1. Stay in your time zone.
Anxiety is a future-oriented state of mind. So instead of worrying about what might happen, reel yourself back to the present (that's mindfulness - probably your single best mental wellness tool). Ask yourself: What’s happening right now? Is there something I need to do right now? If not, make an “appointment” to check in with yourself later in the day to revisit your worries so those distant scenarios don’t throw you off track.
2. Re-label what’s happening.
Panic attacks can often make you feel like you’re dying or having a heart attack. Remind yourself: “I’m having a panic attack, but it’s harmless, it’s temporary, and there’s nothing I need to do.” Plus, keep in mind it really is the opposite of a sign of impending death - your body is activating its fight-or-flight response, the system that’s going to keep you alive.
3. Fact-check your thoughts.
People with anxiety often fixate on worst-case scenarios. To combat these worries, think about how realistic they are. Say you’re nervous about a big presentation at work. Rather than think, “I’m going to bomb,” for example, say, “I’m nervous, but I’m prepared. Some things will go well, and some may not”. Getting into a pattern of rethinking your fears helps train your brain to come up with a rational way to deal with your anxious thoughts.
4. Breathe deeply.
Deep breathing helps you calm down. While you may have heard about specific breathing exercises, you don’t need to worry about counting out a certain number of breaths. Instead just focus on evenly inhaling and exhaling. This will help slow down and re-centre your mind.
5. Follow the 3-3-3 rule.
Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body - your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help centre your mind, bringing you back to the present moment.
6. Just do something.
Stand up, take a walk, throw away a piece of rubbish from your desk - any action that interrupts your train of thought helps you regain a sense of control.
7. Stand up straight.
When we are anxious, we protect our upper body - where our heart and lungs are located - by hunching over. For an immediate physical antidote to this natural reaction, pull your shoulders back, stand or sit with your feet apart, and open your chest. This helps your body start to sense that it’s back in control.
8. Stay away from sugar.
It may be tempting to reach for something sweet when you’re stressed, but that chocolate bar can do more harm than good - research shows that eating too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings. Instead, drink a glass of water or eat protein to provide a slow energy your body can use to recover.
9. Ask for a second opinion.
Call or text a friend or family member and run through your worries with them - or speak to a professional. Saying them aloud to someone else can help you see them clearly for what they are. It can also help to write your fears on paper.
10. Watch a funny video.
This final tactic may be the easiest one yet: cue up clips of your favourite comedian or funny TV show. Laughing is a great prescription for an anxious mind. Research shows that laughter has lots of benefits for our mental health and well-being; one study found that humour could help lower anxiety as much as (or even more than) exercise can. (If you have Netflix and find Adam Sandler remotely funny, I thoroughly recommend this!)