How to Reduce Anxiety Immediately: Is it possible?
Have you ever felt anxious and just did not know how to calm down? Do you ever find yourself searching for quicker solutions for reducing anxiety, even immediately? Sometimes it can be difficult to even know where to start. It can be scary in the moment when you don’t know what to do. There are many opinions about how to manage worry and fear. Lots of options have been presented, but which ones are right? Which ways will reduce anxiety quickly? The real question is: Is there truly a way to reduce anxiety immediately? Let’s find out!
To answer this question, we must first dig a little deeper. Often, anxious thoughts may build up over time, causing a plethora of problems that just seem to keep piling higher. To truly understand the nature of the question, we must first ask: What is anxiety? Once we have an understanding of what anxiety truly is, we then can determine if anxiety can be extinguished quickly.
The short answer is that it depends on several factors and what resources or skills you have available. As we explore this problem, we will introduce you to 3 ways to cope with anxiety that, if practiced, could be just what helps you kick that anxiety out of your system at a moment’s notice. We will share more techniques in a later post.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety can be characterized as simply worrying about something, or it can be as complex as a panic attack. When panic attacks come, it is often based on a build-up of smaller bouts of anxiety over time. Knowing one’s signs of rising anxiety can help deal with general anxiety or panic attacks. Prevention can be a helpful tool in this process. But what are some ways that a person can reduce their anxiety in the middle of an attack?
Based on the intensity of the panic attack, the first step would be to get to somewhere that is safe and find trusted people to help. This does not answer your question about immediacy, I know! However, once you are in a safe place, you can try using techniques for reducing anxiety in the moment. As you read, we will provide useful techniques for decreasing fear or worry as quickly as possible. It is helpful to know more about the body’s system that works to protect you to deploy these techniques. People usually refer to this system as Fight or Flight. Once we help you understand this system, we will explore techniques that are simple to implement.
Fight or Flight: Understanding Responses to Anxiety
The human body has this wonderful thing called the central nervous system, a complex system that is designed to keep us safe from perceived harm. Enter “Flight or Fight” responses: The human body’s way of getting you to safety. In a 2023 article, Dr. Martha Loustaunau stated that “in [stressful] situations, the heart pounds, breathing accelerates, and blood flow to the muscles is increased.” These symptoms are a way that the body sends alerts of perceived danger, even if the perceived threat isn’t necessarily visible.
There is also a calming response that is termed the “relaxation response,” which is when your body begins to slow functions such as your heart rate, to enter into a calm state. Understanding these functions of the body is key to helping return to a consistent level of calm. Through coping skills, a person can work to get to this space. The goal is to get your body to regulate when you are in dysregulation so that you can return to a state of calm.
1. Grounding techniques
The first technique that can help reduce anxiety is called “grounding.” Grounding techniques can help you to orient yourself in the present moment by allowing you to focus on the physical space around you, with the hopes of bringing you into more of a relaxation response. Grounding can also help you to understand your surroundings, connecting you with the physical world, in the present.
According to Therapist Aid, body awareness can be a helpful technique that can help you become more present in the moment. Techniques such as scrunching or wiggling your toes, and feeling the weight of your body against the floor are two things that you could try.
Therapist Tucker Braddy listed helpful grounding techniques, such as counting to ten, taking deep breaths, and noticing specific aspects of your surroundings. Braddy stated that a technique called “Breath Counting” can be a useful technique in reducing anxiety. Here is how to do this technique: Close your eyes. Take deep breaths, counting every breath, 1-4. When you reach the fourth breath, start over at 1. Do this for 3-5mins.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique
If you are in a space where you can sit, progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can help with relaxation and help reduce anxiety. This is typically a guided technique, and the goal is to tense and then relax each muscle group all the way up your body. To start, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
The first thing you will do is tense the muscles in your feet, as much as you can by squeezing. Hold for a few seconds, and then release. You’ll do this all the way up your body, ending with the facial muscles. The purpose of this exercise is for your muscles to relax. When you tense your muscles and then release the tension, your muscles are then able to relax. This can increase a sense of calm, and in turn, it can decrease anxiety.
3. Listening to Music to reduce anxiety
Another technique that can help reduce anxiety is listening to music. According to Dr. Sheri Robb, music therapy can help reduce higher scores on anxiety assessments. Similarly, in a 2021 study, researcher Emel Bahadir also stated that music therapy helps reduce anxiety for people who have existing mental health conditions.
If you are not in a space where you can access music, you could try humming or singing any song that brings you comfort. Here is a technique that you can try: Put on a song that you are familiar with. As the song starts, notice anything that feels new to you. What new sounds do you hear this time? Now think of what feels familiar to you. Finally, focus specifically on the words. Which words feel new to you? If you have extra time and space, try writing down your findings in a journal.
Is it possible to get rid of anxiety immediately?
While these techniques can help reduce anxiety at the moment, getting rid of anxiety immediately may vary from person to person, and situation to situation. By using these techniques regularly, you become better and better at executing these skills. You gain valuable experience that will help decrease symptoms of anxiety over time. The phrase “Practice makes progress” comes to mind. You might not be able to stop your worry right away right now, but the more you practice, the more likely you will reach the goal of quickly overcoming anxiety in the moment.
When struggling with anxiety, we desire to feel better fast. Sometimes that can be difficult when our body fights us in illogical ways. Now that you understand how the body tries to make you feel safe and you have a few techniques to calm the body, we want you to practice them. These coping skills can help to reduce worry or fear when you have made them habits. This will help you over time to eliminate anxiety quickly. But probably not immediately.
However, many other techniques can work for you. For more information, talk with your therapist. Together, you can work to find techniques that fit your needs, processing what these experiences are like for you. The goal is to find comfortable techniques that you can do on your own whenever you are feeling anxious.
Bahadir, Y. E. (2021). Effect of executive music therapy on state and trait anxiety levels of patients in a psychiatric ward: A quasi‐experimental study. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 57(1), 98–104. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppc.12530
Loustaunau, M. (2023). Relaxation Response. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.
Robb, S. (2000). Music assisted progressive muscle relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation, music listening, and silence: a comparison of relaxation techniques. Journal of Music Therapy, 37(1), 2–21. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/37.1.2
Therapist Aid (2018, November 7). Grounding techniques. Therapist Aid. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/grounding-techniques
Braddy, T. (2023, December 6). Personal communication [E-mail].
Bethany Stanley is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor. She provides couples counseling and individual counseling as a therapist at Legacy Marriage Resources, LLC based in Augusta, Georgia. Learn more about her in her bio.