Davin Healthcare is making Mental Health a focus of 2022. It’s been a tough couple of years and even though guidelines are reducing mandates and Covid numbers are trending downwards, the stress is still with us, and we must look towards holistically caring for ourselves.
Anxiety is something that most people feel in varying degrees. And with the pandemic, stress levels only increased, especially for those working in the healthcare field. Whether you suffer from anxiety often or it’s something that only happens every once in a while, having a set of tools to help relieve that anxiety is handy and is something that you should carry with you always.
We put together 5 quick ways to help reduce anxiety and stress and, hopefully, to add to your calming toolset. Just know, these are just suggestions on how to relieve stress, but if you are having thoughts of ending your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.
One of the best and easiest ways to reduce tension is deep breathing. When anxious, your body prepares for fight-or-flight. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, your muscles tense, and you breathe faster. When you slow your breathing down through purposeful, mindful breaths, your body starts to calm. Your muscles relax, your heart rate slows, and you begin to calm1. (Does it actually work? Well, a group of scientists says yes. Read their paper here.)
There are many different techniques to slow breathing, but the majority rely on you taking a few seconds and focusing on your breathing. Take a deep breath in through the nose, hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Focus on each inhale, hold, and exhale. Repeat this a few times (more if very anxious) and you should start to feel calm.
You would be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t like a good massage. But did you know that during stressful situations, taking a couple of minutes and giving yourself a hand massage can help to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and even lighten your mood? Study after study says so. In addition to helping to reduce anxiety, hand massages can help to alleviate pain from conditions such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome2.
If you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to sit down and give yourself a hand massage. wikiHow has an in-depth tutorial on how to give yourself a hand massage, but even a few of the many techniques shown can help to relieve tension. Once you start, you may not want to stop.
Relax your Jaw and Shoulders
When having anxiety, millions of years of evolution kick in, we go into fight-or-flight mode, and our muscles tense up. Of course, nowadays, we’re not being stalked by a Sabretooth tiger, so this physiological response might seem a bit excessive for a stressful day at work. Regardless of the source, muscles tense in response to stress, and if the stress continues, your muscles can remain tight, causing discomfort.
Studies found that relieving that tension can actually help to reduce your anxiety and stress3. If you have the time to stretch properly and relax your entire body, that is ideal, but if you’re on the go and finding your anxiety rising, we suggest trying two simple techniques: relax your shoulders and relax your jaw. We hold a lot of tension in our jaw, neck, and shoulder regions of our body. As we get stressed, most people will unconsciously clench their jaw and raise their shoulders towards their ears. Purposefully relaxing both your shoulders and jaw will help to disarm this tension. For your shoulders, it’s as simple as letting them fall. And for your jaw, open and close your mouth, to stretch the muscles and then make sure your jaw is slack when closed. Give it try!
If you’re still feeling anxious and creeping towards a panic attack, don’t worry or feel embarrassed. It’s estimated that 22.7% of all Americans experience at least one panic attack in their lives4. These next tips may help to lessen or prevent an oncoming panic attack.
Are you feeling a panic attack coming on? Pop a sour candy in your mouth. I know it sounds implausible, but it often works. As licensed trauma therapist Micheline Maalouf said, “It shocks our senses into focusing on the sourness of the candy. It sort of puts us into a mindful moment using our sense of taste and shifts the focus away from our symptoms or whatever triggered the panic5.”
This same principle of using something shocking to ground yourself during a panic attack can work for scents as well, especially strong scents, but if you’re on the go, it’s easier to carry around candies in your pocket than it is to carry bottles of scents.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
And if you’re in the middle of a panic attack and none of the other methods worked, give the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method a try. Find a place where you feel comfortable and don’t mind speaking out loud and start deep breathing. Then look around the area and say, out loud, five things you see. Next, take in what you feel on your skin and say four things you can feel. Then, focus on what you can hear, and say three things you can hear. Turn to your nose and say two things you can small. And finally, say one thing you can taste.
Like the sour candy, this method helps to shift your focus away from the anxiety and onto your surroundings6. This method is extremely useful for many people who suffer from panic attacks.
We hope that you join us in making mental health a focus of 2022. We never know when the next stressful situation may arise, and being prepared is the first step to ensuring that you stay healthy and happy. And if you’re a Davin Healthcare employee, we are excited to announce that Davin Healthcare is now partnered with Headspace! Employees will be able to use the one-year subscription and it is 100% employer-paid. Headspace is proven to cut stress in just 10 days, help people sleep, focus, and show up as their best selves. Through this service, employees will have tools to support their mental wellbeing through a program people value. Reach out to your HR contact to find out more.
- Blount, A. (2021, June 30). Deep breathing exercises can help ease anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/why-deep-breathing-helps-calm-anxiety#how-it-helps
- Hecht, M. (2019, July 18). Hand massage benefits and how to give your hands a great massage. Healthline. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/the-many-benefits-of-a-hand-massage-and-how-to-do-it-yourself#benefits
- Nunez, K. (2020, August 10). Progressive muscle relaxation: Benefits, how-to, technique. Healthline. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/progressive-muscle-relaxation#benefits
- Barends Pyschology Practice. (2018, August 31). Interesting panic attacks facts and statistics from all over the world. Online Expat Counseling for individuals and couples. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://barendspsychology.com/interesting-panic-attacks-facts/#:~:text=Interesting%20panic%20attacks%20facts%20%E2%80%93%20prevalence%20and%20comorbidity.,Agoraphobia%20in%20their%20lives%20%5B1%5D.%20More%20items...%20
- Marie, E. (2022, January 6). Does sour candy help with anxiety?. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.healthdigest.com/726819/does-sour-candy-help-with-anxiety/
- Mayo Clinic Health Systems. (2020, June 6). Countdown to make Anxiety Blast Off. Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/5-4-3-2-1-countdown-to-make-anxiety-blast-off