10 Ways to Stop Anxiety Fast: Feel Better in Minutes

10 Ways to Stop Anxiety Fast: Feel Better in Minutes

Wondering how to stop anxiety fast?

We’ve all been there. Anxiety. It can creep up before a big presentation, tighten its grip during a difficult conversation, or leave you feeling restless for seemingly no reason. While anxiety is a normal human emotion, sometimes it can become overwhelming.

For many of us, anxiety is an unfortunate part of our everyday reality–not just a fleeting emotion.

But there’s good news. There are proven strategies and techniques you can use to calm yourself down quickly and regain a sense of control.

10 Ways To Stop Anxiety Fast

1. Deep Breathing

If you’ve ever had someone tell you to “just breathe” while you’re feeling anxious, I’ll understand why you want to resist this step!

But there’s nothing “just” about it. Deep breathing really does work and here’s why:

When you’re body goes into anxiety you automatically start taking short, shallow breath (along with your racing heart, sweaty palms, etc.) This is part of your body priming you to run or fight back (Fight or Flight trauma response).

However, most of the time, we don’t actually need to run anywhere. The fight or flight response is simply a leftover response from when humans did have to do those things. In modern life, we rarely do.

One of the best ways to calm down anxiety is to soothe the nervous system. And yes, deep breathing is a great way to do that. Slowing down your breath or just making sure your exhales are longer than your inhales is a way for you to signal to your primitive brain that everything is in fact okay and you are safe.

It takes a few minutes for this to kick in. So no, one deep breath usually isn’t enough to help. But deep breathing (or breathwork in general) really is a great strategy to manage anxiety, in both the short and long-term.

2. The 5 Senses Exercise

Anxiety is typically future-focused: we’re worrying about something in the future, not something in the here and now. (This is part of why it’s so tricky to deal with! Since you can never get “there”, you never feel like you can relax.)

So let’s pull your attention away from a future filled with “what-ifs” by focusing back on the present. Any mindfulness exercise will work but the 5 Senses exercise is quick and easy-to-remember.

Ground yourself in the present moment by engaging your senses. Notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This simple exercise can effectively interrupt anxious thought spirals.

3. Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts

Anxiety feels like a sensation in the body. But many times, that sensation is caused by our own thoughts.

In the moment, it feels like you weren’t in control of this at all. But with a little focus, you can find the core thought, story, or belief that’s driving the anxiety.

“She hated my presentation so now she’s going to fire me.”
“He hates what I’m wearing. I’m so ugly.”

Whenever you feel your anxiety rising, take a step back and identify the thoughts fueling your anxiety.

  • Is this belief or story real? What proof do I have? Focus on the actual facts and separate those from what your mind is telling you.
  • Is this worry reasonable or rational?
  • How likely is it that my worry/concern will actually happen? Or am I catastrophizing/seeing the very worst possibility?

Our unchallenged thoughts are overly dramatic and quite often rule over us–without us even noticing! You might be surprised at how often your worries are unfounded.

To take this work a step further, check out our post how to feel better about anything with CBT.

4. Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is another way to calm your body down fast. This technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout your body and it helps to release physical tension associated with anxiety. Sometimes it’s hard to even realize how tensed up our body is until we do this exercise!

Here’s how:

Tense a muscle group for a few seconds, then completely relax it. Focus on the feeling of relaxation spreading throughout your body. I like to start at the top of my head and work my way down my body, but do whatever feels best for you.

5. Get Cold

Cold therapy has grown an almost cult-like following in recent years. But there’s scientific truth behind the fad. Cold is proven to calm down your nervous system fast.) However, you don’t need fancy equipment like a cold plunge to do it.

A cold shower will work of course. But so will dunking your face in cold water or putting an ice pack on your neck and upper chest. Or improvise! If you’ve got an ice cube handy, try rubbing it on your neck.

Adding a cold bath or shower to your day is a great way to manage anxiety and stress over the long-term! But cold reduce your anxiety, anytime anywhere.

6. Focus On Something Else

The more you focus on the “problem” the worse it can seem. Our brains just love to think of every possible Worst Case Scenario. Of course, that’s overwhelming! In reality, the likely hood of those things happening is probably slim. But even if they did, only one of those scenarios would play out–not all of them.

It can be hard not to focus on the mental train of doom and gloom. But it’s important to not put all your mental energy there! So focus on something else. If you’re at work, go for a short walk or even just to the bathroom for a few minutes. Distract yourself with a quick Youtube video or put on your favorite song and listen to in your headphones with your eyes closed.

Spending even just about five minutes mentally elsewhere can help to create inner calm and a renewed sense of control.

7. Move Your Body

Anxiety is an action-based sensation. It’s all about your body gearing up for Fight or Flight. Simply moving your body can make your nervous system feel like it’s addressing the problem (even when the activity is completely unrelated).

During my last break up, I went on long walks almost every single day. (I mean, like an hour or two long walks!) It really did help to burn off some of that anxiety so that I could at least sleep okay at night.

Even a short burst of movement can release endorphins, improve mood, and reduce stress hormones. Take a brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, or stretch it out. Any physical activity that gets your blood pumping can help.

8. Accept It

Often it’s our fear of anxiety that makes things even worse. We start resisting and condemning our very real human emotions–and that’s never a place to be.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to lean into it–for a few minutes at least. Give your anxiety a name (like Bob). Tell yourself: “Oh Bob is here to try to help me again. But he’s just passing through.” Get curious about it: what’s it here to tell you? To protect you from?

Remind yourself that this feeling is temporary and that you’ve felt this way many times in the past. No one wants to feel anxious. But at the end of the day, it’s just a physical sensation. It’s not going to kill you! Keep reminding yourself of that until you start to believe it.

9. Remind Yourself That You’re Safe

Again, part of the problem with anxiety is that your brain thinks you’re physically in danger and is getting ready to “protect” you. So simply reminding yourself that you are safe can go a long way towards calming your body down.

You can do this by focusing on your breath and/or telling yourself something like “I’m okay. I’m safe. Nothing is wrong.” Shift your focus to what’s happening right here and right now. Look at your phone or computer or the people around you. Notice how nothing is actually scary or dangerous.

Finally, you can finish this off with havening: doing a self-hug and rubbing the back of your arms. This is a wonderful way to self-soothe.

10. Create Your Anxiety Toolbox

Often we go into panic and automatically feel helpless when our anxiety pops up. However, you’ve already learned a bunch of tools here today. It’s important to remember these tools in the moment, so you can create new habits around dealing with your anxiety.

That can be as simple as creating a list of tools to refer to on your Notes app on your phone. It could be pinning or bookmarking this post so you can come back to it in the future. Or you could take it a step farther and created physical “calm kit” with items that help you relax, such as calming essential oils, a favorite stress ball, or a playlist of soothing music. Having these tools readily available can be a lifesaver when anxiety strikes.

Remember, these are just a few tips to get you started. If you find anxiety is significantly impacting your daily life, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can teach you additional coping mechanisms and help you develop a long-term plan for managing anxiety.

You might want to try out BetterHelp for convenient, affordable therapy you can start at home.

So tell me: do you suffer from anxiety? Which one of these tools will you try out first?

By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can learn to manage anxiety effectively and take back control of your emotional well-being.

Jenn Stevens The Self-Worth Project

PS Looking for more? You might also want to find out how to feel better about anything with CBT, or how to regulate your nervous system

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10 Ways to Stop Anxiety Fast: Feel Better in Minutes

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