In Part 1 of this post, we discussed the symptoms of anxiety and the long-term effects it can have on your health. We also talked about two easy-to-learn exercises that can be used to calm your body and get it out of the “Flight or Fight” response mode.
Here we will talk about three additional exercises that can be used to help you deal with anxiety.
First we’ll talk about Bilateral Stimulation, which decreases the physical symptoms of anxiety and increases one’s ability to re-focus and pay attention. When you are activated by a problem or worry, this exercise can decrease worry and help the problem seem smaller, less important, and farther away.
– EXERCISE NO. 3 –
Cross your arms and place the palms of your hands above your forearms. Begin tapping your upper arms alternately, while applying pressure. This exercise gets its title from the face that it resembles butterfly wings flapping.
While you tap, focus on the frustrating thought or irritating event. You can also add in Extended Exhale Breathe where you breathe in through your nose and blow out through pursed lips, extending the exhale. Tap for 2 minutes, or until you no longer feel activated by situation.
For the fourth exercise, we’re going to teach an intentional breathing skill that helps slow down the heart and breathing. When we’re anxious, we often hold our breath or take shallow, rapid breaths, which can cause heart and blood pressure problems. Slowing down your breathing and taking more full breaths can help counteract this while also oxygenating the body and the brain. This exercise also uses the breath to balance Right and Left brain.
– EXERCISE NO. 4 –
Exhale completely. Breathe in through your nose and count to 4, hold to a count of 7, exhale through pursed lips to a count of 8.
After you’ve done this several times, try alternate nostril breathing. To do this, exhale, then inhale through Left nostril while holding Right nostril closed. Switch sides to exhale through Right nostril then inhale. Switch sides again, and repeat as many times as needed.
For the last exercise, we’ll share a skill that can help you ground yourself anytime and anywhere.
– EXERCISE NO. 5 –
If you’re on your own and don’t have access to a recorded grounding, then just remember the phrase, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding.”
To do this grounding, focus on these things in this order:
● 5 things you SEE
● 4 things you FEEL
● 3 things you HEAR
● 2 things you SMELL
● 1 thing you TASTE
Or, if you’d rather, you can use a guided grounding. You can read these phrases aloud to yourself or have someone read them to you. Likewise, you could record yourself or someone else saying these phrases, and then play the recording for yourself anytime you need to be grounded.
Guided Grounding Script:
With your eyes closed…
Feel your feet touching the floor, press your feet into the floor.
Feel your legs against the chair/bed.
Feel your hands touching your lap or chair.
Feel your back against the chair/seat.
Squeeze your shoulders together and drop them.
Move or massage your neck.
Open and close your eyes.
Squeeze your arms. Squeeze your legs.
Deep breath in the nose, blow out of the mouth with pursed lips.
Repeat as many times as needed.
As you move out into the world, armed with these five exercises, please also remember that good self-care is key! In addition to these exercises, it’s important to sleep at least 8 hours a night, and to eat nutritious foods and drink water. Regular exercise is so important, and remember that you can make it fun with friends, family, or pets. Practice healthy boundaries in relationships, and use positive coping mechanisms. And, lastly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE these Skills! Practice them before you need them so that they’ll be even more effective when you do need them.