6 Tips to calm the storm of anxiety

Anxiety can be an overwhelming force, affecting our thoughts, emotions, and daily lives. Whether it’s generalised anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, or specific phobias, seeking professional help can provide a lifeline. Anxiety counselling offers a safe space to explore your fears, triggers, and coping mechanisms. You’ll learn practical strategies to manage anxiety, build resilience, and regain control. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. There’s hope, healing, and a path toward inner peace.


What is anxiety?

The past decade in the UK has seen an explosion of anxiety-related issues. Anxiety is a psychological state that is marked by a variety of uneasy feelings, such as fear, worry, or nervousness. This condition is generally associated with future events and may significantly impact an individual's daily life. While anxiety is a common occurrence, some individuals may experience it to a greater degree, and it can become a persistent problem that interferes with their daily activities.

Research on anxiety in the UK reveals that a significant number of people require support and different demographic groups are affected by anxiety at varying levels. Some of the key findings include:

  • In England, six out of 100 people in any one week are diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (according to Mind).
  • At any given time, over 8 million people in the UK suffer from symptoms of anxiety (as per Mental Health UK).
  • Did you know that fewer than 50% of those with generalised anxiety disorder access treatment (according to the Mental Health Foundation)?
  • Work-related stress, depression or anxiety affects an estimated 822,000 workers in the UK every year (according to the Health and Safety Executive).

You can't calm the storm: what you can do is calm yourself

However, it's important to remember that you are much stronger than your anxious thoughts. When anxiety comes knocking on your door, there are steps you can take to help manage it.

1. Breathe

Take a deep breath and let the rhythm of your breath anchor you in the present moment. Inhale courage and exhale doubt. Slow down your breathing and try to control how you live. Breathe through your nose; hold your breath for up to seven seconds, then save it for three to four seconds before slowly releasing. Repeat this exercise from ten to twenty times. In doing this, you are regulating yourself and reducing hyperventilating.

2. Ground yourself

Feel the earth beneath your feet and wiggle your toes. By doing this, you can remind yourself that you are here, now. With a little effort, you can teach yourself progressive muscle relaxation. Anxiety often causes tension in the body in learning to release the stress and feel more relaxed.

3. Challenge your thoughts

Our minds can be skilled storytellers, but not all tales we tell ourselves are true. Could you take a moment to reflect on your anxious thoughts and ask yourself if they are facts or fiction? Anxiety seldom appears from nowhere. When we experience an increase in anxiety, often we have allowed the mind to frighten our thinking.

There is a saying that we no longer have to control our thoughts, but we no longer allow our thoughts to control us. We can maintain the level of anxiety by keeping the thoughts at bay. To do this, examine the evidence behind your thoughts before the spiral. Once fear is in full flow, you will not be able to think this is due to the frontal cortex going offline when you enter survival mode.

Often, the natural reaction is to run from anxiety, but it makes it worse. To illustrate this, imagine a tug of war when two opposing ends pull away from each other. You get tension. Imagine the anxiety is placed at one end and you at the other. The tension was caused by you pulling away from your experience now; next time you experience anxiety, enter into it with a sense of curiosity. Explore your anxiety and try to establish what it is trying to tell you. You may want help with this. 

4. Seek connection

Reach out to someone you trust, whether a friend, a loved one, or a professional. Sometimes, sharing the load makes it lighter, and having someone to talk to can help you feel less alone. Human connection is a vital aspect that brings us together and creates a sense of belonging. Our bond with people around us gives us a feeling of support and understanding.

We feel valued, respected, and heard when we interact with others. We experience no criticism or judgment. Instead, we feel stronger and refreshed after spending time with them. We can create human connections in many ways, such as having a meaningful conversation with a friend, receiving a warm embrace from a loved one, or exploring the outdoors with a family member. Sometimes, we can connect with others without even saying a word, just by sharing experiences and spending time together.

5. Practice self-compassion

Imagine comforting a dear friend through a tough time. Extend that same kindness to yourself. Be gentle with yourself and remember that it's okay not to be okay sometimes. It can be hard to show kindness and care to ourselves, especially when we're going through a difficult time. But practising self-compassion is an essential step towards healing and growth.

Whether you're new to this practice or have been working on it for a while, there are a few things to remember. Firstly, self-compassion is not about constantly forcing ourselves to feel good. It's about cultivating a sense of goodwill towards ourselves, even when things are tough. We can't always control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond.

With self-compassion, we learn to accept our pain with mindfulness and embrace ourselves with kindness and care. We remind ourselves that we're not alone in our struggles and that imperfection is just a part of being human. By holding ourselves in love and connection, we create the optimal conditions for growth and transformation. Remember, being kind to yourself is okay; you deserve it. 

6. Discover what relaxes you

Relaxation is crucial to maintaining our mental and physical well-being. To discover your inner calm, take a break from stress, even if it's just for a few minutes. Exploring artistic activities such as painting, drawing, crafting, playing a musical instrument, dancing, baking, or sewing can be excellent ways to unwind. Walking in a park, garden, or forest and connecting with nature can help soothe your soul.

Remember, relaxation doesn't have to be time-consuming or complicated. Find what works best for you and prioritise self-care with confidence.

Here to help

Anxiety counselling can help individuals understand the root cause of their anxiety, learn coping strategies, break negative thought cycles, boost self-confidence, manage physical symptoms, and improve their overall quality of life. Seeking professional help is a courageous step, and there are practical tools and support available to help those struggling with anxiety. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London E1 & E14
Written by David Pender, MBACP, Integrative Psychotherapy | Specialising in Anxiety
London E1 & E14

David S. Pender is a qualified BACP therapist who provides counselling and psychotherapy services to adults throughout London & the UK. He has extensive experience in dealing with problems related to anxiety, trauma, chronic stress, social anxiety, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Free discovery calls

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