Do you know what to do when you suddenly have an anxiety attack? Here are a few hacks to help you manage your worry, keep calm, and carry on…
Anxiety and stress levels have risen particularly since the pandemic. According to an Institute of Mental Health study in 2020, 9.4% of the surveyed population met the criteria for anxiety. Meanwhile, 9.3% met the criteria for mild to severe stress.
It’s normal to feel anxious when you’re in a stressful situation, such as going for your job performance review or taking a critical examination. But what happens when the feeling gets out of control? Activities like exercise, meditation, and therapy can help reduce anxiety, but what can you do if you’re trying to keep it together at that moment? Here are some handy tips and tricks for managing your stress…
Keep calm and carry on: 9 hacks to relieve your anxiety
1. Ice, ice, baby
This fast-acting anxiety reliever is said to help slow down racing thoughts. All you need is some ice, which you can either hold in your hands or wrap in a towel and put on your wrists. It’s said that the nerve endings that control the parts of your brain responsible for anxious thoughts end at the wrists. Walk around the house, listen to calming music, or talk to a family member or friend while doing this.
If you’re feeling braver, you can submerge your face in ice water for around 10 to 15 seconds. This distracts you from feeling panic; instead, the exercise triggers a pain-like response in your brain that forces you to refocus on your body and surroundings.
2. Throw a salt party on your tongue
Mary Poppins once said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” But it seems some salt helps with relieving anxiety! According to this widely-shared TikTok hack, you should put salt on your tongue as soon as you experience an anxiety attack. This diverts your attention and forces you to drink water. Why? Because your focus will be on the taste!
However, do this too often, and you’ll end up feeling nauseous, having shortness of breath, or even bouts of coughing. This is a quick hack, but it can trigger discomfort.
3. Oranges are ap-peel-ling
If you’re a fan of oranges, then bookmark this hack. According to aromatherapy research, citrus smell has a calming effect on the body. Plus, giving your hands something to do – in this case, peeling an orange – relieves feelings of anxiety and stress. This hack accomplishes two things: scent from the orange, and the peeling activity. Let’s not forget the Vitamin C you’ll put in your body afterwards!
4. Inhale that essential oil
Speaking of aromatherapy, essential oils are a hack that’s anecdotally proven to alleviate anxiety and stress. Peppermint and lavender are the two recommended scents, given their naturally refreshing properties.
Research has shown that lavender aromatherapy calms anxiety by impacting the limbic system, AKA the part of the brain that controls emotions. Psst, lavender oil can also help with conditions such as eczema and acne. In another study involving peppermint essential oil, anxiety symptoms in colonoscopy patients lessened after 10 minutes of inhalation.
If you’re planning to do this hack, all you need to do is apply a few drops of your preferred essential oil to a cotton ball and inhale the aroma.
5. Load up on nuts and bananas
Who would’ve thought nuts – specifically cashew – and bananas could help relieve anxiety? Not us! Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and tryptophan are said to have a calming effect on the body. The fatty acids and tryptophan activate the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that calms the nervous system. Cashews are one such food. For those with a nut allergy, this anxiety hack obviously won’t work. So here’s an alternative…
Bananas! This fruit has all the natural goodness that helps reduce anxiety and stress levels – potassium, tryptophan, magnesium, and Vitamin B. Studies have shown that eating two bananas can help with the case of nerves that you’re going through. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? More like two bananas!
6. Relax your tongue to keep calm
Here’s another anxiety hack that’s been popularised on TikTok. A user recommends removing your tongue from the roof of your mouth and holding it still. This act stops internal dialogue and calms your mind. According to a psychiatrist, doing this causes your brain to redirect its focus from the amygdala (the fear centre) to the motor cortex. Try it the next time you experience anxiety, and let us know if it works for you.
7. Clench your fists
One grounding technique you can use to alleviate anxiety is clenching your fists. Take a deep breath, channel all the nervous energy to your hands, and squeeze them as hard as possible. Slowly let go and stretch your fingers outwards. Repeat this step several times and focus on releasing the tension from your body.
Fun fact: clenching your right hand activates the left side of your brain, AKA the verbal and logical part. When you feel anxious, activate your left brain – it’ll help you think through the situation logically.
8. Walk, walk, anxious baby
Exercise is great for alleviating anxiety. But who has the time to get physical when one is feeling anxious? In fact, some folks find that exercising makes them feel worse! Walking may not stop the anxious thoughts, but it does help you to cope with your anxiety better. So go for a quick walk – the more immediate you get moving, the better.
Why does it work? Firstly, it’s because you’re moving around. If you noticed, it’s hard to stay still when you’re anxious and stressed out. Next, walking forces you to take slow, steady breaths. And, of course, exercise – including walking – releases endorphins that improve your mood.
9. Five senses, here we go
This is the most common anxiety hack, and it bears sharing. When you notice that you’re feeling anxious, take a step back and focus on the following:
- Five things that you can see
- Four things that you can feel
- Three things that you can hear
- Two things that you can smell
- One thing that you can taste
This ground technique is also known as the “5-4-3-2-1” as it calls upon all your senses to bring you back to the present. Doing the above slows your heart rate and redirects your attention from anxious thoughts.
Seek help from a professional
While these anxiety hacks may be useful to help you in the moment, they don’t address the cause or make your anxiety go away. The hacks serve as stop-gap measures that help calm your symptoms. If you’re experiencing debilitating anxiety, it’s best to consult a mental health professional so that you can cope and tackle the problem.
There’s help out there. Remember – you are not alone.