle´s book A New Earth for practical and simple tips on living in the now.

  1. Find good ways to relax. Have a look at 14 Sure-Fire Ways to Live a More Relaxing Life and this follow-up with 13 additional tips. Pick out a few of the tips that sound good, try them and see how they work for you.



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{ 27 comments }

Chris June 8, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Another trick to short circuit some of the physical symptoms like butterflies in your stomach is to apply some sort of distracting stimulation to another part of your body. You have a hard time focusing on two things at once, so the new stimulation will disrupt the nervous feelings. I think this is the real way SeaBands work.

Examples:

Clench your leg muscles really hard, poke your finger into your ribs, dig your fingernail into one of your other fingers.

Once you do it you’ll feel a bit calm and paralyzed. It isn’t perfect, but it can take the edge off.

Often, you’ll find your body tries to do this automatically by wanting to walk around, or make your leg jump up and down.

TheWriteJerry June 8, 2007 at 3:13 pm

A very nice list of tips!

As a longtime anxiety sufferer – along the whole spectrum of intensity levels – I can say that I have done most of these things when anxiety creeps up on me, and found a couple here I hadn’t thought of before (#5 is going on my list for sure).

A few thoughts, however. First off, some of your tips conflict with each other. Not necessarily a bad thing, because you’re not giving us a “do all of these in this order” kind of list; still, pointing out the contradictions in the article might help the anxiety sufferer to remember that not all methods of relief are applicable in any and every situation, while others, like #1 Belly-Breathing, are.

The specific contradictions are between #3, Redirect Your Mind, and numbers 5, 6, and 7. #8 could be seen as a contradiction to those three tips as well.

I myself usually go for the redirect your mind tactic. I started doing it when I was a very young teen. I’d watch horror movies late at night, get anxious, and find that reruns of the old Lou Grant show would calm me down (boy, that’s a few sessions of therapy worth of topic right there). Redirecting my attention became a habit well into adulthood. Unfortunately, there were circumstances where redirecting was not available (let’s say, at work, for instance) where had I thought (or been trained) to instead apply tips 5, 6, and 7 I could have kept the anxiety from spiraling upwards.

Still and all, a very nice and useful article!

Ali June 8, 2007 at 8:42 pm

How about “thinking the worst case”? Sometimes, just thinking “what is the worst that can happen” will reduce worry. The worst thing will be failing the interview, and one will still have health, friends, inner calm, and other things that should really be more important in the moment than the near future causing the anxiety.

TheWriteJerry June 9, 2007 at 12:40 am

The “worst case” can be dangerous, Ali, mainly because an anxiety sufferer will get stuck on the “worst” part of the scenario and never get to the “I have all of these great things” part.

Actually, that’s an unfortunate symptom of malaise in our whole society — people with a wealth of blessings to be joyful about get stuck on the one thing they feel is a setback or defeat.

Matthew June 10, 2007 at 1:22 pm

This is a fantastic article. In fact, simply turning to this article when the Anxiety level is high, helps you to focus on something positive, therefore helping with the Anxiety!

Keep up the great articles and posts.
Best,
Matthew

Henrik Edberg June 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Chris: Thanks for the tip.

TheWriteJerry: Thank you for sharing. And you are right, some of the tips contradict each other. I suggest that the readers try a few of them and see what works best for the them personally. As you say, it might also be good to have a few of the techniques in your arsenal since you might not always be able to use the same one.

Ali: I have used that tip before too and it worked pretty well. But as TheWriteJerry writes, it might not always be something you can use if you get stuck in the “worst” part.

Matthew: Thank you. I´m glad you found the article helpful.

kristen August 11, 2010 at 1:42 am

so i have kind of a unique situation or at least it feels like it. i never have znxiety in new situations or during the day only wheni go to sleep and then i wake up after i fall asleep panicky and feel like i need to get out of the room, it causes me sometimes to only sleep 3 to 4 hours a night , and then when i dont sleep the next day when it gets close to bedtime i start to feel fearful that i will do it again so i dont want to sleep and have anxiety about sleeping what techniques do you reccomend any advice

Spike June 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Good list, I definately agree with number 2. Whenever I am doing something new or in a new place I naturally get quite anxious but because I am aware that it stems from uncertainty of my situation I know how to deal with it, and try to aclimatise as soon as possible. Being aware of where the anxiety stems from in the first place is key.
Organize IT

Pat June 12, 2007 at 6:48 am

Great list. I agree with each one, especially the 2nd which is getting good knowledge. There is certainly nothing to be anxious about if we already have an idea of what the outcome will be.

Wally June 13, 2007 at 4:19 am

Nice tips. No matter how optimistic we are, there are certain situations that makes us anxious. We just need to keep on viewing things in the positive side.

Henrik Edberg June 22, 2007 at 9:57 am

Spike, Pat and Wally: Thanks a lot for your comments. I appreciate them. And I agree, using tip #2 can be very effective and it´s one of my favorites among these tips.

Marta April 11, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Whenever I’m stressed I watch relaxation videos at http://www.relaxwithnature.com
The music alone is relaxing, but the image adds that little bit extra.

megan August 15, 2008 at 5:36 am

great tips.surely will help me.

justin September 10, 2008 at 10:22 pm

suffering with anxiety since a young boy I was very isolated, I turned to marijuana and for about 5 years in my early teens it made me feel normal, and alive… at times, and able to really enjoy myself. Now after 10 years of it, and me subconsciously pushing my anxiety to the side, along with chronic smoking, and occasional binge drinking… and I can say for sure that the herb is exacerbating this horrible condition.

Im suffering the worst anxiety relapse ever, I’m 25 and i have literally nothing to my name, anxiety has crippled my life, I cant speak to girls, I cant drive vehicles without freaking out. My new job, I work hard and in the sun but my heart beats so fast and seemingly weak, anytime I exercise now my heart seizes up, I cant run longer then a minute. Anxiety is so powerful, and I think the best tip that you gave is that we should just sometimes give in to it. Crying helps, and… if your lucky enough to have someone that loves you, then maybe you can speak to them with depth and sincerity and try to build around the anxiety with something stronger.

I wish all of you the strength to carry on, and believe me I know what a nightmare it can seem at times, but please enjoy your life.

p.s: extra tip: thich naht hanh. get his recordings, hes a buddhist of the highest order, his words will convey the meaning im trying to achieve here much better.

Jacky September 15, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Justin have you tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? I can relate to some of what your going through and I’m currently looking into CBT.

dillon September 21, 2008 at 10:10 pm

i am in my early twenties and out of no where i have started to have really bad anxiety. my chest gets sore which causes me to panic more as i feel im going to die which leaves me short of breath i have read many articles regarding anxiety and tries tons of tips to stop it, while they do work they tend last only a few minutes and then i panic more as i believe it is never goinv to end. does it ever stop?

Lib November 8, 2008 at 10:35 am

I’ve been suffering only a month with anxiety. My first attack occurred as a result of a reaction to some sort of chemical – i completely freaked out and ended up in the hospital thinking I was going to die… Then the next night I convinced myself it was going to happen again, and ended up in ER again… the next day (again), although this time I went to a drop-in GP as I was too embarrassed to return to the ER (and wait for 4-5hrs again!)

Now… I have days where I’m fine, then woompah, I’m back in the anxiety. Mine starts with feeling sick in my stomach, then my breathing becomes constricted and I feel like I’m unable to breath properly. I can manage to get through the breathing, but the constriction in my stomach is constant. I’ve also developed a germ phobia, and my eating is rediculous. i feel sick if i don’t eat, and sick if i eat too much… i also feel sick if i eat red meat, or anything strong in flavour…

It’s seriously driving me nuts… help??!

I just want to be able to eat properly without becoming anxious, and to be able to not worry about dying. It’s become almost all consuming-any little feeling that’s slightly odd brings on anxiety… HELP!

Henrik Edberg November 9, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Lib: Since your problems seem pretty severe, I would suggest that you seek professional help from a therapist or something similar.

sedale January 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I suffered anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder all my life. I feel nervouse when I am around people, especially around girl. I love to have a conversation, but it hard for me to approach girl. I feel like people are always talking about me or looking at me. My stomach become gassy and hot when I am anxious. I am trying vitamin B complex and eat healthy, exercise and good sleep. I wish all you fellow sufferers a new happier life and overcome your anxiety.

slugrite February 5, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Marta Apr 11th, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Whenever I’m stressed I watch relaxation videos at http://www.relaxwithnature.com
The music alone is relaxing, but the image adds that little bit extra.

1 problem with the videos from the site. they are metacafe. i was having a real rough anexity attack so i found this page ( i have severe anexity) and i figured id watch some of those videos…. just bewarned at the end of them u will get linked to death clips like skydivers accident. normally i wouldnt care and skip it but fiinding it next to antistress is a lil weird.

Tyler July 8, 2009 at 11:40 pm

I love all the great information about anxiety you have in here.. Find out how I overcame my anxiety.Learn How to Stop Anxiety Fovever

Thilina Abeysinghe August 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I have took belly breaths. It is working my anxiety disappear. Thank you for advice.

Jane October 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Great tips, I do suffer from anxiety and it always stops me doing things. I am starting a new job on Wednesday and it has helped reading your blog, so thanks. I can feel myself getting a little anxious already and I am going to try some things you have written about.

Thanks again

Jane

Joe Jhonson October 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Hey all!!!

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Or even better:
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Best wishes!

Joe

duduoman March 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

real good info helped me alot thanks

Vee May 7, 2010 at 5:17 am

I liked this list so much, I’m considering printing it so I’ll always have it on hand when things get rough.
I’m about to graduate from high school and I’ve been a wreck, these tips have been a Godsend.
Thank you for the wonderful advice.

-Vee

Gina August 30, 2010 at 3:11 am

i am suffering from anxiety and i must say i hate it! its ruining my self im recently started a medicine which i hope helps.. i suffered a terrible lost of 3 peoples in a car accident and i saw the accident so i guess thats what makes it so hard for me.. im starting a job tomorrow and i hope i do good. they lady sent me home during my interview because i was shaking so bad :/ Im to the point to where i cant even go into walmart or any stores because i think im going to faint.. ive painted in my past twice just not sure what it was from and i dont believe i was having anxiety at that time and the doctors couldnt find out what caused it! i need tips on what i should do to stop them.. i dont have money to go to a therapist so im in a very confused situation it really ruining my life my fiance always wants to go do stuff and i cant because of the anxiety and i feel so bad because he just stays home with me looking all miserable :/ Are there any tips you can give me?? HELP!!

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