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Feeling Anxious? Practice These 6 Techniques to Cope in 5 Minutes or Less

By Tatenda

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Last Updated: October 19, 2022

Most of us have experienced anxiety at least once. 

That could have been before waking up to talk to someone, an interview or a presentation. Sometimes just thinking of your responsibilities and to-do list can trigger anxiety. 

Sadly, in most cases, the more anxious we are, the worse we perform. Dealing with anxiety can be frustrating as sometimes it feels like you do not have control over your thoughts. 

That is why it is important for us to master techniques to deal with anxiety both immediately and in the long term. 

 

 

6 Ways to Cope With Stress in Less Than Five Minutes

1. Breathe.

When we are anxious, our heart rate increases, and in some cases, we even start sweating a bit.

The increased heart rate can be slowed down by taking deep breaths. Whenever I am anxious, this is the first thing I do, and it makes all the other techniques even more effective. 

  • Stop what you are doing for a minute and put your hand below your ribs.
  • Take a deep breath through the nose and notice the hand rise as you fill up your lungs with air.
  • Then exhale through the mouth.
  • Continue doing so until your heart rate slows down. 

If you have a smartwatch that has a breathing exercise feature, use it. 

 

2. Improve your posture.

Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author, explained that when we are anxious, we tend to protect our upper body by hunching over.

As anxiety is a response to a perceived threat, our bodies naturally get into a posture that enhances our protection. Hunching over protects essential organs such as the heart and lungs, which are essential for survival. 

So whenever you are anxious, improve your posture.

  • Stand up tall or sit upright with your shoulders back and open your chest.
  • In this posture, breathe deeply.
  • Your body will realize that it is not under any threat, and this will help reduce anxiety. 

 

3. Do the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.

This grounding technique will remind you to focus on the present and not the possibility of things going wrong (which causes anxiety).

Once you have slowed down your breathing by doing the breathing exercise above, you can proceed to this technique that activates your five senses. 

  1. Look around you and say out loud the five things you see. In my case, I would say, “ I see a computer screen, I see a bookshelf, I see cute sticky notes… etc.” You get the idea, right? 
  2. Say out loud four things that you physically feel. In my case, I feel the fluffy carpet under my feet, I feel the soft pillow behind my back…etc. 
  3. Listen and say out loud three things you hear. If you are like me, one of the things on your list would be, “I hear my tummy rumbling” 
  4. Pay attention and say out loud the two things you smell. My nose is stuffy, but I can still smell the Vicks VapoRub that I smothered on my nose. 
  5. Say out loud one thing you can taste. This could be something you just ate or are eating. In my case, I can taste the cheap coffee I am drinking. 

 

4. Use your imagination.

When anxious, it is because we are convinced something wrong or bad will happen.

Rather than focusing on those bad things, use your imagination to think of the things that make you happy. 

Use your imagination and see yourself where you want to be, doing the things that make you happy with the people you love. It could be thinking about yourself at a dog park petting dogs, at the Maldives sipping cocktails, or as the CEO of your dream company.

The beauty of imagination is the fact that it is unlimited. 

Imagining your ideal scenario will allow you to focus on something that makes you happy, thereby distracting you from what will be making you anxious. 

 

5. Write it down.

In the heat of the moment, write down the thoughts you will be having.

Sometimes you get so many racing thoughts, and writing them down allows you to reduce the chaos. 

  • Once they are all on paper, go through each and every one critically.
  • Analyze them and see if they are logical thoughts that should be causing you to worry.

For instance, you were late for a work meeting, and you're convinced that you will get fired. After writing this down, you will then look at it and wonder if that is proper grounds for you to get fired. This will allow you to think about a colleague who is always late to meetings but never received even a warning. 

Being logical about your thoughts will help reduce anxiety.

 

6. Chew gum.

Guess what!?

One study found that people that chew gum (both at work and outside) are less stressed than those that don't. When you are stressed, consider chewing some gum vigorously for at least three minutes. 

That means in addition to just enjoying the gum, you also work towards improving anxiety. 

 

 

You Can Beat Anxiety

Anxiety can feel like the world is falling on you and despite everything you've done in the past, you're unable to do more.

Thankfully these tips can help you instantly feel better.

Occasionally taking breaks and breathing in the middle of a busy day will help you stay grounded. 

Feeling anxious is not the end of the world; it is a feeling that we all experience at some point. The trick is in understanding how we can manage this emotion.

Photo by Teona Swift

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