Since March of 2020, the planet has been going through a significant change. The growing Coronavirus pandemic has turned lives upside down, creating uncertainty and fear. For many, this has resulted in the development of anxiety or increased already present anxiety to new levels as basic needs are compromised. Today we’re going to look at what anxiety is, the symptoms, and 5 grounding techniques you can use to self-soothe.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a perfectly normal emotion that people feel from time to time. It is characterized by “feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). For most, anxiety is situational. In other words, there is a specific event that triggers anxious feelings, but it usually subsides when the trigger is not present. However, some people experience near-constant anxiety which can be diagnosed by a medical professional as a mental health condition. This condition can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing in both the short and long term.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
You’re probably wondering how you know if you have anxiety. Well, basic symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, uncontrollable feelings of worry, irritability, sweating, restlessness, decreased concentration, and trouble falling or staying asleep. Like we mentioned earlier, this anxiety may be short-lived if the trigger disappears.
However, with an event that feels neverending (like a global pandemic), constant anxiety may present itself. Chronic anxiety has the same short-term symptoms as situational anxiety but lasts much longer.
Any anxiety can be debilitating, but prolonged anxiety has detrimental effects on the body. Weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased immune response, depression, and insomnia can all occur if anxiety is not treated.
So, how do you treat anxiety?
The treatment you do depends on you. While there are medications you can take, they require a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor. However, you don’t always need medications to help you. You can use other techniques referred to as grounding.
What is grounding?
Grounding refers to techniques used to focus and soothe the mind, “grounding” you in reality and not your thoughts. In a sense, you are using your body, senses, and things around you to put your anxious energy toward, giving your body a chance to calm down and return to it’s resting state. We’ve got five grounding techniques that psychologists recommend for those who suffer from anxiety.
1. Observe and Describe
This is by far one of the easiest ground techniques you can do as it can be done anywhere. Take a deep breath and look around you. What do you see? Are there trees? Maybe a car or two? What color are they? Are there any birds flying overhead or squirrels running from tree to tree? Describe (out loud, if you’d like) what you are seeing. Go as in-depth as you need to. As you focus on the world, you will begin feeling your body loosen and the anxious thoughts die down amid the observations.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Don’t worry, we’re not telling you to just breathe. Use a breathing technique called 4-7-8 breathing. Slowly inhale for a count of 4, hold that breath for a count of 7, and slowly exhale for a count of 8. Repeat as many times as you need, allowing your body to relax and mind focus on counting. Depending on your lung capacity, you can adjust these counts to whatever is most comfortable. For instance, you could do 4-4-4 or some other variation.
3. Play the Alphabet Game
Nope, not the drinking game, though feel free to get a glass of water at any point during this article. This is another form of brain distraction. Choose a category. Let’s use animals as an example. Once you have a category, name something in that category for each letter of the alphabet. For our example category, you could say “Ape,” “Beluga Whale,” “Cat,” “Dolphin,” and so on. You can do this with virtually any category. This technique is a fantastic distraction because you have to focus on something outside of yourself.
This one is fairly basic. Just start moving. Often anxious energy triggers a fight, flight, or freeze feeling. Channel that energy into productive movement. Go for a run, dance in your kitchen, or practice some yoga. Your body will thank you!
5. Use Your Senses
Your senses are your secret weapon when it comes to combating anxiety. Here are a few examples of sense-based activities.
- Stand firmly on the ground, using your feet to feel the floor beneath you. Is it soft like dirt or hard like concrete? Is it cold or warm? Observe how it feels from your heels to your toes.
- Try applying a moisturizer like Aloe Infusion Face and Body Cream on your hands and arms. Notice the sensation of the smooth cream as it glides across the skin.
- If you have a favorite candle, light it. Favorite perfume? Dab some on your skin. Direct your focus to what makes up the smell and how it makes you feel.
- Grab a soft fruit like a strawberry or a hard veggie like a carrot. Focus on chewing the food, as well as how it tastes and how it makes you feel.
While anxiety can feel debilitating and invalidating, it doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy, fulfilling life. Find techniques that help you stay grounded in reality and support your wellbeing. If you have any grounding techniques you enjoy, let us know in the comments.
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