YOUR HEALTH: Calming anxiety yourself

The first thing to try is a distraction.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 4:18 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting about 19% of adults and 7% of children.

“Anxiety doesn’t make any sense,” said Kathleen McHugh, PH.D., a licensed psychologist. “It’s irrational it’s unreasonable, but it’s very real to that person in that moment.”

Medication and psychotherapy are first-line treatments for anxiety. However, McHugh said there are some things you can do on your own to ease the worry.

The first thing to try is a distraction. It could be as simple as scrolling through your phone or reading a book when you feel anxious.

“But you do it purposely. You say, ‘Okay. I’m going to distract myself right now. I’m going to put my focus on this other thing,’” McHugh said.

Also, practice positive self-talk. Repeating phrases like “I’m okay” or “I’m doing what I can” can help redirect your worry.

Another approach is the 5-4-3-2-1 method of grounding. You locate and say five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Focusing on your senses brings you back to the present moment.

What should someone else say to an anxious person?

“Don’t say ‘there’s nothing to be anxious about’ or ‘why are you anxious about that?’ do say ‘I hear you. You’re feeling scared. You’re feeling anxious,’” explained McHugh.

Relaxation exercises like mindful meditation or yoga also calm anxiety. Another suggestion is to try a cold or hot shower. A cold shower can jolt your system and distract your thoughts, while a hot shower will loosen tense muscles.

You might also want to reduce your caffeine intake if you’re prone to anxiety. Research shows that in people with panic disorder, caffeine consumption can increase levels of anxiety and the chances of having a panic attack.

McHugh said if nothing gets your anxiety under control, find a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety.

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