Quick Tips for Anxiety Relief
Grounding for Anxiety with Rocks
When we experience anxiety, panic attacks and spacing out, it's because our flight or fight system thinks we're in danger. This can come even at times when we are perfectly safe. Sometimes this is caused by PTSD, an unusual stressor, or another disorder.
To correct misfiring fight or flight responses, it helps to send a message to the brain that we're safe and in the here and now. One of the quickest and most effective ways to do that is through mindfulness or grounding.
I (Jennie) like to teach grounding with rocks - I have clients hold a rock or other object in their hands and notice first what it feels like. What's the temperature, warm or cold? Is it smooth or sharp? What other things do you notice that most people would overlook?
Second, we notice what the rock or other object looks like. Most of us don't stare at rocks much. This time, really take it in. Do you notice any imperfections? Unique colors? Dirt or ink?
Finally, keep holding your rock, but notice any sounds in the room. Is there a fan blowing? A dog breathing? What about sounds outside the room?
This activity is an introduction to grounding, or mindfulness. It actually helps calm the nervous system and gives your brain a break from worrying and trying to figure things out. When we're trying too hard that doesn't usually work anyway.
If you find a rock you particularly like, you may decorate it with a helpful message like my "breathe" rock above. You can use acrylic paint or paint sticks. As I hold my rock I remember I'm strong and in the here and now - just like you!
Relaxed Breathing for Anxiety
At least half my clients get the most immediate relief from relaxed, deep, or "diaphragmatic" breathing. You can use it separately or combine it with activities such as the grounding exercise on this page.
Relaxed breathing involves slow, deep breaths that help calm your fight or flight reaction (stress response). When you're feeling suddenly agitated, nervous, or feel a panic attack coming on, this often helps. To begin, take a long breath in through your nose to the count of 5 to 7 seconds (if you have breathing issues such as COPD you may choose an alternative method - you can find the pursed lip alternative here:
Once you slowly breathe in your nose, wait while holding the breath gently for 5 seconds. Then slowly breathe out your mouth for 5 to 7 seconds. Following your inhale, you should feel your belly rise more than your chest. I have my clients practice with one hand on the chest and one hand on the stomach, until they get the hang of it. If you feel your chest rising quickly, then try again, slowly and deeply. It's easiest to practice when you're already feeling safe and calm. (If you've been in a school choir or band, you may have learned to take even longer breaths.)
You might start with a few slow breaths, and then add more as needed. I still use this for everyday stresses or when I'm feeling overwhelmed. While it's generally not what I feel like doing when I'm upset, it does help. When you are having high anxiety responses, this will send the message to your brain that you're safe, calm, and there's no need to be on high alert. While some clients don't like it, others find it the single most important strategy for dealing with anxiety, so it's worth a try!
or call or text Jennie at 573/291-7315.