2020 has been full of it. Changes. New Normals. Sugar Honey Ice Tea (you gotta be old enough to know what that really means). While there have been bright spots here and there, this year has been one for the record books. Things have happened in a way that has made those of us who don’t deal with anxiousness on a regular basis have anxiety. And for those who do, well, your levels have reached a hundred thousand trillion (like the old Kanye). When some of us get a little anxious we can take a step back and get it together, although some times are harder than others and that is much easier said than done. Others need a little more help in the form of medications. Some people swear by other substances, but since I don’t indulge, I can’t validate that claim.
Basically, I’m saying that we ALL have moments of anxiety and different ways of handling it. As your favorite NP, I speak to my patients about it all of the time. On a daily basis actually. I’m always seeking to learn more about certain things, and this is one of them. I work in primary care and 5-22% of this patient population complain about issues with anxiety. Well, I recently stumbled across something that I’ve started sharing with them and I thought I’d share it with you here in hopes that it’d help you/us get through the rest of 2020 (and beyond). I call it the 5 to 1 Method (I couldn’t find the technical term so this is just what I call it).
When you are feeling anxious, LOOK AROUND YOU! You have 5 senses to use that can naturally help you calm down when you start to feel a little worked up, overwhelmed, or start to feel a full on panic attack coming.
Find FIVE things that you can SEE. By focusing on more calming or serene images, the mind’s focus changes from the stress trigger to a more relaxed state. For me, it’s my children, shoes, the beach, home decor, and flowers. Our phones are at our disposal so I keep the pics favorited and use my shopping apps and Pinterest to provide the visual stimuli I need to help keep my head from spinning. Studies have shown that visualization through mental imagery also works, especially in instances where you have your default things around. Visualize the last time you were on the beach or the last time you were dancing so carefree that you didn’t care who was watching.
Find FOUR things you can TOUCH. Ever heard of stress balls. Insert them here. Some people will even go wash their hands because the feeling of warm water can be calming. Something soft always does the trick for me. Or even me placing my hand on my chest to actually feel the deep breaths has been helping. Remember on Bad Boys when the captain was Woo-sahhing. What was he touching? His ears. Whatever works, right?
Find THREE things you can HEAR. Music is my go-to here! But if you’ve been following me long enough, then you already knew that. Yell to Alexa to play some smooth jazz. Or gospel. Or tell Cash Money to take over for the ’99 and the 2000. It could be a video of a/your baby cooing. The sound of the rain. Just make sure whatever you decide to listen to doesn’t add to your anxiety. Sometimes that can even be your own thoughts.
Find TWO things to SMELL. There is a strong association between our olfactory sense and stress reduction. That’s why the spa uses aromatherapy. They want you to be as relaxed as possible. Lavender is a wonderful scent to diffuse or burn when you’re feeling anxious. If you’re a coffee lover, keep a bag close by to break open in case of an emergency. I’m a candle lover, so that’s an easy fix for me. Flowers are also good too. But I also keep a room spray (via Bath & Body Works) and/or some essential oils in desk drawer to use when I need a little pick me up. When I was pregnant, the smell of dishwasher pods gave me so much joy. Weird, I know, but hopefully you get the point. I know I’m not the only one.
Lastly, find ONE thing to TASTE. Chocolate. Something fruity. A piece of gum or a mint work well too. Something small , but whatever suits your fancy, pop it in and savor the flavor. The endorphins released will help calm the busiest and most anxious of hearts. However, be mindful here because there is a such thing as stress eating that can harmful and lead to a myriad of other problems.
According to Q, learning to cope with change and stressful triggers is a learned skill. And to be honest, it’s a lifelong learning process. Hopefully this method helps you use your five senses to regroup and remain calm in overwhelming situations. 2020 has hit us from every angle, but we are still able to live a life that is composed and balanced.
p.s. 3 cheers for denim jacket season!