Anxiety is feeling nervous or uneasy about an uncertain outcome. We can feel anxious about daily tasks, about the future of certain relationships, our career or anything that is work in progress or undetermined. Feeling anxious is quite a common phenomenon. One does feel anxious before new tasks or new experiences, and that helps keeps us alert and aware. Feeling anxious can thus help us deal with situations, however a lot of anxiety can be debilitating. 

These 3 Simple steps can help you cope with anxiety.

1. Breathing

As cliché as this sounds, taking a gentle elongated breath can be extremely helpful. Even though breathing is one of the most natural processes of our body, breathing to calm your body requires regular practice. It’s a skill that needs to be honed for it to be both accessible and effective.

Take a deep breath, hold for three or four seconds and then breathe out slowly. Try it one minute at a time, for a few times a day. When you are anxious your breath tends to get shorter and faster, & sometimes the realization that you’re hyperventilating can get you more anxious. Breathing consciously and lengthening the breath cycle helps in sending the brain a message that “It’ s okay to relax”.  Be aware as you inhale, as you hold it in for three or four seconds and as you exhale. This awareness & focus is itself likely to shift your attention from whatever you’re anxious about.

2. Mindful Observation

Observe your body without judgement. Notice all the physiological changes that coexist with the anxiety- your heart rate, breath, sweaty hands, any body parts that suddenly feel stiff, knotty or heavy. Observe with compassion all that’s happening within your body- your emotions, physical sensation & thoughts. Acknowledge and accept all that you’re experiencing. Too often we spend a lot of time and energy in fighting what we are experiencing. We want it to stop immediately. However, acceptance might help us save this energy to be channelized as follows.

Be observant like an owl. Observe without judgement. 

3. Planning

Preparing ahead helps us visualize to face challenges. Plan for daily occurrences that cause anxiety- run through these from start to end and reflect on what is it that stresses you out. If you do feel extremely lost , scattered or overwhelmed when you’re anxious write it down. Writing things down tends to give people a sense of control over what’s abstract and floating in their minds. Making a ‘To do’ list can be one simple act of planning.

Making a 'To Do' list helps gain clarity and a sense of control over the near future. 

 Also, plan for feeling anxious in the following way,

  • Ask yourself these kind of questions (Make your own checklist):
  • What am I experiencing?
  • Is there a reason to be worried?
  • Is this important?
  • Is this temporary or a permanent situation?
  • Does/ Would someone else perceive this situation as threatening?
  • Can I ask someone to help me assess and deal with this situation? Who?

Acknowledge that you’re feeling anxious. Remember that feelings are transient. So you’re likely to feel differently given different circumstances.

Bring to mind an image that you find calming and soothing. Concentrate on that till you feel more functional.

Seek professional help from a Psychologist if you feel overwhelmingly anxious and want to manage it better.