High Anxiety? 5 Things You Can Do To Find Relief

Most of my life I was plagued with high levels of anxiety. I understand how it feels to live in chronic survival mode, looking at people and life as threats.

I also understand what it’s like to find some relief and healing.

To work through traumatic situations and events that caused my nervous system to become “dysregulated”.

Do you deal with high anxiety?

  • Almost always worrying?
  • On edge much of the time?
  • Stuck in your “head” with thoughts racing?
  • Have a tough time relaxing?
  • Always on the go?
  • Fearful that something’s about to go wrong?

If so, I want you to know that you’re not powerless over anxiety. Those sensations that may cause us to freak out can be minimized and maybe even completely overcome.

But it takes time learning and practice. Here are some valuable things you can do when you start feeling anxiety rise within.

1.   Take Slow, Deep Breaths

I know you’ve heard it many times.

Just breathe.

But I assure you that taking time to stop what you’re doing and consciously focus on your breath can help you relax some.

When that anxiety is rising, your nervous system thinks you’re facing a threat.

(I am assuming you are not).

anxiety reduction shadow work

To help your nervous system calm down, you can take a few slow, deep breaths to help self-soothe a better regulate an agitated nervous system.

As you inhale, push your abdomen out. Inhale slowly and pause for one or two seconds before you exhale slowly.

I use the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

  • I breathe in to the count of 4 (count in your head).
  • I hold it for 7 seconds.
  • I exhale for 8 seconds.

Do this a few times and consciously relax at the same time.  If you’re still feeling fairly anxious, continue with this breathwork.

I practice this periodically throughout my day. It has helped decrease my anxiety level greatly.

2.   5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Mindfulness Technique

As I mentioned, when you feel anxiety, your nervous system is activated, detecting threat. Whether that’s a real threat or an imagined threat, learning how to consciously calm your senses down can help you manage the anxiety levels.

There’s a technique called the 54321 mindfulness technique. For this exercise, you’ll be using all of your senses to help you become more grounded in your body.

shadow work journal - moving beyond codependency

Rather than getting lost in your head (racing, fearful thoughts), you’re dropping into your body to feel and release the anxious sensations.

Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

  • 5 – {SIGHT}

Take notice of 5 things in your immediate surroundings (I see a chair, lamp, trees, clothing, etc.)

  • 4 – {SOUND}

Attune to 4 sounds. (birds, fan, voices, traffic, etc.)

  • 3 – {TOUCH}

Notice 3 things you can feel. (Butt against chair, feet on floor, wind, etc.)

  • 2 – {SMELL}

Discover 2 things you can smell.

  • 1 – {TASTE}

What do you taste?

This exercise helps me become fully present in the moment. It can help you NOT get triggered too. (Like when your partner says that thing that tends to trigger an intense response that has nothing to do with them and everything to do with some unprocessed pain from childhood.)

This “getting present” also helps me keep my head from running with a thousand thoughts. Even if in the moment, I am not actually counting, I still look around and start identifying things I can see, hear, touch, small, and taste.

3.   Hug Yourself

Your body is a sacred vessel.  When you’re feeling anxiety, it’s can feel like a lot of energy buzzing around in there, so much so it may feel like you’re losing control.

One way to help reduce those anxious feelings is to give yourself a gentle hug. I learned this technique from trauma expert and founder of Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levine.

  • Simply take your right arm and put in under your left arm, right under the armpit.
  • Then take your left arm and put in on top of your right shoulder.

Give yourself a gentle squeeze and remind yourself that you are safe.

You are loved.

Remind yourself that your body is wise and knows how to hold the energy that you feel buzzing around – and release it.

Hug yourself, relax, breathe, and allow the anxious sensations to calm.

I tell myself, “All is well. I am safe. Thank you.”

4.   Body Scan

If you’re able to sit or lie down, do so.

Then, do a full body scan from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You’re basically scanning your body, noticing sensations and witnessing them without judgment.

Breathe slowly as you scan, and consciously relax as you move from top to bottom. (or bottom to top)

It helps me to notice the sensations I am feeling and allow myself to feel them. If it becomes what I perceive to be as “too much”, I move my attention to a part of my body that feels better, such as my toes or nose or knees. (They always feel good. 😊 )

Doing at least one body scan per day can be so helpful, especially when you get home from work. It’s also helpful to do this before you go to sleep.

You’re getting in touch with your body and the sensations associated with it, without judgment and without feeling like you can’t handle it.

5.   The Voo Exercise

Another anxiety reduction technique I learned from Peter Levine is called the Voo exercise. I try to do this regularly, but especially if I’m feeling quite anxious about something.

Simply inhale, expanding your belly as you do. As you exhale, make the sound “voo”.

Exhale slowly as you make this sound and consciously relax every part of your body. Feel how it vibrates your belly and chest area.

You can repeat this several times and then check to see how your anxiety level is. Repeat as necessary.

Practice

I understand there are different types of anxiety and levels that people feel. I know a lot of people who admit they deal with a lot of anxiety. They’ve never been assessed and diagnosed by a mental health clinician, but they’re dealing with major anxiety.

I’m not completely healed, but my anxiety levels are better as I diligently practice these and other anxiety-reduction techniques. I’m learning to “re-regulate” my nervous system, which has been in survival mode for many years. (Of course, I did not consciously know this).

Take time to practice various anxiety -reduction techniques. Also, do some research on strengthening the Vagus Nerve, which is an important part of the nervous system.  There are some treat exercises to do this too.

Reaching Out For Help

As I mentioned, I’ve dealt with high amounts of anxiety for much of my life. I didn’t realize it much of the time though, because I had largely disconnected from my emotional body.

I was stuck in the freeze, “shutdown” mode. But once I learn this, I started learning helpful techniques to regulate and reset my nervous system, which helps me feel less anxiety. I’m not seeing people and life as “threats” as much as I used to.

I also reached out and got a somatic experiencing, body-based therapist, which has been super helpful.

If you’re struggling with high amounts of anxiety, it may benefit you to reach out for help from a professional. If you’ve dealt with childhood or adult trauma, it can be highly beneficial to reach out to a therapist who is trained in trauma therapy or somatic experiencing.

I share my experiences in the hopes that those who can relate can be encouraged.  Life can throw quite a few things our way, and so many people go their entire life without taking time to do their “inner healing work” or see a therapist.

I’m passionate about saying it’s ok to reach out for help. And, to take time to get in there and better discover your “self”, wounded parts and all.

To feel, deal, heal, and reclaim our sacredness.

Our wholeness.

Much love,

Dominica

Dominica Applegate
Written by: Dominica Applegate

Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.

She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.

Her books include:

Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal
Healing After a Breakup: A 50 Day Devotional & Guided Inner Work Journal
Goodbye Codependency: A 40-Day Devotional to Boost Self-Care
The Pain, It Shapes Her World {Poetry}