“There was a six car accident on the highway this morning.” Said my husband. I was just waking up when he shared the news with me. Immediately my thoughts went to, “I hope my brother’s okay.” And until I got a text from him saying that he was okay, I couldn’t stop feeling anxious.
This happens to me all the time.
What does anxiety feel like?
The feeling of anxiety is something that everybody experiences. It can cause a slight heaviness in your chest, butterflies or tightness in your stomach. In extremes, you can feel faint, hot, cold, or off balance.
These feelings can show up in a variety of ways when flooded with thoughts like someone’s going to take my child. My husband is going to die. Did I shut the oven off? I think I left the garage door open.
Literally all of these thoughts have crossed my mind this week—when I was driving in the car or at the grocery store. And I’m guessing you’ve had similar thoughts too.
How do you calm down anxiety?
Some fears you can resolve, like whether you shut the oven off or left the garage door open. And resolving these fears, quickly relieves anxiety.
But the ones that will disturb you the most are the “what if” ones.
Like something bad is going to happen. These thoughts can get a little trickier when you’re trying to calm yourself down.
If you let the what if’s take over your mind, it can quickly build up anxiety. And…often that’s when your life can feel overwhelming. When that happens, it’s a warning. You know something has to change so that you can stop feeling anxious—but at this point you feel paralyzed.
I have to tell you. It’s not just you—it’s normal.
There’s actually a measurable scientific threshold for when this happens—Psychologist John Gottman describes it as emotional flooding.
Emotional flooding is “…a sensation of feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed during conflict, making it virtually impossible to have a productive problem solving discussion.” — John Gottman
Whether it’s a person, or the demands of the everyday—when life feels overwhelming then it feels impossible to stop feeling anxious.
So what do you do?
I mean, even Gottman says it’s virtually impossible…
The what if’s and the fears—they won’t go away. But, I can tell you, I know how to stop feeling anxious in those moments when your fears are persistent.
How can you calm you anxiety naturally? Here’s 6 practical things you can do right now to stop feeling anxious in literally 5 minutes or less.
Immediately Stop Feeling Anxious
There are times when you can stop feeling anxious easily by getting more information—like I texted my brother. Within 5 minutes he got back to me and let me know he was okay.
Sometimes it’s that lack of information that causes that anxiety and once you clear up the unknown—you instantly feel better.
Do Not be Anxious About Anything
Do not be anxious about anything, instead, turn your heart to God in prayer. If you’re not sure what I mean, think of prayer with God being like you’re having a conversation with a good friend.
You’re simply sharing what’s on your heart, telling Him how you feel and think. Scripture says to do this, in Philippians 4:6. Don’t be anxious but tell God about it.
How can this relieve anxiety?
God does something after you’ve told him about. There’s a promise in verse 7 that says you will experience indescribable peace.
If you feel more comfortable with something to guide you in prayer, try Pocket Prayers: 40 Simple Prayers that Bring Peace and Rest by Max Lucado
Ask Yourself, What is the Truth?
Emotions are real, but sometimes the truth can be hidden by our emotions. Remember how I shared that I had the thought, “My husband is going to die.”
There are moments when this crosses my mind—like when my husband is supposed to be home for dinner at six o’clock and it’s 6:40. Anxiety starts to creep in because I haven’t heard anything from him.
Then there are moments when this thought pops into my head for no reason. Why? I don’t know. But…there’s something I do know for certain.
I do know that this is something that is possible, not probable in that moment. My husband could die, not my husband is going to do. There’s a big difference.
I learned to lean on this truth after reading a book called Brave Mom by Sherry Surrat.
There are lots of things we face as moms, and our thoughts can easily become weighed down with the what if’s. Instead, we can ask, what is the truth?
One way to act on this quickly and regain focus is by repeating Sherry’s phrase, “this is possible, but not probable” to yourself. It’s something I do to help me calm down anxiety.
Calm Down Anxiety by Focusing on the Good
Sometimes we just need to refocus on something that is good to distract us from what is causing anxiety in the moment.
For me, this past year I had to have reconstructive surgery. As I was sitting in a surgical room, there happened to be a picture of a beach on the wall next to me. As I was going through a very painful part of the procedure, I looked up at this picture, took some deep breaths and imagined that I was there on that beach.
This is how you can calm down anxiety in a simple but very effective way. It didn’t take me out of the situation—it only distracted my focus so I could calm myself down quickly.
Speak Scripture into the Situation
Depending on the circumstances, you can actually speak scripture out loud—either by reading the Bible—or you can get a pocket scripture card set. There is power in the spoken word of God and by doing so you verbally proclaim that God’s Word is Truth and that the lies of the enemy have no authority over you or your situation.
It is a part of the process of what Paul refers to as taking your thoughts captive.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NASB)
Sometimes, like the time I was sitting in the surgical room, I am not able to speak scripture out loud. In those cases, I speak it in my thoughts. By doing this, you replace those negative thoughts with the Truth of His Word.
It calms down anxiety and gives you freedom not in your own understanding but by trusting in the Lord and His Word. You’re actively proclaiming His Word with your mouth and heart.
5 Minute Anxiety Control Training Audio
I’ve learned that a simple way to stop feeling anxious when I feel overwhelmed by life is to take a break. Even this past year I’ve been talking about the Best Resolution for the New Year is to take a break.
Now you might be thinking, yeah a break sounds great, but when is that going to happen? I don’t have the time.
Well, can you set aside 5 minutes?
5 Minutes is all it takes to listen to this audio training by Dr. Chris Williams, Emeritus Professor of Psychosocial Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. This audio will you help you learn how to calm down anxiety, relax, and take breaks today. It is also a great reference for the future.
I actually used this exercise today.
Helpful Overcoming Fear PDF
I’ve shared a few ways for how to stop feeling anxious—and all that you can do in 5 minutes or less. But unless you intentionally take control of your thoughts, fear will seem like it’s so big like there’s nothing you can do to calm down anxiety.
Sometimes it’s as simple as just buying a journal to get your thoughts out of your head and down on paper. Other times, it helps to have some guided questions to help you overcome fear.
I’ve taken the time to do this in put it all in a PDF to help you more step by step.
But, like I always say, your thoughts influence how you feel, and your feelings determine what you do. Essentially, if you don’t take control of your thoughts—you will feel stuck—and you will be stuck.
You can’t always change your circumstances—but you can change yourself.
If you find that you are repeatedly feeling intense anxiety, excessive, persistent worry and fear about everyday situations that reach a peak in minutes, Mayo Clinic describes this is as not being normal. And this is when it is a good idea to talk with your health care professional.