“Now is the age of anxiety,” wrote Depression-era poet W. H. Auden, but now could easily be the age of anxiety too. To be human is to be anxious; anxiety is a natural, fight-or-flight instinct intended to keep us alive, but it can also make life unbearable.
Mental Health America reports that a quarter of the adult population in America suffers from one of the six main anxiety disorders. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 7 percent of children and teenagers aged 3-17 years old have been diagnosed with anxiety—that's over 4 million kids!
For those who struggle with anxiety, every day is an exhausting charade of pretending to be okay, an onslaught of racing thoughts and negative self-talk.
While nearly 42 million adults struggle with a diagnosed disorder every year, millions more experience the symptoms without a diagnosis. How do we find ease in the age of anxiety? How do we find peace during a panic attack? (Hint: emotional intelligence can help. See our post "What Is Emotional Intelligence?" to help you understand what EQ is.)
First things first, are you experiencing anxiety? (this is where EQ is incredibly helpful.)
Common anxiety symptoms:
Body - chest pain, racing heart, shortness of breath, stomach discomfort, sweating
Mind - racing thoughts, worry, nightmares, irritability
Behavior - avoidance, fear of social situations, feeling jumpy, inability to focus, compulsive rituals, nervous ticks
If you answered yes above, or want to help a teen with anxiety, here are helpful ways to enhance mental health. Learn natural remedies to bring more calmness to your daily life.
Handle Anxiety More Effectively with Seven Different Ways1. Breathing Techniques.
Conscious breathing gives your mind something to focus on and increases the oxygen in your brain, which is vital for neural activity and hormone regulation. Deeper breaths also cue the brain that you’re not actually in survival mode since we most often breathe shallow and fast when upset. Try a mindful breath technique like square breathing, bumble bee breath or belly breathing.
Square Breathing is inhaling for 4 counts, holding full for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, holding empty for 4 counts, then inhaling again. Repeat this cycle, slowly increasing the count as your breaths lengthen.
Bumble Bee Breath is closing your eyes and plugging your ears and quietly humming (or making a soft “shhh” sound) on every exhale. This technique creates a sort of white noise bubble inside your own head, a safe space.
Belly Breathing is a three-part inhale and exhale. Inflate your belly area first, then into your ribcage, then the top of your chest. Exhale by deflating your belly first, then your ribcage, then your chest.2. Grounding.
Focusing on concrete details requires you to be present. Slow your racing thoughts and simplify frantic situations by Grounding. Name five things you see, four things you are touching, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. Another way is to name one thing you see, hear and feel; then two things you see, hear and feel; then three things, etc. Continue for as long as you need.
3. Physical activity.
As with breathing and grounding, doing a physical activity helps your mind focus on the present and increases oxygen flow to your brain and vital organs. Take a walk or run; practice yoga; garden or mow; kayak or find an online fitness routine; even wash the dishes. If you’re in public, try clenching and releasing your fists, slowly lifting and lowering your heels, or slowly pressing your thumb into each one of your fingers.
4. Occupy yourself with a project.
Anxiety often feels like an inescapable loop, but you can break the cycle by transitioning to a new activity. Preempt anxious situations by keeping a list of go-to activities. If journaling, updating your social media, home projects or cooking don’t appeal to you, adult coloring books and zentangles are a popular new strategy. Most times, this technique is free or inexpensive, productive and satisfying as well as distracting.
5. Transport yourself mentally.
A completely free coping technique you can do anywhere is visualization. Imagine a time when you’ve felt confident, safe or calm. Envision the details as concretely as you can: the sounds, tastes, smells and feels of that moment. Submerge yourself in it.
6. Use physical sensations.
Refocusing your mind on the physical can diffuse racing thoughts. Anxiety builds in the frontal lobes of your brain, the headquarters of analytical thought. You can slow racing, looping thoughts by transferring focus to the “feeling brain,” the region by your spinal column where sensory input is received. Take a warm bath or shower; hold an ice cube; tap on pressure points like your sternum. Even fake laugh—the sensation of a laugh in your belly and chest combats anxiety symptoms, and even a fake smile sends “happy” neuro-transmitters into your brain.
For another natural remedy, clinical studies indicate that Turmeric root powder, which originates from the Curcuma longa plant, may help to help reduce anxiety. Check it out!
7. Try high-tech.
Technology might give us all a little anxiety, but now there’s an app for that, too. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has an extensive list of mobile apps for tracking and combatting anxiety. Some provide breathing exercises, techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and help identifying symptoms. Even Apple watches come with a built-in breathing app now. High-tech tools are not a substitute for treatment and support when it comes to an actual anxiety disorder, but they are a supplement for treatment on-the-go and a helpful tool for anyone practicing mindfulness.
The power and prevalence of anxiety disorders may be daunting, but the range of coping techniques is just as impressive. For the one-in-four American adults diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and countless more struggling undiagnosed, relief might seem unattainable. What works in one situation might not in another. What gives a young person solace might not work as he or she ages. But there is hope. Rather than seeking a cure-all, mix and match these 7 healthy coping techniques to find the right fit for your situation. For every surge of panic, there are many manageable, practical ways to effectively minimize that anxiety.
If you've asked yourself lately, "Why am I emotional?" or "How do I deal with anxiety?" dig in and try one or more of our strategies above that are simple yet effective. And remember that change takes consistency and focus to make new habits stick.
For support or to learn more ways how to stop worrying, cultivate emotional well being, and how to find inner peace, check out our coaching programs and classes. And if you're interested in understanding your emotions or learning emotional intelligence, check out our online course.