Do you ever feel suddenly overwhelmed by things you need to do, or get that anxious feeling where you just can’t focus on anything?
You’re not alone.
As a physician, being able to think and function under stressful situations is essential. But regardless of profession, life–whether it is work, school, or family–has a way of overwhelming us. Or perhaps you are just one of the millions of people who are prone to experiencing anxiety symptoms on a regular basis. Regardless of the cause, the physiology behind this feeling is the same: a combination of neurotransmitters and hormones that signals your body to produce the sympathetic “fight or flight response”–the racing heart rate, quickened shallow breathing, increase in blood pressure, and the overall feeling of not being in control.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to teach you four scientifically proven, easy-to-do techniques that you can do anywhere that will help your body and mind “reverse” this physiologic response, getting you back into a state of calm where you can actually focus on the task at hand.
Keep in mind that while each technique is useful by itself, they are more effective when done together. When performed properly, you should feel its calming effects almost instantaneously.
So the next time you are feeling anxious or stressed, try these:
- Breathe in a 5-5-5 pattern
- With your eyes closed, slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold it in for 5 seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth for 5 seconds. Do this for at least 1 minute. This technique not only allows more oxygen to be delivered to your brain, allowing your head to clear, but it sends a message to your body to start relaxing.
- Relax your muscles with a progressive method
- In a sitting or lying position, start at your feet, tensing your muscles by pointing your toes for 3 seconds, then fully relax them. Do this systematically, working your way up, from your legs up to your abdomen, your hands then your arms, and end by clenching and relaxing your jaw and cheek muscles. You should feel instantly relaxed. It can also be done in reverse, starting with the head. This is an extremely effective technique when done properly and is particularly useful for those with anxiety issues.
- Focus on the present with the 5-4-3-2-1 technique
- Look around you and mentally identify 5 specific things that you see, then find 5 things that you hear. Then go back and name 4 things that you see (can be the same things), and 4 things that you hear, and so on, until you reach 1. This forces you to be in the moment and will help you gather your thoughts.
- Repeat a mantra
- While taking slow deep breaths, slowly repeat (out loud or silently) a positive phrase such as, “I am at peace” or “All is well” in sync with your breaths. This is a technique often used in meditation that not only is effective in calming your mind but can also help with positive thinking.
Remember, if it doesn’t seem to work the first time you try it, don’t give up. Just as it is with any technique–practice makes perfect.
So now that you are equipped with some powerful relaxation tools, go forth and conquer the day with confidence…for a new, de-stressed life awaits you.