These days anxiety is on the rise, thanks in large part to the increase of using numbing out, or disconnecting, to deal with strong emotions. It’s become somewhat of an epidemic, perhaps due to the now widespread use of screens and smartphones, for people to disconnect from their emotions and numb them out instead of soothing them or working through them. Disconnecting in and of itself is not a negative thing – it’s crucial to be able to disconnect from our emotions if we need to get things done, or if we’re not in a safe place. However, the temptation to stay disconnected is huge with so much to distract us, and this can prevent us from attending to and resolving our feelings, or even taking some time to self-soothe.
By being more intentional about connecting to our bodies and learning self-soothing mechanisms we can help decrease anxiety when it begins to rise in us and feel safer in general when navigating our day-to-day lives.
Here are three simple ways to help soothe and reconnect when anxiety arises.
- The 1-2 breath – During times of higher anxiety, our bodies switch into a kind of a survival mode, where our sympathetic nervous system activates and causes us to breathe more rapidly, seeking to increase the oxygen in our bodies and make us “ready for anything,” so to speak. This is an exhausting state to remain in, and can leave us tired and irritable by the end of the day. In this state, often unbeknownst to us, our breathing patterns become more rapid and shallow, and the focus is on the oxygen-inducing inhale, rather than the carbon dioxide-releasing exhale. By paying attention to one’s breathing and focusing on establishing a pattern of shorter, expansive inhales, and longer, slower exhales, the body is invited into a state of relaxation and safety, and it naturally calms and regulates. This can be achieved by breathing into a count of “one Mississippi”, and out to a count of “one Mississippi, two Mississippi”. This is best done in a quiet, calm environment, and placing one hand over the heart and one hand on the stomach during this breath can help facilitate the connection, and help the body focus on slowing down and calming.
- Grounding/Rooting down – When anxiety is quickly rising in our bodies it can be quite an intense experience, one that can even feel like an out-of-body experience, which is a very helpless feeling. Anxiety intensity is usually dominant in the upper parts of the body – churning stomach, pounding heart, racing head, sweaty palms, etc. In order to soothe this, it can be helpful to focus yourself on rooting down, moving yourself to a safe space if possible and focus on the lower, calmer parts of the body, the feet, the legs, the bottom or lower back – any place that is connected to something still and stable, like the floor or a chair. Breathing and getting heavy and focusing on those safe connecting points, even imagining one’s feet as tree trunks, rooting strongly into the ground, can help the body quickly cool down from the rapidly rising anxiety and help it to feel safer, more connected and stable.
- Sensory tools – another thing that can help ground the body during rising anxiety is to have available a few sensory items that are relaxing and soothing. For those who find tactile items and the sense of touch soothing, keeping a piece of soft blanket or cotton balls, or even sandpaper handy can help – something to hold and focus on in the midst of rising anxiety. For those who find scent soothing – like something reminiscent of a mother’s perfume or a favourite baked item, they can keep a bottle of lotion, perfume, or essential oils handy for calming.
Likewise for those who find music soothing, having a certain song or meditation ready to play to help them breathe and cool down can be helpful. Even taste can help with soothing – having a piece of gum or a jelly bean of a certain flavour. Creatively seeking out things that help soothe the body and having them at the ready in a little, pocket sized “anxiety survival kit” can be a huge help when anxiety unexpectedly arises.
I hope this has been helpful for you and gives you some tips to help manage your emotions and anxieties. Often it helps to go through these with a professional, and sometimes our emotions and anxieties are beyond what we can manage on our own. If you’d like some help, please let us know, that’s what we’re here for!
If you’d like some help manage your emotions and anxieties, we’d love to help. Please give us a call at 604-283-7827, send us an email through our website, or book an appointment online and one of our counsellors would love to help you out!