3 Simple Steps to Feeling Calmer
“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” ― Epictetus (AD 55–135) Greek philosopher
Anxiety isn’t always bad. It helps us to work, study and try harder. It might even have been part of the evolutionary secret to keeping the human species safe, alive and growing.
The problem is, the parts of our brain that “light up” with anxiety or anger can sometimes have a hard time turning off, or become too sensitive. We imagine the worst-case-scenario and react. So we worry when we should be sleeping. We get edgy and abusive when we may just be disappointed. We even start to see danger where there is really just discomfort. Our imagination and fears can get the better of us.
The combination of unexpressed thoughts and hidden feelings can lead to habits of panic attacks, angry outbursts, and depression.
Simple Steps to Keep Things From Getting Worse
For now, there are simple things you can try to keep things from getting worse. Granted, these techniques won’t solve the deeper issues and habits, but they are a smart start. We’ve taught them to hundreds of patients successfully, and we can do the same for you.
1) Take Deep “Belly” Breaths Take 6‐8 deep breaths or more. S-L-O-W deep breathing (or belly breathing) sends the signal to your brain that you are not in danger and releases calming chemicals to off-set high body activation (fight or flight response). There is a specific way to do this and here’s a link to teach you how.
2) Count Backwards Use counting backwards to reengage the logical thinking part of your brain. It can be 20, 19, 18…down to 11 or from 45 by 3’s (45,42,39..etc) or from 100 by 7’s (100, 93, 86..etc). The sequence back does not matter as long as it cannot be done automatically; in other words as long as you have to stop and think!
3) Calm Image Use a calm image that you have identified and practiced. It might be a sunny tropical beach, a waterfall, a view of the mountains at dusk, a meadow surrounded by forest or a relaxing activity you enjoy. Use lots of sensory details to make the image stronger. At the beach ‐ the warmth of the sun on your body, the sound of waves and birds, the feel of the water on your feet, a slight breeze that comes and goes across your skin (cooling then warming), the smell of wild flowers, beach grass and the ocean. Your brain thinks in picture images, not just words. A calm image can replace angry or disturbing images, helping you further calm down.
Support to Learn New Skills
If you’re finding yourself plagued by the habit of panic or anxiety, it might be necessary to get help. You can read about how I work with anxiety and panic attacks here. Call me at (914) 768-3740, or contact me here to set an appointment.