Dealing with anxiety can often feel so overwhelming we don’t know what to do to stop it before we get stuck in a panic spiral. If you can relate, you’re not alone in this struggle!
Over three hundred million people worldwide suffer from anxiety.
So, how do we gain control when it feels like we are spiraling?
Cognitive behavioral therapist Alison Seponara is on a mission to help those who are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues. She actually goes by The Anxiety Healer on Instagram, and she recently shared 10 favorite ways to halt an spiral into overwhelming anxiety.
10 Ways To Break Out Of A Vicious Anxiety Spiral
1. Create a practice to stay present.
The key to halting your anxious spiral is to first direct your attention to the present moment. Although easier said than done, especially when it feels as if you are on the brink of passing out, licensed counselor Chris Lewis offers valuable insight.
He states, “Anxiety is very often a future-oriented condition. We worry about what might happen—the persistent ‘what if’ that can never be answered at the moment.”
He goes on to say that if you’re experiencing anxiety, it’s important to ask yourself if your worries are taking place in the current moment. If not, he recommends shifting your focus to the present moment.
Tune into the sounds around you, inhale the scents in the air, and connect with your physical sensations.
If more severe symptoms persist, Lewis advises seeking professional counseling as a means to effectively manage your anxiety.
2. Notice anxiety is there.
Seponara’s next piece of advice highlights the importance of recognizing when anxiety arises. She writes, “Notice that it’s happening. By becoming aware of the anxiety, we can begin to take steps to address it.”
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Muscle Aches or tension
- Shortness of breath
- Churning of the stomach
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Ongoing disproportionate worry or obsession about things
- Feeling “on edge”
3. Detach yourself from the thoughts.
Seponara advises to distance yourself from your thoughts. This may sound intimidating at first, but it’s not as hard as it may seem.
According to cognitive behavioral therapist Terri Bacow, an effective approach to managing anxiety is called cognitive defusion. She elaborates, “This involves detaching yourself from your worried thoughts and observing them objectively from a distance.”
To simplify things, you are now an observer of your own thoughts rather than a victim of them.
While this may seem challenging at first, you can begin by noticing that you are experiencing these thoughts. Next, tell yourself that a worried thought is just like any other thought and that it is okay to feel concerned.
If that doesn’t work, Bacow recommends picturing your worry as a leaf cruising down a stream (i.e. let that thought simply float far away).
4. Don’t resist your thoughts.
For those of us who’ve dealt with anxiety, it’s clear resisting only makes it worse. So, instead of resisting your thoughts, let’s observe them with a curious mindset. Life coach Andrea Scher, calls this technique “wonder-spotting.”
She explains, “As you observe your surroundings’ ask yourself: What’s beautiful or interesting about this moment?” By incorporating these questions, it evokes — according to psychologist Jordan Litman, “curiosity as a feeling-of-interest.”
What this means is that our brains will have a better time focusing on different possibilities.
And that’s important because when our mind focuses on wonder, we can focus on the climb — rather than what’s waiting on the other side.
5. Remind yourself it’s only temporary.
While dealing with anxiety is no picnic in the park, it’s important to recognize that it is often a temporary cloud in the sky.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “At some point, anxiety and stress affect everyone.” They go on to say, “But there is one thing for certain: there are ways to manage anxiety, even if it feels out of control.”
They suggest taking a breather, getting your exercise on, eating well, getting enough sleep, inhaling deeply, and slowly counting to 10 if needed.
Remember life is a roller coaster and you can’t control everything, but you can navigate the twists and turns with some self-care and perspective.
6. Go outside and connect with the earth.
Most of us have heard the phrase “touch grass” before.
In this case, touching grass may be exactly what you need to alleviate your anxiety.
Seponara writes, “Get outside and connect with nature. Put your feet in the grass, feel the sun on your skin, or breathe in the fresh air.”
In agreement with Seponara, studies from the National Library of Medicine show that our minds and bodies tend to relax in a more natural setting.
If that isn’t a good enough reason, going outside can also help boost creativity, problem-solving abilities, concentration, and attention.
7. Lean on your support system.
When faced with anxiety, having a reliable support system is crucial.
A comprehensive analysis of 64 studies revealed that “positive social communication with family and friends reduces anxiety and develops feelings of security.”
And, further research suggests that fostering connections with friends helps enhance our resilience and navigate future issues by ourselves.
Plus, our self-esteem and sense of autonomy are improved just by having great friends who support us. So, it’s a win-win!
8. Try a breathwork practice.
Another tip to ease your anxiety is to dive into the world of breathwork! This ancient practice originates from countries such as China, India, Japan, and Tibet, where it was revered for its healing properties and improvement of overall well-being. Different types of breathwork include deep abdominal breathing, 4-7-8 Breath, and Alternate nostril breathing.
The benefits of incorporating breathwork into your routine include:
- Alleviating stress
- Reducing blood pressure
- Helping with addiction recovery.
9. Change your environment.
Subtle changes to your physical space can do wonders when it comes to soothing your anxiety. If you’re not sure where to begin, try incorporating plants or a new pillow into your workspace.
The trick here is to start small and slowly build up over time.
As time continues, you can add more drastic changes such as rearranging furniture, painting, or buying new activities for your space. These seemingly small things can help disrupt the familiar patterns that fuel our anxiety in the first place.
10. Think of your happy place and imagine yourself there.
Last but not least, another way to manage your anxiety is by envisioning your happy place.
If you’re wondering what that means, simply put, picture an environment in which you find happiness and comfort. Personally, my happy place is curling up in bed with a book in my hand.
Immerse yourself in that memory and let it wash over you. If you are having difficulty picturing something, incorporating techniques — such as breathwork — can serve as a helpful guide to transport you into your happy place!
From being mindful of the present to envisioning your happy place — there are many strategies you can use to tame your anxiety.
Don’t get overwhelmed, though! You only have to use the one or few that work best for you. Take a deep breath, and trust yourself — you’ve got this.
Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career and family topics.