Below is a list of short-term, evidence-based strategies to help deal with episodes of anxiety. Beyond these strategies, it is crucial to educate yourself on exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that trigger your anxiety feelings. It is also beneficial to identify and change behaviors that reinforce stress or anxiety.
Inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 7 seconds. Allowing yourself to exhale longer allows your body to recognize that it is no longer in survival mode and safe to rest.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
This technique helps you focus on real things right in front of you, removing focus from your trigger.
Set a timer for two to five minutes. During that time, write what comes to mind. When the timer goes off, stop writing. If the thoughts are still distressing, spend 2 minutes questioning those thoughts. Getting your thoughts onto paper helps get the thoughts out of your head. This journaling technique may be beneficial for people who overthink at night and have trouble sleeping.
Questioning Your Thoughts
If you’re dealing with distressing thoughts, ask yourself questions like these:
- Do I have any evidence for this thought? – When we get back to the source of our anxiety, we realize that there’s no evidence that what we’re worried about will come true.
- What’s the evidence against this thought?
- Is this thought the worst-case scenario? – It can be helpful to identify when we’re focusing on the worst-case scenario instead of the more likely scenarios.
- What’s the likelihood of this thought coming true? – In life, almost anything can happen, but worrying about unlikely outcomes is unhealthy and ultimately creates more anxiety.
- What’s a more positive way to think about the situation or circumstance worrying me? – Focusing on the positives of your situation or circumstances can result in better overall well-being.
When you change how you think about something, you can change how you feel about it.
Practicing meditation can be a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. You can find meditation videos on YouTube, the Calm App, the Headspace App, and the Mindfulness App. A meditation session doesn’t need to be long, it can be as short as two minutes. Also, try not to pressure yourself to have a “clear mind” when meditating! Observe your thoughts and let them pass.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
- Make sure you get between 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Getting enough continuous sleep helps your body reach deep sleep, restoring the part of our brain that regulates emotions and therefore preventing the escalation of anxiety.
- Drink water throughout the day and make sure to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. By taking care of your body, you can improve your overall well-being.
- Caffeine can give you a short-term boost of energy, but it also stimulates your body’s fight or flight response, making your anxiety worse and even triggering anxiety attacks. If possible, try to cut back on your caffeine intake or stop drinking caffeinated beverages altogether.
- Move your body for 30 minutes daily. Moving your body and getting exercise can help release feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that enhance your overall well-being. It can also help take your mind off your worries and break the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety.
If you feel anxious about something, ask yourself if you can control what worries you. If you can’t, ask yourself about what you can control? If you’re feeling stuck, consider your thoughts and actions and what you can control about them.
Remember that there are ways to deal with your anxiety despite what your mind may tell you. It is possible to recover from stress if you consistently change your thoughts and feelings.
If you or another GCU student is struggling, please call the Office of Student Care at 602-639-7007 or email [email protected]. You can also visit the Office of Student Care in person in the Student Life Building (Building 26), 2nd Floor, Monday-Friday from 8 am-5 pm.
If you believe that you or another GCU student faces an immediate, life-threatening emergency, call 911 or Campus Safety at 602-639-8100 (available 24/7).