Surveys report that people are increasingly experiencing feelings of anxiety. Although it is a normal (and useful) feeling, as a warning of danger, it can be quite unpleasant when the danger is not there. In the distant past, when our ancestors had to deal with large wild animals, anxiety was a sign that there could well be a tiger or buffalo just around the corner. Today, however, feelings of anxiety are much less likely to be accompanied by real danger.
Nonetheless, it shows itself in all sorts of distressing symptoms. We can feel an increased heart rate, panicky feelings in the stomach, and panic attacks – a severe sense of unsafeness.
How can we tackle these symptoms? What doesn’t help is worrying about it or ruminating about it – that just makes it worse. We need to feel it first in the body; what is happening there? Then, focus on your breath and study how you are breathing – shallow or deep, quick or slow, and noticing how your breathing is changing.
Then, notice the sensations in your feet. After that, put your hand on your heart - a sign that you are trying to look after yourself. You could also move about “in a purposeful way”: taking some action. Your adrenalin is being produced at a high rate and it needs to come down. These exercises will help this.
In addition, when you are with someone you trust, you can engage your “social engagement system”, calming down with someone who can say to you “you are safe with me”, especially non-verbally. Good eye contact, and calm facial expression, body posture and tone quality in the voice all helps. We catch each others’ internal state. Being anxious on your own feels more unsafe.
Then, what sometimes helps is to remember and think about those you know and trust who are calm. That is another way of reducing anxiety.
Finally, remember not to blame yourself for your state of mind. Try to be kind to yourself! That also helps to shift this state.