Helping You Overcome Anxiety One Breath At A Time

Anxiety is an epidemic in our society, and for many of us, it is a daily struggle; no one is immune. It can come in various forms, from frivolous worries to debilitating anguish. Even though our experiences may seem unavoidable, there is hope and there are tool and tricks that can soften or quiet the anxiety. Read on to find out how. One of the major contributors to the increase or decrease in our anxiety is stress. Everyone has experienced stress or else we'd be dead. Our bodies need stress but the challenge is, most of us have too much bad stress. Here's what happens: Information comes in and we receive or perceive something as stressful; once that happens in our brain, our system has to acknowledge it and has to figure out what to do with it. Depending on the stress, our body reacts in a variety of ways.  When our system interprets the stress, our brain quickly goes into a primal mode of decision through our nervous system which is called the fight, flight or freeze response. A variety of hormones are raised in the body and different systems react or respond. One of those hormones is called cortisol which helps process the stress through the body so we can handle it, which decreases the inflammation from the stress or adds tension/pressure to the body. If it deems it good stress, it's often short-lived and the physiological reaction is minimal. It also has positive emotions associated with it. For example, if you're going on vacation, there is often stress before the vacation making sure all of the logistics are taking care of but when we're reminded that stress is because of the vacation verses an overdue project our body calms down. Unfortunately because of the nature of our world today there are constant levels of bad stress resulting in constant exertion of these hormones and increase an anxiety. Whether it’s watching the news in the morning or being in a dysfunctional relationship or both we may be regularly surrounded by bad stress. What does all this science have to do with regular anxiety? The anxiety steps in when our brain and body grabs hold of the thought or sensation and fixates on it causing the stress on the body and brain to continue. When we understand where our stress is coming from, we can offer our brain and body more of an opportunity to change. I would encourage you to practice some of the exercises that follow in this article, helping you reduce your anxiety and stress. A gentle reminder is that your anxiety did not arrive overnight. You might have felt like it did but it has been building for some time and will require some patience, practice and diligence on your part to relieve it on a regular basis. We can help release that physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually depending on what you may want to do. Here’s some of the ways how:
  1. Check the severity of your anxiety. Is it severe, moderate or low? Grade it on a regular day and on an extremely stressful day in the past few months on a scale of 1-10 (1=peaceful-10=feels like a heart attack)
Severe anxiety (8-10) examples would be regular panic attacks, feeling like you’re going to die on a regular basis, having to go to the ER, ruminating thoughts over and over that never stop, and/or being diagnosed with severe anxiety. Moderate (4-7) may be regularly fear driven, you can’t seem to sit still, constantly thinking about the what if’s of life, not in a good way…what if I married the wrong person, what if my promotion doesn’t go through, what if I get rejected….trouble concentrating, being irritable, muscle tension, sleep problems, social anxiety. Low (1-3) would be similar symptoms on a lesser degree The more we know the more we grow! Giving yourself a greater understanding of how you normally feel can shift the intensity of your anxiety reducing regimen. For example if you know that on a normal regular day you operate on about a seven or an eight then you will need to be much more diligent at reducing your anxiety than someone who operates at a two or three. ****It’s important to get to a 1 throughout your day (EVERYDAY), if that’s not happening then it’s time to up your daily regimen helping you reduce your anxiety. This will help your body and brain to calm down and reduces inflammation.
  1. Complete a background check. Check your history and those around you. Do you have a predisposition to anxiety? Are there people in your family (past or present) who regularly model anxious behavior so that you've learned how to be anxious really well? Or do you have unprocessed trauma in your past that regularly may cause an uptick in your anxiety when and if you get triggered? What are your triggers? What do you notice happens right before you start to feel the anxiety? Examples may be: I notice I’m late, I notice he said that, I notice there’s lots of people in the room, I notice a tightness in my chest….
  2. Practice daily activities that you find help release your anxiety. And I say you because what may be right for me may not be right for you. Giving your brain and body a new experience provides it the possibility to change. And the more we provide it with a positive experience the more probable it is to have a positive sensation. Where the mind goes the body follows and we can train it! It runs wild unless we help it. We can choose what we dwell on with a little bit of training.
The exercises below have been proven to neurological change your conscious and subconscious brain and proven to reduce anxiety, calm the nerves and relax the mind.   It is recommended to practice these activities daily (or as much as you can or want) anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.
  • Write down all your fears: Financial, relational, social or any others that you can think of and that you can do something about but first you’ll want to acknowledge what they are.
  • Protect yourself from triggers. Once you acknowledge these fears/triggers you can then try and reduce the trigger that may set off your anxiety. Try some of these.
Breathing (obviously: )Deep Breathing, Singing, Dancing, Praying, Meditating, Hoola Hooping, Lie Down, Doing Yoga (this is like an internal massage for the nervous system) Acupuncture, Listening to relaxing or moving music (releases same chemical as sex and good food), Doing Scrabble or Word Search (maybe even while lying down), practice self-compassion!!! You will not be perfect at this so being kind to yourself gives the nervous system an opportunity to settle thus reducing your anxiety. Changing your space-ex. Rearranging furniture, if you’re outside, go inside or if you’re inside, go outside. Go into a different room. For example if you’re in the kitchen, go to the living room. If you’re still anxious, go to the laundry room, once you get to the other room, stop for a moment if you can and reassess how you’re doing. If you’re standing, sit down and if you’re sitting down, lie down. By changing your space/state of mind you give your mind the opportunity to change how it may habitually respond to some difficult event and allow you to respond differently. Here are several other activities to try throughout your day:
  • Deliberate Yawning
This exercise was designed by Dr. Jim Wilder of Life Model Works™ to move the nervous system when we find ourselves in a negative emotion or state of anxiety.
  1. Stretch your arms to the side while twisting or above your head as if you making a Y with your arms and pretend to yawn.
  2. Feel free to yawn bringing your arms in and back out 3 times
  3. Each time you bring your arms in, say some type of positive self statement, bible verse, uplifting mantra; whatever you like that’s calming to you. For example: “I’m ok just as I am”, “Let the peace of Christ rule in my heart” (Colosians 3:15), “I am here fully present”, “I can let my anxiety go for now”.
  • 1, 2, 3 I hug Me
Yes, you read correctly!! This exercise is a scientifically proven tool to not only calm you down but also show yourself a little compassion as well. Whether you’re in a bad mood, mad or feeling lonely or super anxious, hugging yourself will surely help you feel better.
  1. Wrap both arms around yourself as best you can, don’t strain, just do it to your own comfort.
  2. Count out loud or to yourself and say, “1, 2, 3 I calm me. 1, 2, 3 I hug me. 1, 2, 3 I relax and breath. 1, 2, 3 I hug me.”
  3. Feel free to squeeze as much or as little as you want and do it several times if you’d like.
  • After you have completed the activities, notice what may be working and what you’d like to change
  • Explore medication options if you want to so that you brain can neurologically learn how to be more calm.
  • Seek counseling to talk through your anxiety and fears.
Whatever you decide to do, know that there are options that can help reduce your anxiety. You don’t have to live in a miserable state. You can give yourself permission to release your anxiety on a regular basis and live a more peaceful thriving life. Best wishes to you. For more information please go to: or email me at to set up an appointment or ask questions you may have on integrative mental health and nutritional wellness. Patterson, Colleen. (2015). 1, 2, 3 A Calmer Me. Hagerstown, MD: Magination Press. Jim, Wilder, Ph.D, (2017).