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  • Ela Senghera

Find Your Calm: Techniques to Soothe Anxiety for Busy Adults

While a certain amount of stress can motivate us, chronic anxiety eventually takes a major toll on our mental and physical health. If you frequently feel overwhelmed, worried, or keyed up, this is for you. I'll share simple yet powerful strategies to find moments of calm amid the chaos.

Let's start by understanding what anxiety actually is. 

Anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. It's the body's natural response to stressful or dangerous situations. However, when the anxiety response keeps firing, even without actual threats present, that's when it becomes a problem. For many busy adults, anxiety stems from taking on too much, being overworked, or worrying excessively about the future. We get stuck in cycles of negative "what if" thinking that just ramps up the anxiety more. The good news is that we can interrupt these cycles and reprogram our anxious minds and bodies.

Let me share 3 simple tips on how you can start soothing your anxiety:

Breathing Techniques:

One of the quickest ways to relieve anxiety is through breathing exercises that activate the relaxation response. When we're anxious, our breathing tends to become rapid and shallow from the chest. Doing a few rounds of deep abdominal breathing can really help soothe the mind and body.

  • Here's an exercise to try: Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4, allowing your belly to expand. Then exhale fully through slightly pursed lips to a count of 6, drawing your belly button back towards your spine. Repeat this 4-6 times, focusing just on the breath. You should start to feel calmer both mentally and physically.

Mindfulness Moments:

In our crammed schedules, it's easy to get caught up worrying about the future or regretting the past. Anxiety is fundamentally a fear about something that hasn't happened yet. Practising mindfulness - bringing your attention fully to the present moment - is a skill that weakens anxiety over time.

  • Try this 2-minute mindfulness exercise whenever you start to feel anxious: Notice 5 things you can see around you, then 4 things you can feel (the chair underneath you, your feet on the floor), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and finally 1 thing you can taste (maybe the lingering taste of your morning coffee). This trains your mind to stay focused on concrete details of the here and now, rather than getting hijacked by anxious thoughts about an imagined future threat.

Cognitive Restructuring: 

Much of anxiety involves irrational, negatively distorted ways of thinking. Cognitive restructuring is a technique to identify and reframe unhelpful thought patterns. The first step is to get in the habit of noticing your anxious thoughts. Here are a few examples:

  1. You might be catastrophising about an upcoming work presentation with thoughts like "I'm going to bomb this and get fired." Reframe it more rationally: "Public speaking makes me nervous, but I've prepared thoroughly and gotten through this before without catastrophe."

  2. Maybe your anxious mind might be making assumptions about a relationship: "My partner is working late again... they're probably going to leave me." Pause and look at the actual evidence instead of letting your mind jump to conclusions. Maybe tell yourself: "My partner is dedicated to their work, but that doesn't mean they don't love and care about me."

  3. You could be thinking about an unlikely worst-case scenario: "I'll never meet the right person and end up all alone." Counter that with: "I don't have evidence that will happen. I'm still young with plenty of time, and many find partners later in life."

By challenging cognitive distortions, you develop a more balanced perspective. It's difficult at first but gets easier with practice to reframe anxious thoughts and build a healthy mindset.

In this fast-paced world, anxiety has almost become the norm. But we don't have to just accept it as an inevitable part of modern life. By building a toolkit of simple techniques like breath work, mindfulness, and cognitive restructuring, we can find pockets of calm even on our most hectic, stressful days. Remember, overcoming anxiety is a practice and a process - be patient yet persistent with yourself. With regular application of the strategies we covered today, you'll be well on your way to a calmer, more resilient mindset.

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