Anxiety as a Physiological Response

Posted October 28, 2022 in
Tips & Resources Tips & Resources

Mandy York

Developing leaders, making content, changing lives

Hi everyone, Mandy here with a weirdly personal topic today, inspired by  John Phelan recent post about the Tactical Pause. 

SO- once upon a time I taught human development and psychology to high school seniors, and every year the topic of the rampant diagnosis of depression and anxiety would come up. So after thinking it over for a while, I finally came up with a toolkit for combating anxiety in real-time and there is no better place to share it than right here! Some of them may sound a little wonky, but bear with me and try it out.

1. Go stick your tongue out in the mirror. Do you have indentions on the side from your teeth? Did you know that's not normal? As a fight response, our body forces the tongue to the roof of the mouth to brace for impact. If you're holding your jaw that way for long periods of time- you'll get tooth imprints. You can hijack this physiological response by consciously dropping your jaw and keeping space between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Try it for 30 seconds and tell me you don't physically feel yourself calming down. 

2. If you're still wigging out, it's time to do a circular breathing pattern. This is another one designed to hijack your body and basically communicate to it that there is no danger (by forcing your heart rate to slow). Breathe in and consciously draw the breath into your stomach. If you've got children, you know their bellies move when they breathe and not their chest, but you probably do the opposite as an adult. So breathe like a toddler! Count 7 seconds in, hold for 7, and 7 seconds out, all the while moving your stomach and not your chest. 

3. Now if those two things don't work, I have one more trick for you. This one takes a little longer and isn't something you can do in the middle of a meeting like the other two, BUT if you have the time it's worth a shot. Sit down where ever is comfortable and put your feet flat on the floor, with your arms down to your sides. Close your eyes and start with the top of your head and identify your muscle groups- all of them. Eyebrows, cheeks, nose, mouth, shoulders, elbows, hands, etc. Target each and make a concentrated effort to 'drain' any tight muscles without moving them. Relax each group and work your way down until you're all the way to your toes. This is a form of mindfulness- and allows us to recognize, target and release stress in a logical and quantifiable way. 
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