On top of naming the exact causes of your anxiety and creating actionable steps toward management and self-compassion, I recommend a couple of “quick and dirty” natural methods for physically soothing the overworked mind.
First, focus on bringing awareness into your own body, especially through internal sensations like your chest rising and falling with your breath. Being mindful about your breathing helps switch off the neural circuitry that anxiety ramps up, leading to an overall feeling of calm. Whether in a quiet room or in the middle of what feels like a burst of panic, try counting your breaths — one slow inhale through the nose, one long exhale through the mouth, then repeat — relaxing into the process and being mindful of each one, and gradually feeling your heart rate slow.
Second, try to keep yourself grounded in the present. Anxiety is, after all, based in an uncertainty around and fear of the future — what might happen next. To help be present, practice physical mindfulness, run your finger from your forehead straight back to the top of your head. Focusing this attention to the midline of the cortex naturally quiets stress about the future and the past, and tends to bring you into circuits on the other side of the brain that support present-moment mindfulness and a sense of well-being.
There’s research that supports the idea that “crossing the midline” has calming benefits — it’s why activities that require careful, precise hand movements, like knitting and crocheting, are often recommended as possible anxiety relief methods. Juggling, throw and catch with opposite hands, use your non preferred hand for drinking coffee. Etc
Third, I recommend turning to physical remembrances of strength — flashing back to your own moxie and grit. Think back to when you held your first crow pose in yoga, or when you carried that window AC unit up four flights of stairs, running a marathon, getting through a tough business or personal challenge or even when you patiently held a friend close who was going through a hard time. By bringing up the somatic memory — the body sense — of being strong and determined, you will remind yourself that if you could get through that, you can get through this, too.
If you’re having trouble quieting your mind on your own, there are a ton of great ADAA-reviewed mental health resources that can help. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Brain.fm offer relief in the form of guided meditations, algorithmically generated playlists, and mindfulness exercises, all free (although most offer subscription options after the first couple of “sessions”).
It also should be noted that not all anxiety can be self-managed — that’s why coaching and mental health professionals exist. If the worrying and sleeplessness feel out of control, or you’re suffering from constant panic attacks — or if you are using alcohol or drugs to cope, or have other mental health concerns — call me, or your primary care doctor to put you in touch with a mental health care professional.
If you are concerned about costs and going to the doctor during a time of social distancing, Rebecca Heilweil noted at Recode that Medicare recently announced it would temporarily expand coverage for providers using telehealth-based services, including mental health counseling, and the government is also making it easier for patients to use apps like FaceTime and Skype to meet with doctors and mental health professionals. Meanwhile, the government is also making it easier to “e-prescribe” certain controlled substances, including those that treat mental health conditions.
“We are all being tested spiritually, emotionally, mentally and financially at this time, and we will get to the other side of it, and we’ll look back and ask ourselves how we conducted ourselves during this time, including how we treated other people. All we can do each day is the best we can do, but we can do the best we can each day.”