What to do when you feel anxious in public? Here are some of my favourite subtle skills for coping with anxiety.
- The 5-4-3-2-1 technique – This technique can be a helpful grounding tool for when you’re feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings because of anxiety. With this technique, your goals is to focus on :
– 5 things you can see
– 4 things you can touch
– 3 things you can hear
– 2 things you can smell
– 1 thing you can taste
- Body scan – This technique asks you to connect with your body & what you’re feeling. Scan you entire body from your feet to the top of your head. What are you feeling? Where? Where is the anxiety located in your body? What does it feel like? Sit with the feelings, noticing where they are in your body and breathe through them, allowing them to dissipate.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – With this technique, your goal is to slowly tense/squeeze your muscles and then relax them, one muscle at a time. Similarly to the body scan, you can start from your feet and work your way up until all of your muscles are relaxed.
- Breathing techniques – Many breathing techniques are designed to be relaxing and to help with anxiety. One of my personal favourite is box breathing, where you count to 4 as you inhale, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold your breathe again as you count to 4, and continue with the same pattern. Feel free to look up other techniques and try them out, modifying them to be suitable for you.
- Fidget items – Fidget items can serve as a distraction, help you get rid of some of your anxious energy, and engage your senses in the process. There are various options for small and subtle fidget items that fit in your palm or your pocket so you can use them discreetly. You can also come up with your own solutions, even a lip balm or bracelet can be a useful fidget item.
- Holding something cold – With this, the goal is to engage your senses and “surprise” your body which can help with grounding you. If you’re in public, you can order an ice water from a coffee shop and hold it in your hands. Pressing the cup of cold water on your wrists can also help. If you’re at home, holding an ice cube can also help.
- Practising acceptance – Learning to be okay with anxiety coming and going, and moving on with your day even if you’re anxious, is a big win. Knowing that anxiety isn’t dangerous and that you don’t have to get rid of it to live your life can make anxiety much more tolerable and reduce its impact on your life. Seeing a therapist can be increasingly helpful for this process.
Note : This last point on practising acceptance is not intended to dismiss anxiety, healing, or the impacts of anxiety. By practising acceptance we can often reduce the amount of anxiety we have, as we’re no longer anxious about having anxiety. Learning to live with anxiety often leads to a reduction in anxiety levels and improves our quality fo life as we’re no longer fixated on our anxiety. The things listed in this post are temporary coping tools, not a guide for anxiety healing.
What else would you add? Is there anything on this list that you haven’t tried before?