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Tips to Calm Anxiety From a Behavioral Health Specialist

En Español |With the increasing severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is completely natural to feel stressed or anxious right now. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have been bombarded with announcements, news, data and recommendations at the organizational, local, national and global levels.

Some of the news that we hear is undoubtedly scary, and it can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being. People all over the world are having to shift their behaviors, plan, prioritize, prepare and distance ourselves from the people and places that bring us joy and comfort throughout our daily lives.

While this is a lot for any person to manage, it is so important to remember that you are not in this alone. People around the world are fighting this virus together, and taking the proper precautions to keep the world as safe as possible.

In this time of social distancing and self-quarantines, there are plenty of relaxation techniques to ease your anxiety. These resources from our team of Behavioral Health Specialists will help you uncover how to ease anxiety through managing stress, combatting “low” moods and developing a consistent routine. 

While there is much uncertainty right now, we do not have control over many factors of life at the moment. For the time being, let’s put our energy and effort into things within our control to reduce anxiety and manage stress.

5 Tips to Calm Anxiety

1. Breathing Exercises

The hand of a person meditating

Slow, steady and focused breathing exercises are a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. When you begin to feel anxiety or stress creeping up on you, there are many simple, yet effective breathing exercises to help slow your heart rate, calm you down and reduce the effect of the body’s sympathetic nervous system.

When you notice that you are starting to get nervous or anxious, start with this simple exercise known as box breathing. In total, you will take three deep breaths but can do as many as you like to help ease your anxiety.

For all three breaths, inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds and exhale for four seconds. Four seconds in, hold for four seconds, four seconds out. Easy peasy! When you inhale, be sure to breathe in through your nose and then exhale through the mouth.

2. Visualize 

scenes of beach grass and sand overlooking the ocean

Another great tip to reduce anxiety is to place yourself in one of your safest, calmest places. Perhaps you enjoy listening to crashing waves on a warm, sunny beach. Or maybe it’s being in the middle of a hike in a green, lively forest where you breathe the crisp, fresh woodland air.

Wherever your happy place is, visualizing yourself in this setting and utilizing all five of your senses can be a great stress reliever.

Often, visualization is used in meditation as well, especially for meditation designed to reduce anxiety and stress. Exercises such as mindful meditation can provide wonderful, stress-relief to place you in a calm environment and a relaxed state of mind.

3. Distract with activities

Three older adults are seen walking through a park in the spring

As simple and cliche as it might sound, distracting yourself with activities is a great technique for reducing stress and anxiety. Since many of us are tucked away at home, there are plenty of great activities to keep you distracted while also keeping you mobile and creative. 

While going outside may seem like a big cause for anxiety, going for a walk or jog is perfectly safe, and is a great way to squeeze in some exercise for your routine. For other at-home exercises, check out our articles on easy upper body exercises for seniors and exercises seniors should do every day.

Other than exercise, keeping yourself busy with other tasks that boost your creativity is helpful as well. Writing, reading or listening to music are all great ways to distract yourself and keep you occupied.

Perhaps you can even try writing or painting while you are at home. There is always something you can do to keep yourself busy to avoid stress and reduce anxiety. For more information, check out our favorite ways to boost your brain through creative activities.

4. Distract with Opposite Emotions

Close-up of a vinyl record player

Another great way to distract yourself and keep busy is by doing things that invoke the opposite of the emotions you are experiencing. If you start to feel anxious or stressed, do something that makes you happy, laugh or relax.

For this to work, you need to watch or listen to things that have an emotion opposite to the one you are feeling. If you are sad, watch something funny or listen to happy music. This is one way we can gain a bit more control.

The key is to do activities that bring you joy and comfort, if stressing about the news causes you too much anxiety, then put on a classic comedy flick or listen to your favorite uptempo, happy music. 

5. Distract with Sensations 

A shower head rains down water

This strategy is helpful when we’re feeling overwhelmed. By putting all of our energy into an intense sensation, we feel naturally distracted from the anxiety. For example: take a hot or cold shower, squeeze your hands together or clap for five seconds or do 10 jumping jacks.

Some of these may sound a little silly, but they really do work! When performing these sensations, please be sure to not overexert or harm yourself. Squeezing your hands too hard, or performing jumping jacks, may cause injury, so be sure to only use this technique to reduce anxiety if you feel you are physically capable.

Digital Resources to Ease Anxiety

As we mentioned briefly, there are plenty of excellent online resources to teach you stress management techniques. From muscle relaxation to yoga, there is something for everybody in the realm of mindfulness in meditation.

The best part is that many of these resources are free! It may take some time for you to get “skilled” at meditating, but it is a wonderful way to keep your mind focused and at ease.

Below, we’ve linked you to some excellent digital resources to help reduce anxiety:

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At Iora Primary Care, your health and safety is of utmost importance to us. Your mental and behavioral health is just as important as your physical health. When we meet with patients, we work with them to place the power of their healthcare journey back in their hands. This means that we address every part of the patient’s health for an authentic, holistic and patient-centric approach to healthcare.

For more information on how to ease anxiety, mental health and resources about the COVID-19 outbreak, check out the latest articles on our COVID-19 Resources
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