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Slow Down to Reduce Anxiety Fast

June 23, 2019 George Abitante

It's important to know how to reduce anxiety fast because sometimes it feels like your anxiety builds up too quickly to do anything about it. Like, you were feeling okay one minute and then suddenly feeling extremely anxious. This is a common experience, and it often starts with something going just a little bit different than we might like.

Perhaps it's a party you're going to, or even forgetting your keys -- these little instances can have a disproportionate impact on anxiety. Once you notice something that could be a threat, your body kicks into anxiety-mode and gets started identifying additional threats to protect you. Although this isn't a fun experience, it is a protective one, and it's one that we can disrupt and, in so doing, reduce anxiety fast. 

You Have Trouble Reducing Anxiety Fast Because Anxiety Moves Quickly

Anxiety moves quickly because that's how it's kept people alive and well for all of human history -- without a fast response to danger, our ancestors would not have survived. Of course, in our modern world, a lot of the stressors we face are actually not ones that we can overcome in a short period of time. We face many more chronic stressors that can't be dealt with quickly and are unlikely to go away over time. In short, we have a hyper-efficient protective system in place that is actually not well-suited for the challenges we face today. So, reducing anxiety fast is a skill we need to develop.

It Is Possible to Reduce Anxiety Fast

Even though the system we have wants anxiety to move quickly, it's actually possible to slow it down. You can think of it as educating your body about what stressors you're actually facing. Your body only knows when it encounters something that frightens you, but it doesn't know what the best response is.

When you're being attacked by a snake, your body is going to do a great job of keeping you safe this way, but when you have a huge project that's due in six months to work on, preparing your body to run away is not going to be so adaptive. So how do we tell our bodies what type of stressor we're facing? Here are three ways you can start communicating more effectively with your anxiety. 

How to Reduce Anxiety Fast 

  1. Say thank you. Your body works really hard to keep you safe, and even when its response isn't appropriate to the challenge you're facing, it still warrants gratitude. By engaging with a sense of gratitude rather than fear, we can disrupt our stress response and initiate a different, more adaptive process. 
  2. Educate your anxiety. Once your body identifies a threat, it's ready to get you away from it immediately. But your body doesn't understand what types of threats need to be run away from and which need to be faced directly. When you start feeling anxious about something, remind yourself that your body isn't necessarily accurate about threats. You understand what kind of threats you're facing better than your body does and you can use that information to educate it. Distrusting your body's response can be a great way to reduce your anxiety fast. 
  3. Breathe slowly. My go-to response to reducing the anxiety that comes on fast is to engage in slow, deep breathing. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system and helps stop your body's stress response. While you're trying to disrupt your anxiety using steps one and two above, use deep breathing as well to provide further distance between yourself and your stress response. 

The steps described above are all focused on creating distance between you and your anxiety. They may sound a little silly, but any step you can take that helps you notice you are not your anxiety is valuable for reducing anxiety quickly and safely.

What other tips do you have to reduce anxiety fast? Share below.

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2019, June 23). Slow Down to Reduce Anxiety Fast, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2019/6/slow-down-to-reduce-anxiety-fast



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is focused on improving the efficacy and accessibility of treatments for depression and anxiety. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
says:
June, 25 2019 at 11:47 am
I love these suggestions. What a beautiful shift in perspective to think of responding first and foremost with gratitude. I love this. Gratitude and education. This is so very helpful to think about and just doing this automatically slows that process down. Anxiety can spiral, this stops that spiral in its tracks.
June, 28 2019 at 10:16 am
Hi Lizanne,

Thanks for your comment! I really like the imagery you use of anxiety as a spiral -- it's a great way of thinking about disrupting anxious thinking and staying on course. Thanks for your insightful responses,

George

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