When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

Calming the Nervous System and Managing Anxiety

Staying calm during chaotic and uncertain times might seem paradoxical, even impossible. Constant exposure to disturbing news is understandable to make you feel anxious, worried, and even helpless. Fearful thoughts trigger the brain’s threat response system. The amygdala, a part of the midbrain, sends signals that mobilize the body for protection, preparing you to fight or flee. When this response isn’t channeled into action, it manifests as anxiety. Physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, nervous energy, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating. Sleep disruptions and panic attacks can also occur. For those with a history of trauma, current anxieties can trigger flashbacks and nightmares, further intensifying the feeling of insecurity and anxiousness.

Feeling overwhelmed by the news? Consider taking control of your media diet to create more calmness. Limiting your daily news intake to 30 minutes, checking it every other day, or even taking a break for several days can be incredibly beneficial. A media fast can be a powerful tool to reset your mind and reduce anxiety.

Life goes on, and even during anxious times, staying productive can be empowering. While anxiety can cloud your focus and problem-solving abilities, there are ways to manage it. Focus on what you can control – set small, achievable goals and celebrate your progress. This will build confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Instead of reaching for unhealthy coping mechanisms, explore healthier alternatives. Recognize that comfort foods might offer a temporary reprieve, but they often worsen anxiety in the long run. Consider healthier options like fruits, nuts, or herbal tea. Exercise is a fantastic way to relieve anxiety and boost energy levels. Even a short walk can make a big difference.

Do you have healthy coping mechanisms you already enjoy? Maybe reading, listening to calming music, or spending time in nature helps you unwind? Focus on incorporating these activities into your routine.

Harness these eight powerful strategies to stay grounded and soothe your nervous system.

1. Nourish Your Body

Focus on whole, unprocessed foods for sustained energy. Include sufficient protein to support neurotransmitter production and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to provide essential vitamins and minerals. Consider incorporating stress-supportive nutrients like B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, or even a high-quality multivitamin. Consult your doctor before starting any new supplements.

2. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can disrupt various bodily functions, including sleep, focus, and mood. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to flush toxins, improve cognitive function, and support overall well-being.

3. Engage Your Senses for Grounding

Feeling overwhelmed? Engage your senses to come back to the present moment. Smell a calming essential oil, hold a smooth stone, or feel the soft texture of a blanket. Grounding techniques like these can be powerful. Notice the sensations in your feet by pressing them firmly on the floor. Look around your environment slowly, taking in the sights. Listen attentively to the sounds around you – birds chirping, traffic, or maybe calming music. Even taste can be grounding – try savoring a bite of food or letting a mint melt in your mouth. These simple acts can significantly improve your sense of presence and reduce anxiety.

4. Embrace Positive Distractions

When anxiety strikes, refocus your mind with an engaging activity. Take a few moments for a simple counting exercise – count to five forward and backward, using your fingers on each hand for a little extra focus. If you have more time, consider a more immersive activity you enjoy. Singing, drawing, tackling a puzzle, or even cleaning or gardening can be great ways to get absorbed and reduce anxiety. Physical activity is also a powerful tool – go for a walk, dance it out, or try a new recipe. The key is to find something that holds your attention and allows you to unwind.

5. Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing exercises are a powerful tool for calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety. Try this simple technique: inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of four, feeling your belly rise. Hold your breath for a second (optional), then exhale slowly through pursed lips for a count of six. Repeat this for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out. This “cleansing breath” can help release tension and promote a sense of calm.

Cultivate Your Inner Sanctuary while Managing Anxiety

6. Cultivate Your Inner Sanctuary

Create a mental refuge to escape anxious thoughts. Imagine a peaceful place – a calming song, a cherished memory, a serene vacation spot, anything that evokes relaxation. Surround yourself with visual reminders too – nature photographs, positive affirmations, or comforting objects. For a deeper experience, practice mindful awareness. Focus on the present moment, acknowledging your breath and the sensations around you. This simple act of “this breath, this moment” can be incredibly grounding.

7. Connect with Others

Social connection is a powerful antidote to anxiety. Sharing your feelings with supportive friends, family, or even a therapist can be incredibly calming. Humans are social creatures, and interacting with loved ones or joining a community of like-minded people can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of trust, bonding, and relaxation. Remember, you’re not alone in this. Reach out and connect – it can make a big difference.

8. Find Strength in Helping Others

Feeling overwhelmed by anxiety can sometimes lead to feelings of helplessness. One powerful way to combat this is to help someone in need. Volunteer your time locally, donate to a cause you care about, or simply perform an act of kindness for someone close to you. Helping others not only benefits them, but it can also boost your mood and self-worth. The act of giving back can be incredibly rewarding and contribute to a greater sense of purpose.

Remember, if these strategies feel overwhelming at first, that’s okay. Start with something simple, like focusing on your breath. Even a few deep breaths can bring a sense of calm.

Do you have healthy coping mechanisms you already enjoy? Maybe reading, listening to calming music, or spending time in nature helps you unwind? Focus on incorporating these activities into your routine.

By Deepak Santhiraj, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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