If you’re anything like me you have been there many times.
You’re sitting in a waiting room. Or just waiting somewhere.
Soon it will begin.
Your leg is starting to shake nervously. Your hands are starting to sweat and maybe your mouth feels a bit dry. Your thoughts are becoming jumbled, it is hard to focus and to think as clearly as you usually do.
Maybe you have an important test in school. A job interview. An appointment with your doctor or dentist. A date that you are looking forward to but at the same time you are scared to make a fool of yourself on.
Whatever it may be it is making you anxious.
Today I’d like to share 12 things that have helped me to reduce anxiety in such situations.
These tips are for low or medium levels of anxiety. They are not intended for anxiety attacks or anything that serious. I know nothing about such things and would recommend that you seek professional help in such situations.
Sit down, in a quiet place if possible. Breathe a little deeper than usual and do it with your belly and not with your chest. For just a minute or two focus on only the air going in and out of your nostrils. Nothing else.
This will calm your mind and body down. And it will bring your attention back to the present moment instead of it being lost in scary, future scenarios or bad memories from the past.
2. Get good knowledge.
Dispel the clouds of uncertainty and vague fears by researching what you have anxiety about. By talking to people who have done what you are about to do or want to do – or by reading what they have written – you can build a more realistic blueprint with both positives and negatives of how things are likely to go.
And learn how to improve in the area that gives you anxiety. Do research on the best ways to become better at and less nervous when – for instance – doing public speaking, job interviews or presentations at work or in school.
3. Do a quick workout.
I like to lift heavy weights for about 15-20 minutes when I feel worried, stressed or anxious. It makes me feel stronger both in mind and body. It releases inner tensions and relaxes me.
Others go out for a quick run, walk or bike ride when they feel anxious. Find a way to exercise that fits you and lets you reap these benefits and counteract anxiety.
4. Focus on something else.
Sometimes it is more helpful to simply redirect your mind instead of thinking about what creates your current anxiety. Especially if you have no control over the situation that causes the anxiety like for example an upcoming doctor’s visit or appointment with the dentist.
So focus your attention somewhere else for a while and recharge it with something positive.
Watch a couple of episodes of your favorite sit-com or TV-series. Read your favorite online forum. Have relaxing or upbeat night out with friends.
Do something that takes your mind off the situation that causes anxiety, even if it is just for a few hours. After that recharge you will not only likely feel better but you will also be in a better headspace and at a higher energy level to handle the anxious situation.
5. Don’t forget to eat.
When I forget to eat because I am stressed and anxious then that only tends to worsen my state of mind. It becomes harder to think clearly and negative scenarios more easily pop up in my mind.
So even if you do not feel that hungry keep an eye on the time and if you may be running low on fuel.
6. Change your focus to what you can do right now.
When you ask yourself questions that make you feel powerless or like things will only get worse and worse then you take away your personal power.
Empower yourself by instead asking yourself:
What is one small thing I can do to improve upon this situation today?
Write down that question and brainstorm answers for a few minutes. Then take action on one of the answers you find. It doesn’t have to be a big action, just one small step forward. And when you are done with it then take another one.
This direction forward will make you feel like you are starting to regain control over your life again, it will make you feel at least a bit more confident and it, in my experience, tends to reduce the anxiety.
7. Question your worries and anxiety.
Look to your own past and ask yourself:
How many situations that I have been anxious about in the past have turned out to be exaggerations or making a mountain out of a molehill in my mind?
Question your anxiety and worries instead of letting them roam freely.
8. Remember: You have handled tough situations in the past.
When you are standing in the middle of anxiety and fear bubbling up within then it is easy to get dragged down with it. To lose faith in yourself and your abilities.
When that happens focus on your breathing first to calm and clear your mind. Then look to the past for a bit of strength and confidence in what you can do.
Doing this helps me to go from feeling powerless to feeling like I am standing on firmer ground again.
9. Let the feeling in to let it go.
Sometimes an anxious feeling can feel sticky and vague. You don’t know exactly where it is coming from or what is causing it. It can be hard to get rid of.
A bit of an odd solution that has worked well for me in such situations is this:
When you feel a negative feeling then allow and accept that feeling. Don’t try to keep it out. Don’t try to fight it. Even though many of us have learned to do those two things to negative feelings throughout life.
Instead, this time, just let it in and observe the feeling in your mind and body without judging it.
If you let it in and just observe it for a couple of minutes something wonderful happens. First it may feel uncomfortable and more intense. But then the feeling loses power. It weakens. Often to the point that it just vanishes.
Because when you accept the feeling and let it in you stop feeding it with more energy (as you would when you tried your hardest to keep it out or to fight it).
10. Let it out into the light.
When you keep something inside of you then your head can become an echo chamber that magnifies and doubles the anxiety and fear in a situation.
So let it out instead. Talk to someone close to you about the situation at hand. Just venting to someone who will listen can help you to get a more grounded view on what's happening.
Or the two of you can discuss it and help you to reclaim your power by making a small, intial plan for how you can reduce the anxiety about this situation by taking some kind of action.
11. Stay in the present moment.
Anxiety is often a fear of something you think will happen in future.
One way to reduce that anxiety is to simply stay with your attention in the present moment as much as you can. Perhaps you make a small plan in advance to help you out but you choose to deal with the anxiety-creating situation when it will happen. Instead of spending hours each day with imagining and fearing the future and creating monsters in your mind.
The breathing technique at the start of this article is one of the best techniques I have found for returning to the present moment when you get lost in the future. Another one of my favorites you can try is this one:
Take 1-2 minutes and focus only on what’s right in front of you.
Or around you and on you. Look at what’s right in front of you. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes. Feel the warmth of the spring sun on your skin.
12. Remember: There is a brand new day tomorrow.
This reminder helps me when today or the last week may not have gone so well.
Because there will be a brand new day tomorrow. A day when you can begin again.
A day when you can take a new step to move towards what you want, likely having a bit more luck and when it will be easier to see that this difficult time is only temporary and not permanent (even if it might feel that way right now and create anxiety about the future).