Anxiety is a common struggle among many young adults. Between the stresses of school, work, dating, family relationships, thinking about the future, or other similar things it can seem impossible not to be anxious at times. With anxiety being highly treatable, there are many of things that you can do, even at home to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Understanding what is going on with your brain and body when you experience anxiety is an important first step in feeling relief.
When you are feeling anxious it is like your brain is setting off a fire alarm, telling the rest of your body that you are in danger. Even though you are likely not in danger your body, in this moment, reacts as if you were. While this fire alarm is going off in your brain you may experience sweaty hands, tense shoulders or neck, stomach wrenching, throat feeling closed off, chest pain, blood pumping faster, headaches, or tight muscles. It is helpful to realize and become aware of the physical symptoms you experience, as it can be difficult to realize when you are feeling anxious otherwise. Once you are able to recognize some of the symptoms, then you can try a technique to soothe your mind and body.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to relieve anxiety is deep breathing exercises. A great breathing exercise you can try is to simply take a deep breath in for a count of 4, then hold your breath for a count of 7, then breath out for a count of 8. (It is important to keep in mind that each person’s lung capacity is different, so adjust the counts as necessary.) Do as many sets of the breathing as necessary to start feeling calmer, but usually somewhere around 5-7 sets. If you still feel panicked and anxious, continue to do as many sets as you need to feel your body start to slow down.
Taking some deep breaths may seem too simple to actually help, after all anxiety can feel crippling at times. However, deep breathing has been proven over and over again to change your bodies’ physiological response to anxiety. When your body is under these moments of stress and panic, the sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and other chemicals which create all those symptoms mentioned earlier. Taking deep breaths activates the vagus nerve-one of the largest nerves in the body starting in the brain stem and extending down the neck all the way to the abdomen. The vagus nerve is responsible for mood regulation, heart rate, and digestion, so it is no wonder that by breathing and activating the vagus nerve it can make such a big difference in the way our bodies and minds feel.
The next time you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with life’s many tasks and stressors, take a moment, wherever you are, and take some deep breaths to invite your body and mind to relax and come back to the present moment. Although anxiety may feel overwhelming and like you are stuck, remember there is always a way out.
This article was written by Hannah Grow, MFT Intern for the Center for Couples and Families.
Hannah is currently taking new clients at our Orem location.
To schedule an appointment, call us at 801 477 0041.