I was recently thinking about anxiety techniques and the progress I’ve made in anxiety management over the past several years. I thought now might be a time to share some of the anxiety techniques I’ve found most effective.
One of the first techniques I learned back when I started counseling in Grade 5. Essentially the idea is to move your hand slowly towards an object or thing: rocks, plants or another human’s hand work particularly well. When you feel a slight resistance, you stop. The theory is that when you do this you are sensing the energy of that object or thing. With enough practice you don’t even need a hand as the aid. I find this technique particularly useful for two reasons. The first is that being able to sense the energy of a person or thing tends to make you more pleasantly disposed towards a person or thing. The second is that when you can feel the energy of all things, you feel that everything is interconnected,and feeling interconnected and not alienated is incredibly helpful when dealing with anxiety.
Following from the first technique, shielding is when you imagine a protective barrier surrounding your body. Common visualizations include a suit of armor or a space suit. I imagine a bubble of energy but that can be harder if you’re not a Pokemon, Star Wars or Star Trek fan. The protective barrier is supposed to field out negative energy and I’ve read of people also being able to use it to modify other senses and shut out sound. My shield tends to be raised fairly automatically whenever I enter a crowded room or feel negative energy pulsing (though part of my problem at home is not being quick enough in reacting to this–something I’ve got to work on).
*Note re: energy work: energy work springs from the theory that there is an energy created by all living things that bind everything in the universe together. The general idea is that people are always aware of this energy field and its effects on an unconscious level but great benefits come from being more aware of it. For example, people can feel awe in a church, dread in a cemetery, or harried on a family vacation but they might not realize why or be consciously aware of those feelings. Energy work can also be used through what is referred to as magic by Neopagans to influence events through visualization similar to Jedi battle meditation.
A very useful and highly recommended technique, sitting meditation is when you’re stationary and you focus on your breath to give your mind a break essentially. Breath counts varies with square breathing being one of the most common (breath in four, hold four, breathe out four, hold four). I borrowed one from a Merlin’s Descendants book which I find helpful (breathe in for three counts, hold for three counts, breathe out for three counts) A drama teacher in high school used a third which is more complicated (breathe in and out, counting each breath with the goal being to get to 10–if your mind wanders, go back to one).
This can be a more effective meditation technique for people who have higher anxiety and find exercising both the body and the mind gives more relief. There’s various ways to learn moving meditation and it can be applied to such things as raking, walking, running, etc. but a good way to start is to learn a form of Tai Chi with Taoist Tai Chi being the most accessible, in my opinion.
Sometimes you’ll find that a specific gesture will help you focus which brings calm. I find that steepling my fingers (touching my fingertips together) helps focus me.
This is a technique that really changed my life. After first year university I did counseling in the summer and one exercise I was told to try was a couple week period of alternating days where on Day One I would let myself get as anxious as possible and on Day Two I would try to be as calm as possible. Since then, my discernment of how much I can handle, my ability to pull back from the edge, and my ability to recover from a depressed mood have greatly enhanced.