Helpful ways to combat anxiety

Five exercises to step back from anxiety

Sarah Austin | Lifestyle Editor

Many students and staff alike suffer with anxiety. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American College Health Association reported that over 60% of students experienced anxiety and one in five adults have a diagnosed mental illness. There is no immediate cure for anxiety, but integrating some of these grounding techniques can reduce stress and make it easier to cope. 

The 5 4 3 2 1 technique — This is one of the most common grounding techniques. To do, identify: five things that can be seen, four things that can be felt, three things that can be heard, two things that can be smelled and one thing that can be tasted.

Anchoring phrase — Create a phrase to help calm down while anxious. This can be something like: “My name is (blank),” “I am (blank) years old,” “I live in (blank) state,” “I am going to be okay” and many more. Make sure to share the phrase with people such as a family member, roommate or significant other in case help is needed in a more intense situation. 

Focus on breathing — To help with anxiety of any level, focus on breathing. This can help to calm down or even prevent an anxiety attack. One breathing technique is to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts and exhale out for six. Repeat three times to ensure the heart rate slows.

Journaling — This is a great way to interpret one’s thoughts and possibly find out what is causing the anxiety, as well as give a point of reference to go over with a counselor or therapist if applicable. There are many methods for journaling, including physically writing, typing, making a voice memo or recording a video.

Stimulate the senses — One of the quickest ways to help gain control of the body during an anxiety attack is to shock the overworking system. Find something cold such as a compress, ice pack or a frozen water bottle and place it on a pulse point such as the neck or wrist. Other exercises with the senses include but are not limited to: run hands under cold water, take a shower, drink cold water or splash cold water on the face. Sensory stimulation can assist in breaking dissociative feelings that occur with anxiety and can offer a great deal of relief.

If feeling unsafe or have an emergency, call 911. 

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