Everybody knows that deep breathing is helpful. But aren't there more ways to calm down easily? In this post, we decided to explore four lesser-known anxiety hacks that can possibly be more helpful than the classic breathing techniques that we all know. If that sounds interesting, I suggest you read on.
Have you ever thought about singing out your worries? Probably not. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, however, this is an actual recommended technique. The idea is not to sing out loud so everybody can hear you. It's rather about singing negative thoughts silently to a familiar tune. The reason why is this works is because it brings about defusion.
Defusion means distancing from and letting go of unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, memories and other cognitions.
Basically, that’s a mental state where we recognize that our thoughts are not the literal truth and we don’t have to take them seriously. You could, for example, sing your thoughts to the tune of, say, “Happy Birthday”. This helps see that your thoughts are just thoughts. They don't necessarily have to be true. And by singing them to yourself, it's easier to see this and distance yourself from those thoughts.
It may also be helpful if you transfer your versions of songs into the voice of a cartoon character, movie character, or sports commentator. If this does help you take your thoughts less seriously, being a little silly is acceptable.
Cold Water Shock
The next on our list is hydrotherapy, the application of water to the body surface to help it heal and feel better. It's a simple home remedy which can make a palpable difference with minimal effort.
So when anxiety gets really out of hand, it's time for some ice:
Take an ice cube and rub it on your wrist or hand. If someone asks you what you are doing, you can say you’ve hurt yourself (which is true, you hurt yourself with your negative thoughts).When emotions are really out of control, use lots of ice. Don’t do this one in public, but it works. Fill a bowl of water and ice. Put your face in the bowl. This will calm you down — come up when you need to breathe, but repeat until you feel better.
Use ice cubes. This technique can help you divert your attention away from a panic attack, especially if you’re in the throes of a particularly intense attack. Take out an ice cube and hold it to your hand for as long as you can (you can put the cube in a paper towel). Then, place the ice cube on your other hand. This focuses your mind on the discomfort, de-escalating your symptoms.
From a scientific point of view, applying water of different temperatures to our skin can change our physiology and mood. Water and sudden temperature changes can have a surprisingly significant effect on us.
Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Now, are you ready to relax? Well, let’s just wait a moment. While this countdown may sound stressful, it also refers to the grounding technique which is a method of de-stressing. Here's how it works:
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Maybe it is a bird, maybe it is pencil, maybe it is a spot on the ceiling, however big or small, state 5 things you see.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, hands, ground, grass, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your tummy rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list.
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment, if you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.
1. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste.These five steps are a way to ground yourself in the NOW, the current moment, the present. Take you out of your head and help stop your flooded thoughts.
Last but not least, the Hakalau. The Hakalau is an ancient Hawaiian practice of expanding one’s peripheral vision as much as you can. Indeed, Hakalau means to stare at as in meditation and to allow to spread out.
In order to practice Hakalau, you start by staring on a fixed spot in front of you (preferably a little above eye level). Focus all your attention there and try to let go of thoughts as best you can.
As you do this for a minute or two, you'll notice that your vision begins to spread out. Allow your visual field to spread out more and more. As you continue to do this, see that you shift your attention to the peripheral part of your vision without moving your eyes. Gradually, you lose focus on any fixed thing and take in as much of your visual field as possible.
What you'll find is that by working on expanding your peripheral vision, you'll get calmer. As you broaden your awareness, thoughts recede into the background. This is also what can naturally happen when you're looking at a sunset, for example.
At the start, do this for about ten minutes. It's a technique that gets easier with practice. And it's an interesting antidote to overwhelming feelings and intrusive thoughts.
Those four ways to handle anxiety can play different roles and come in handy in different situations. The musical thoughts technique and the Hakalau require some practice and patience. Shocking yourself with cold water and ice, on the other hand, doesn't need a skill you train. It simply needs some ice. Whatever fits best into your life, we'd love you to give it a try. Because even though those aren't well-known techniques, they are very effective.