12 Quick Anxiety Hacks for an Instant Reset
When anxiety strikes and skyrockets, chances are you’d enjoy instant relief from your anxiety symptoms. While unfortunately there is no quick fix for anxiety that will make it magically disappear from your life forever, there are things you can do to immediately help your soothe your mind, brain, and body. When you catch yourself caught in high anxiety, try one or more of these 12 anxiety hacks to reset and center yourself so you can deal with the stressors you’re facing.
What These Anxiety Hacks Do and How They Work
These anxiety hacks effectively calm your system so you can thoughtfully respond to your situation. They’re designed to quickly switch you from fight-flight-or-freeze mode to rest-and-digest mode by turning off your sympathetic nervous system and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. They quiet your anxious thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations just enough so you can function clearly and thoughtfully. These hacks aren’t long-term solutions that get to the root of your anxiety, nor do they eliminate the immediate stressor that’s making you anxious. Instead, they put you in a position so you can do that yourself.
When we’re stressed, worried, ruminating, or afraid, our entire system gets involved in the anxiety. Every part of our being reacts, and we can feel a host of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. That’s because we aren’t separate parts and pieces but are one, flowing unit. Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi use the term « bodymind » for our being because, they assert, « mind-body connection » is inadequate to describe how the mind (our thoughts and emotions), physical brain, and body are really one cohesive whole1,2. To effectively reduce anxiety, it’s important to soothe ourselves as a whole rather than just one part.
The following anxiety hacks do just that–they help you calm your entire being to oust anxiety from all of its hiding places throughout your bodymind. Then, you can respond to the problem you’re facing from a position of steadiness.
12 Anxiety Hacks to Gain Calm and Move Forward
Engage in one or more of these quick activities whenever you are caught in anxiety. As you begin to catch your anxiety and use these regularly, you may find that they work even more quickly. Also, begin to tune into the signals your bodymind sends you so you notice subtle changes that indicate rising anxiety. That way, you can stop it before it explodes and is harder to tame.
To make these anxiety-reducing tools even more effective, do them mindfully. That involves giving them your full attention while you are doing them, purposefully shifting your thoughts away from stressful stuff and onto your activity in the moment. This alone helps calm the bodymind.
- Breathe. As soon as you notice anxiety building, pause and take several slow, deep breaths.
- Stretch. Move your muscles gently to release tension, facilitate energy- and blood flow, and increase flexibility (physical and psychological flexibility are interconnected).
- Eat a healthy snack. Depleted nutrients can contribute to anxiety, so replenish your system with quick bites to calm anxiety.
- Change your location. Sometimes, just stepping away from an anxiety provoking situation can break you out of an emotional reaction and help yourself switch gears.
- Listen to an inspiring song. Listen to peppy or calming music, and get your whole body involved by doodling or dancing to the rhythm.
- Use scents. Aromatherapy can affect the bodymind in powerful ways. Place a few drops of lavender or chamomile on a cotton ball and slowly and deeply breathe in the scent.
- Take a short gratitude walk. Move about indoors or step outside for a few minutes and walk around. As you move, play a version of « I Spy » in which you look for, name, and appreciate little things you’re grateful for.
- Do the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness activity. Wherever you are (or change your location), engage your senses and pull yourself out of your anxious thoughts and into the present moment by identifying five things you see, four things you hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and (if appropriate) one thing you can taste.
- Meditate. While you might not be able to step away for minutes at a time and sit in meditation in a quiet room, even going to a semi-quiet place, closing your eyes, and paying attention to your breathing for a few moments counts as meditation.
- Drink water. Dehydration wreaks havoc on our entire bodymind. Often, nurturing ourselves with a glass of water can give us an anxiety-reducing boost.
- Repeat a mantra. When you’re not anxious, select a word or phrase that is personally meaningful and inspirational. Repeat it to yourself whenever you find anxious thoughts and emotions taking over.
- Use progressive muscle relaxation. Wherever you are and even if you’re not lying down, tune into yourself, release tension, and focus your thoughts by engaging in this anxiety-relieving activity. Focus on your toes, curling them, holding, and gently releasing. Notice how they feel as you do this. Muscle group by muscle group, move up to your head, noticing the sensations as you go.
For maximum effectiveness, use these hacks even when you’re not anxious. The more you do them, the more you nurture and nourish your bodymind to keep anxiety at bay and more quickly reduce it when it strikes.
- Chopra, D. and Tanzi, R.E., Super Genes. Harmony Books, 2015.
- Chopra, D. and Tanzi, R.E., The Healing Self. Harmony Books, 2018.
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Tanya J. Peterson delivers online and in-person mental health education for students in elementary and middle school. She is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She also speaks nationally about mental health. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.