3 Ways to Decrease Anxiety Today

sitting on a edge

Anxiety is a common experience for everyone.

It's so common that both philosophers and religious scholars have identified anxiety as an inherent aspect of life itself, and this isn't a recent conclusion, this was concluded thousands of years ago and holds up to todays modern neuroscience.

Not all life, certain plants, and animals don't seem to experience anxiety.

You may notice your dog become skittish during a thunderstorm, but that's not the same thing as being anxious.

The difference, in this case, is the same difference that distinguishes anxiety from fear.

Fear is the direct experience of an immediate threat; like seeing someone running straight at you looking angry.

In the case of your dog hiding in the closet during a thunderstorm, your dog is responding to what it perceives as an immediate threat- loud thunderous crashes and bright flashes of light.

Humans on the other hand can project into the future.

Anxiety is worry created by the anticipation of a future threat that results in immediate physiological responses such as sweating, shortness of breath, and muscle tension.

But the thing is, we aren't living in the future, we're in the present, so why are we overtaken by things that haven't happened yet? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

The purpose of today is to answer the question of "What can we do about it by giving you 3 ways to decrease anxiety.

The answer to the first question is a topic for another time.

Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Donna Janiec, LPC, NCC

Donna Janiec, LPC, NCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Joel Harms, MA, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Sierra Brown, SWC

Sierra Brown, SWC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Vanessa Curran, LPCC

Vanessa Curran, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Melody Reynalds, LPC

Melody Reynalds, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Marta Schmuki, LPC

Marta Schmuki, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Abigail Corless, LPCC

Abigail Corless, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Dr. Alana Fenton Ph.D., PSYC

Dr. Alana Fenton Ph.D., PSYC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Katie Bennett, LPCC

Katie Bennett, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Marie Whatley LPCC

Marie Whatley LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Amber Chambless, LPC

Amber Chambless, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

Julia Rosales, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121

Strategy #1 - Physical Exercise

The first and most effective way to decrease anxiety is through physical exercise.

"Ugh, but exercise is so hard, boring, and time-consuming!"

Exercise can be hard, as well as boring, and time-consuming too, but it doesn't have to be.

Especially to get the anti-anxiety benefits of exercise.

All it takes is 10 minutes every day.

Not even an intense 10 minutes every day, you can decrease anxiety simply by walking for 10 minutes.

Hard? No. Time-consuming? No. Boring? A lot less boring than scrolling on your phone for 10 minutes.

I'm not saying that taking a 10-minute walk every day will eliminate your anxiety, but I am saying that it will help decrease anxiety when you're feeling anxious and it will help decrease anxiety overall.

Once you get used to doing a 10-minute walk, you'll naturally want to do more; walk longer, walk faster, and maybe even start to jog!

This natural inclination and gradual increase in intensity and duration will decrease anxiety even more effectively both in the moment and over time.

This is because the stress your body goes through when you are anxious is the same stress your body goes through when you exercise.

The more you willingly encounter stress through exercise, the better your brain and body become at handling stress from other areas of your life, AKA anything that makes you anxious. 

Strategy #2 - Breathing Exercises 

The second way to decrease anxiety is by unlocking the power of your breathing!

This is my personal favorite in terms of tools to decrease anxiety.

All you have to do is focus and elongate your exhales.

If it helps, on your inhale count to 4, then as you exhale count to 8; also, exhale as if you're blowing through a small straw (you can practice with a real straw to get the feel for it).

Just repeat that for about a minute and you're anxiety will vanish.

Temporarily anyway.

Our brains have these nasty habits of jumping right back to anxious thoughts as soon as we stop.

The good news is, you can constantly return to your breathing as an antidote to your thinking.

All anxiety is fueled by your thoughts about the given situation when in reality, there is no real threat to you.

Convincing your brain of this is a lot easier said than done, which is why practice is so important.

The more quickly you can eliminate your thoughts by focussing on your breathing, the better and quicker you'll be able to decrease anxiety.

This also helps you learn how to calm your body while your mind is taking down rabbit holes you don't want to go down, granting you similar effects as regular exercise.

Strategy #3 - Sense Perception

Our third way to decrease anxiety is sense perception.

This one is similar to being attentive to your breathing but you'll be focusing on your 5 senses.

There are a lot of different strategies for this so feel free to experiment with multiple varieties and combinations because they all have the same effect.

What makes the difference is you using them!

One of the most common strategies for sense perception is to walk yourself, one at a time, through each of your senses using the 1-2-3-4-5 method.

I like to start with my eyes closed and taste 1 thing; then smell 2 things; then hear 3 things; then touch 4 things; and finally open my eyes and see 5 things.

You may not have time at the moment to walk yourself through each of your senses, or have something to taste at your disposal; this is fine, the point is to engage your senses, any of them, for a short amount of time.

Your mind cannot be worried and perceive through your senses at the same time.

So, by focusing your perception on your physical sensations, your mind is forced to forget about the anxiety-provoking situation and become grounded in your physical reality.

Another, short-cut, way of sense perception is to ask yourself, "What are my feet doing?"

This immediately draws your attention to where your feet are, what they're doing, and how they're feeling.

I ask myself this question half a dozen times per day, and many of my clients have found surprising relief by playing this little game throughout the day. 

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Conclusion

Anxiety is extremely common.

Everyone experiences anxiety, and everyone can decrease anxiety by tapping into their perceptions.

We discussed how to increase your ability to decrease stress in the immediate and long-term through physical exercise.

We learned how elongated your exhale, as if blowing through a small straw, directly interrupts anxious feelings.

And, we've discovered how sensory perception directs your mind to innocuous physical sensations thereby derailing anxiety.

Don't let anxiety take over your life, be attentive to your body and your mind and decrease anxiety now!

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April 18th, 2024

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