Updated: Mar 1, 2021
It is that uncomfortable pounding of the chest, sweating profusely, and tense feeling of worry that can leave us feeling drained, restless and helpless.
Most likely your brain has signalled a threat to your body and the body is preparing to fight this threat as it would when a tiger is on the loose in the jungle and chasing you.
Only difference here is that there is no current physical dangers to combat, but the worries are psychological and anticipated in the future: "What will happen if..?" "Will I be able to ...?""How will they..?"
If any of the above sounds familiar, pause for a moment and do the following with me:
1. Stop and notice your surroundings
Where are you?
What can you see around you?
What time and day is it?
Try to name as many objects as you can see in your immediate environment as you move your neck very slowly from the left to the right and back again to the centre.
Count the number of lights you can see around you or the number of cars on the street in front of you.
The idea is to bring awareness to our surroundings helps us feel more present and take attention away from distressing thoughts.
2. Breathing for relaxation
Sit somewhere that your back is supported, your feet are able to be on the ground and you feel comfortable.
Consciously relax any tension you observe in your shoulders, your jaw or your facial muscles.
Keep your hand on your chest and observe the support it lends to your heart.
Fill your tummy as you inhale for 4 counts very slowly.
Hold your breath for 1 count.
Try to exhale for longer than you inhaled for. As you exhale, make a whooshing sound like the waves at a beach. *shhh*
Deep breathing, with extended exhalation signals to the body that there is no threat and it is safe to relax hence activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Do this for at least 5 minutes till you feel more connected with your body and the present.
If you are able to, engage in some kind of movement in the form of dancing, shaking, walking, running or simply some stretching.
Simply walking around the house of your toes very mindfully and slowly, observing how the floor feels on your toes, where you are keeping your foot next. Focussing our attention on the toes and feet in this deliberate way, brings energy down from the head and upper parts of the body where we may be feeling anxious.
4. Journal or reach out to a loved one to talk about your worries
Writing down our worries make them more concrete and actionable if something can be done about it and gives more clarity if they are out of our control. Often journalling is a way for us to express our feelings when they may feel heavy and overwhelming in our heads.
Talking about what is happening can also be very helpful. Speaking to a trusted loved one who would listen can help us know we are not alone in our situation and that help is available.
Most importantly, professional help is available. You can reach out to free counselling helplines such as iCALL helpline (TISS) run by professional counselling psychologists for immediate emotional support, and book an appointment to see a trained mental health professional after that.