Here are a variety of ways to help yourself under stress.
It may feel like your body is not your friend if you are anxious or panicky, but the trick is to work with it, not to fight it. Grounding in the body, particularly the lower body is a natural way to settle the mind. Focus on connecting with the earth through your legs and feet. Think of a martial artist with his or her knees slightly bent, sinking the center of gravity down into the lower belly. Placing your hands there can help. Actually taking your shoes off can help you to connect to the magnetic field of the earth, as can holding trees or focusing on living plants or animals. Taking long, slow deep breaths tells the nervous system that it is safe to relax. It can be helpful to hold the breath a little bit before you exhale or inhale, just for a couple of seconds.
Usually when we are stressed we are very focused on the stressor. It’s helpful to focus on things that feel calming and relaxing, while not pushing away the thoughts or feelings that are stressful. This is called “dual attention.” So you can gently focus on a tree or some music, or your breath and also make space to softly feel your heart or whatever other elements of stress are going on. Don’t resist your stress, just dilute it by putting your attention on non-stressful things as well.
We often unconsciously know little things to help, for example holding our head or our heart or belly in our hands. Often people naturally tap or massage parts of themselves. This is naturally self-soothing. We also often simply focus our eyes on something interesting, like art or a beautiful plant. You can make this even more powerful by doing it deliberately and tuning in to exactly what you like about what you are looking at and taking it into yourself. Feel the color or the image and let it help you remember the bigger picture in life beyond what is disturbing you.
A powerful hypnotherapy technique for stopping panic is to look at three things at once, preferably extending into three dimensional space. This induces a light trance and breaks the feedback loop of over focus which is typical of anxiety and panic. Another way to achieve the same effect is to take a deep breath and hold it while rolling your eyes up to the sky with your eyelids closed. Hold this until you are uncomfortable, then notice the wave of relaxation when you let go and breathe naturally.
Parents learn to rock and sing to babies to soothe their nervous systems. This works for adults too! It’s really helpful to sing or hum a song that as positive associations for you. Smell is very connected to the primitive brain, so happy smells such as essential oils or favorite flowers or spices is a direct way to give your brain a calming message.
As a last resort, splashing cold water on your face, like in the movies, does actually work! If you prefer to stay dry, ice cubes in a plastic bag will work. It helps to briefly hold your breath.
I also highly recommend using the Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as tapping. In this technique you state out loud what is disturbing you while rubbing various acupressure points. EFT is very easy to find on U-tube.
Obviously hugs and reaching out to friends is also very helpful. If you are a client, you can also call me!