Trying to find relief from a stressed or anxious mind can sometimes feel impossible. While in the middle of a panic attack, our minds run on autopilot as destructive, negative thoughts run through our heads uncontrollably, affecting our moods and even our physical health. Although many sufferers feel like there's no hope to managing their restless minds, there are actually easy mind tips you can follow to help you control your thoughts before they spiral out of control. And we're not just talking about counting to 10 or thinking of positive thoughts. These specific tricks are easy ways you can fight stress and anxiety now, regardless of where you are, and they'll only take you a few minutes.
Trick #1: Practice the STOP method.
When you feel like you're in the middle of a panic attack, it's important to (S)top your thoughts before they get worse, (T)ake a deep breath, (O)bserve your body (instead of your mind), and (P)roceed once you're finished. This is one of the most popular stress-relieving techniques and only takes a few seconds when applied. The most important step is observing. This step allows you step outside your thoughts for a second and focus on what's happening to your body. Do you feel tense? Angry? Why do you feel this way? Once you're more tapped into the why, you're more likely to handle the situation better and with a calmer mind.
Trick #2: The 333 rule.
When you're in the middle of feeling stressed, it's important to reel yourself back into the present reality instead of hurling your mind into a vortex of negative hypotheticals. A good way to practice being "present" is to follow the 333 rule. The next time you're feeling anxious, simply look around and name three things you see, then three sounds you hear, and lastly, move three parts of your body. "Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment," psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. told WebMD.
Trick #4: Breathe.
Sure this might seem like an obvious trick, but taking a few seconds to breathe is a lot more important than you think. Try this: Breathe through your nose gently for about seven seconds, then hold your breath for three seconds before exhaling through your mouth. After a minute of this, your body should start to relax. "The simplest instructions are to notice the sensation of your breath in your abdomen or chest, or nose," Trudy Goodman Kornfield, a mindfulness meditation teacher, said. "Try to stay with one breath at a time. When your mind wanders — and it will wander — simply bring it right back to the sensations of breathing."
Trick #7: Question yourself.
When you're feeling anxious, the craziest thoughts enter your heads almost uncontrollably. A good way to manage your thinking is to question the thoughts in your head. According to Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, she recommends answering these questions during a stressful episode: Is this worry realistic? Is this really likely to happen? If the worst possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that? Could I handle that?
Through these questions, you can ground your thoughts and, hopefully, feel better once you realize the unlikeliness of the scenario.
Trick #8: Just let it out.
Instead of breathing and trying to convince yourself you're not anxious, sometimes you just need to let out whatever pent-up emotions, fear, or stress that's bottled up inside you. In fact, psychologists say screaming when you're stressed ("primal scream therapy") has a calming, cathartic effect. The next time you're standing in a house full of dirty dishes and toys all over the floor, simply scream yourself silly into a pillow. You might feel ridiculous, but you'll feel much better.
Trick #10: Imagine a "clear button."
This tactic, popular amongst meditation circles, involves imagining clearing your brain with just a touch of a button. Here's how it works: Close your eyes and imagine there's a "clear" button in your palm. Press it. Next, count for three seconds to allow the thoughts to pass. Last, allow your mind to go blank. When you're finished, open your eyes. Feel free to repeat the steps as many times as necessary.
Trick #12: Try counting in your head.
And no, we're not talking about counting from one to 10. Instead, try doing an impossible task, like counting backward from 1,000 in intervals of seven (1,000, 993, 986...). If this sounds complicated, that's because it is. The point is to get your mind so focused on the task, it forgets whatever it was you were worried about. It's only a temporary stress fix, but it's one that always works.