Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in Seconds

Have you ever felt so anxious that your productivity, focus and mood just crash?

It could be because you’re stressed over your workload or a pressing deadline, over stressful events happening in your life, have a history with anxiety. There are many things that could be making you anxious.

And when you’re anxious, your brain goes into fight-or-flight mode, and it short-circuits your ability to think clearly, make rational decisions, or get anything done.

You might feel as though you’re losing control when you’re anxious, and this makes you panic and feeds into the anxiety even more. But what if you could flip the switch and cut off those anxious feelings from taking over?

Take a look at these simple methods you can use to relieve anxiety in seconds!

Table of Contents

1. Try Mindful Breathing

2. Use Physiological Sighs

3. Use Grounding Exercises

4. Take a Cold Shower

5. Unwind with a Cup of Green Tea

5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in Seconds

1. Try Mindful Breathing

Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in SecondsThink about what happens to your body when you’re anxious.

You probably breathe in quick, short bursts, your heart is probably beating too fast, you feel warm and your palms start sweating, your pulse is thundering, your muscles are rigid and tense.

Does that sound familiar?

All the parts of your body which react to your anxiety are part of a circuit within your sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety causes a chain reaction through it, making your body react and go into red alert mode.

And out of all these reactions – your heartbeat, pulse, muscle tension etc. – the reaction that you can voluntarily control is your breathing.

And there’s plenty of scientific research showing how breathing is an extremely powerful mechanism in helping reverse this chain reaction – by starting a new one.

Here’s how. When you’re anxious or stressed out, you’re probably taking in quick, shallow breaths.

By deliberately slowing your breathing down, taking in deep, slow inhales, holding it in, and then slowly breathing it out, you activate your vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body – it runs from your brain all the way down to your abdomen.

And when you stimulate it through deep, slow breathing, it sends signals through your parasympathetic nervous system – which connects all the parts of your body reacting to anxiety.

By breathing deeply, you’re telling your heart to slow down, your muscles to relax, your body to cool off, your blood pressure to fall.

It also shifts your brain into something called the alpha brain wave state. Out of the four brain wave states – alpha, beta, gamma, and theta – the alpha brain wave state is where you’re alert and awake, but also calm and relaxed.

This is why mindful breathing is such a core part of meditation – it’s medically and scientifically proven to help you relax and clear your head!

total recall learningmastering habits

memory skills made easy

So, the next time you’re feeling anxious and unable to get anything done, try this. Sit or stand up straight, with your shoulders back, head held up.

Breathe in deeply, from your stomach, for four counts. Hold this in for four counts, and then breathe it out, from your stomach, for four counts.

Repeat this several times – I promise you’ll notice the difference!

2. Use Physiological Sighs

Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in SecondsYou sigh when you’re frustrated, tired or relieved – but did you know that unconsciously, you sigh almost a dozen times every hour?

Your body does this automatically – it takes in a breath, and then inhales a second time before breathing it all out.

This is called a physiological sigh, and it happens because of the little sacks of air in your lungs called alveoli. As your lungs exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide, these alveoli sometimes collapse.

According to Jack Feldman, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, “When alveoli collapse, they compromise the ability of the lung to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The only way to pop them open again is to sigh, which brings in twice the volume of a normal breath.”

Sighing is basically an essential part of your breathing – if you stopped sighing, your lungs wouldn’t be able to function properly.

What does this have to do with anxiety? Well, when you use physiological sighs – breathe in deeply twice, then breathe out – your body takes in a much greater volume of oxygen, and offloads carbon dioxide.

And too much carbon dioxide can cause anxiety and stress!

In fact, a 1988 study found that 15 minutes of exposure to carbon dioxide could increase levels of anxiety and the stress-inducing hormone cortisol in both healthy participants and participants with anxiety.

And a 2016 study found that deliberately sighing can help you achieve homeostasis – a sense of balance – in both your body and mind, in as little as 5 seconds!

Dr. Andrew Huberman, an American neuroscientist, recommends training yourself to use physiological sighs on demand to engage your parasympathetic nervous system.

He recommends breathing in through your nose, once and then again on top of that, and breathing out through your mouth.

3. Use Grounding Exercises

Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in SecondsHave you ever found yourself caught up in a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions that you couldn’t break yourself out of?

Here’s how, according to Dr. Oz, ice can help!

When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, take a cube of ice in the palm of your hand and hold on to it.

Focus on the feel of the cube in your hand. How cold it is, whether it’s making your skin feel numb, whether you can feel the tingling of the chill down your arm, the water as it melts trickling over your palm.

This is called a grounding exercise – specifically, a physical grounding exercise, which engages your senses.

total recall learningmastering habits

memory skills made easy

By focusing on something distinct and definite in your present, you distance your mind from the thoughts that are causing you anxiety.

It helps switch off the feedback loop of negative physiological reactions you get caught up in when you’re anxious.

Ice isn’t the only type of grounding exercise you can use. You can tuck a slice of lemon into your mouth and focus on the sourness of the taste over your tongue or inhale a perfume or scent and focus on the notes you can recognize in it.

The key is to ground yourself in the present and distance yourself from the things that are making you anxious.

4. Take a Cold Shower

Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in SecondsFirst ice – and now a cold shower? I know it sounds unpleasant – but if the payoff is not just anxiety relief but better mood and motivation, it’s worth a shot, right?

Try and remember a time you jumped into the cold sea during your last visit to the beach or ran through a sudden downpour of rain.

After that first jolt of cold, once your body adjusts to the temperature, how did you feel?

Did you notice that afterwards, your head was clearer, and you felt like you were in a great mood?

Did you feel alert and ready to get on with your day?

A 2007 study explains how and why this happens. When you’re in contact with cold water, the blood vessels closer to your skin contract and your blood circulation speeds up, to reduce heat loss and maintain your body’s ideal internal temperature.

This, along with the deeper breaths being under cold water stimulates, increases the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your brain and shifts your brain into the alpha brain wave state.

Not only does this deeper breathing help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, it also helps trigger a dopamine spike.

This brain chemical is responsible for motivation, and along with the increased blood flow to your brain, you step out of your shower feeling alert, awake, in a great mood and ready to get to work.

Meanwhile, cold showers can also reduce cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone,

If you decide to try out cold showers, don’t jump into the coldest temperature right away – start off with warm water, and gradually reduce the temperature to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

And if you have any underlying heart conditions, avoid cold showers altogether because the shock of a sudden temperature change may not be good for you!

5. Unwind with a Cup of Green Tea

Do These 5 Things to Relieve Anxiety in SecondsYou might rely on a cup of coffee to wake up in the mornings, but this might actually lead to long-run problems which can make feelings of anxiety worse.

The caffeine in coffee does help keep you awake and alert, by interfering with the work of the chemical messenger adenosine, which makes you drowsy.

But the thing is, the caffeine from a cup of coffee can stay in your system for up to 10 hours after you drink it.

And if you drink multiple cups a day, you risk not only developing a dependency on caffeine – which can lead to severe withdrawals when you don’t drink coffee, like headaches and brain fog – but can make your feelings of anxiety and stress worse.

Don’t worry though – you can still get your caffeine fix, by opting for a cup of green tea instead!

Black and green teas – especially green teas – contain the amino acid l-theanine, which can counter the effect of the caffeine in your brew.

It wakes you up and keeps you alert, but without the jitters! In fact, l-theanine is a natural relaxant, and research finds that it can help reduce feelings of anxiety and even promote better sleep!

total recall learningmastering habits

memory skills made easy

L-theanine stimulates greater production of brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which also help keep you alert, focused, motivated and in a great mood.

Start your day with a warm cup of green tea instead of coffee – I recommend organic, ceremonial grade matcha, my personal favorite!

The next time you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, do these 5 things to relieve anxiety in seconds! They’re science-backed methods proven to work!

I’d love to hear how they work out for you!

Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™. 

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

Related article