So there’s no doubt that while the college experience is full of fun, friendships and making memories that will see you into your elder days, it can also AT TIMES, be stressful and cause us to feel anxious. Combine assignments, CA’s, exams, lectures with the every day life issues that impact upon us all, and its easy to understand why sometimes you can fell just a TAD overwhelmed!
If you have ever had a panic attack you will know the true horror of that experience, and if you haven’t, take my word for it, it’s not nice (to say the least!). However, you don’t need to have a panic attack to feel overwhelmed and anxious so I have compiled 5 helpful tips hat can be done almost anywhere to help stave off or manage those negative feelings. And with supplemental’s on the horizon, when better to share these tips?!
Hot tip** If you do suffer from panic attacks, try to recognise the signs. Taking a note of how you were feeling just before can help keep track. If you can begin to identify triggers and feelings before they start, and if you can try some of these techniques, you may be able to prevent a panic attack from happening.
Shift that Negative Energy
This is possibly the only one of the tips that might not be as easy to do anywhere. It involves physically moving yourself to shift those negative feelings. Think Tay-Tay and “shake it off”! Or if Taylor Swifts not your thang, think House of Pain, “Jump Around” or (I won’t say Olivia Newton John!) Dua Lipa “Let’s get Physical”. It might sound odd, but physically moving around can refocus the mind, if the mind is busy focusing on something else, it can’t focus on the anxiety in the same way. Repetitive or rhythmical movement can be especially helpful. Think head shoulders knees and toes as a simple guide, its simple straightforward and easy to repeat. Get fun with it and create your own simple steps that you can repeat. Or give the old staples “YMCA” and “Saturday Night” a revival!
If you’re moving, you’re groovin.
16 Seconds to a Calmer You
Some people are great at mindfulness and mediation and I think absolutely fair play to you, but me, I just can’t. In fact, I am that person who gets more stressed and agitated when someone says “we’re just going to do a relaxing mediation” like they’re doing me a favour! You’re totally not Karen.
When I first heard the phrase 16 second meditation, and that it was ideal for people who CAN’T meditate. This is the simplest but most effective bit of advice I have ever benefited from regarding calming my breathing and managing anxiety.
Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 secondsRepeat this cycle, even if initially you feel you can’t hold for the right time. If you are feeling anxious or a panic attack is coming on there’s a good chance your heart will be racing and your breathing sharp and shallow. Repeating this cycle will start regulating your breathing, which itself will help calm you down. By focusing on counting in your mind to 4 with each step, you are distracting your brain from the panic.
I find this brilliant and is probably my fave tip because you can do it eyes open or closed, anywhere at all, even in class! A lot of the time when I go to bed is when my mind will start racing, negative or anxious thoughts, the myriad of things I need to do, can I remember the pin number from my first ever bank card – you know, all the “important” things that keep you awake! I find this technique brilliant for relaxing me right to sleep. Give it a try! You can also use it in conjunction with some of the other techniques outlined below. It’s a GREAT starting point for calming down, OR just giving yourself a few minutes of time out from a hectic world.
5…4…3…2…1… Panic be Gone
This technique is definitely one you can do in any place at any time. It’s called a grounding technique and helps refocus your mind, bring you back to the present away from the negative feelings.
- Look for and say (in your head or out loud if its possible) 5 things you can see. (Anything, your bed, your hand, a poster, a person etc.).
- Look for (and touch) 4 things you can physically touch. (Again this can be anything, a friends hand, your hair, your bed cover etc.).
- Look for and say (in your head or out loud if its possible) 3 things you can hear. (What noises are around you? Traffic, people passing, your belly rumbling?).
- Look for (and smell)2 things you can smell (If you need to walk to find something and can, do. Could be anything, soap in the bathroom, coffee brewing, a pencil etc.)
- Find 1 thing you can taste (This could be your own mouth, do you taste your lunch? Or a piece of chewing gum or a sweet).
You could do this 5-1 technique in the comfort of your own bedroom or on a crowded place if you felt panic setting in. Try to start by calming your breathing, using the 16 second meditation outlined above could work really well for that. Remember that old safe cross code, (1 kook for a safe place, 2 don’t hurry stop and wait) ? Well why not memorise this and make it your minds safe cross code.
Tense and Release ….
Do you realise how much tension you physically carry with you? Not all tension is from anxiety, some comes from bad habits such as poor posture or physically lifting and carrying things, but A LOT can be from anxiety and metaphorically holding on to things we should release. This technique is good for that! (I am going to talk through FULL technique but you can do aspects of it depending on how much you feel comfortable doing based on where you are at a given time!)
Get yourself in a comfortable position, ideal position is feet flat on the floor, sitting straight in a chair, but work with what you have!
Start by scrunching up your toes, tighten them right up. Then tighten up your feet into your ankles. Further tighten up the bottom of your legs and continue tightening and tensing up your muscles right up through your stomach and into your neck and shoulders, down through your arms and into your hands. Finish by scrunching up your face. Hold the tension positions for 1-2 minutes then begin releasing from toe to top, exhaling as you release, and noting the physical feeling of release it brings!
You can make variations on this to suit you and your environment, you can start from top to toe, you can do as many tenses as comfortable with, you can just do shoulders / fists if in a public space etc.
**PLEASE do not tense areas where you have a pre-existing or ongoing injury as you could do further damage**
Count and Sing till no Anxiety Within!
This is one of the easiest and most fun to do but may not be suitable for all environments. For example I don’t think my psychology lecturer would have appreciated me bursting into a chorus of “All that jazz” amid a lesson on attachment theory!
Basically, singing a song, the sillier the better is a rule of thumb on this, but anything goes. (Oh and I can’t actually sing but that doesn’t matter!) If you can sing out loud and are in an environment where its OK to be loud, THE LOUDER THE BETTER, but, it can be effective to sing it in your head also. Don’t wait till you have a panic / anxiety attack to find a song, have a think now and lock it in the brain vault for future reference!
IF you are in an environment where singing is not going to work, or you can’t think of a song, counting can be extremely effective also. (I know right, so simple who’d of thunk it!). Strangely enough, counting backwards can be even more effective than forwards. Why not combine the two and sing 99 green bottles hanging on the wall! (Sorry that’s in your head now)
My Tried & Tested Technique
The other techniques I have given came to me through a genuine counselor for anxiety. The one I am giving you now is my very own, I have shared it with friends who suffer with anxiety / panic attacks / not being able to sleep and they also benefited from it so I said I’d throw it in as a wee bonus!
Lists and Planning
If i am having trouble sleeping I find that making a list of things I’ll do for a special occasion (doesn’t have to be real either could be in an ideal world). So for example I might plan my birthday, my dream wedding, a charity fundraiser, etc. What I could do to make it amazing, listing things in my head, from food and drinks to entertainment and all in between. You could plan a room makeover, a computer or device clean up with folders for everything, WHATEVER. Its the activity of planning and listing that works.
You might notice a common theme between the 5 ideas and my own… They’re all brain distractions. The brain, as fascinating and complex as it is, generally, struggles to focus on multiple things at once. Hence, if you are feeling anxious, the brain is focused on that, but by distracting it with other things, it can’t focus as much on the anxiety. Think if your brain like a computer or a phone, sure you can have lots of things open, but note how the more you have going at once the slower it starts to be. So for your brain computer if you distract it enough for long enough you can send that impending anxiety file to the recycle bin without downloading it first.
Have you any top tips for combating anxiety? Feel free to leave them in the comments below. Please share this with any friends you think might benefit from it.