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How You Can Use Calming Exercises for Anxiety

You’re enjoying your day and going for a walk in the park. Out of nowhere, you begin to experience anxiety. Your body tenses up, and you start sweating and breathing rapidly. The only thought in your head is the fact that you want to go home and ease your mind.

You might have experienced similar situations before. Anxiety can affect us all in different ways. What might trigger one person's anxiety might have little to no effect on you. Regardless, it’s important we know how to counteract and deal with anxiety when it strikes. There are many different calming exercises for anxiety we can use.

In today’s article we’re going to be sharing how to relax and relieve anxiety with:

  • General tips to cope with anxiety
  • Grounding techniques you can use
  • Coping skills you can practice
  • Self-care techniques you can take part in

Some techniques in this article might catch your attention more compared to others. What's important is that you find something that fits your situation when you experience anxiety, so you can prepare yourself in the best possible way to deal with it. The best part is that we're here to help you in that journey. Keep reading to learn about calming exercises for anxiety!

General Tips to Cope with Anxiety

There are many factors that might contribute to the onset of anxiety. Our lifestyles can play a big role. You could be unaware of some of the habits that affect your anxiety or the ones you’re not taking part in that could actually help you! So, we’ve compiled a small list of practical lifestyle solutions and actions you can take to help your anxiety on a day-to-day basis.

This includes:

  1. Doing your best to get a good night's sleep
  2. Cutting back or quitting caffeinated beverages and smoking
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol and doing recreational drugs
  4. Eating a healthy diet
  5. Socializing with friends and loved ones
  6. Exercising regularly

Many of these lifestyle changes can help with anxiety by:

  • Reducing stress
  • Building confidence
  • Releasing more happy brain chemicals like endorphins

While these lifestyle adjustments will help with your anxiety overall — there are also grounding techniques and coping skills to help you deal with sudden overwhelming feelings of anxiety when it occurs.

Grounding Techniques to Try for Anxiety

Grounding techniques work to help control symptoms of anxiety by refocusing your attention away from your thoughts, memories, and worries by bringing them to the present moment.

5-4-3-2-1 Technique

This technique requires you to take in the details of your surroundings using all five of your senses. The goal is to notice and take in small details that you normally don't notice or that you tune out in your day-to-day life.

Observe 5 things that you can see — this could be the details in the ground or the fabric of your clothing.

Notice 4 things you can feel — pay attention to the feeling of your socks on your feet, or the wind blowing against your body.

Listen to 3 things you can hear — pay close attention to sounds you normally tune out. This could be the sounds of birds chirping, or the breeze blowing through the window.

Pay attention to 2 things you can smell — bring your focus to the scents around you. Take notice of the smell of fresh air, or a freshly lit candle.

Focus on 1 thing you can taste — bring small snacks, or gum with you on your travels. Pop one in your mouth and pay close attention to the taste and flavours.


Another effective way you can ground yourself is an activity called categories. This involves choosing 3 categories and naming as many items in each one as you can. To help you out — here are a few ideas you can use:

  • Art
  • Sports
  • Planets
  • Colours
  • Cereals
  • Animals
  • Countries
  • Sport teams

Furthermore, this technique has endless possibilities for categories to choose from. We’ve listed a few above, but feel free to use your creativity and imagination and create your own categories.

Coping Skills for Anxiety

There are many different ways you can cope with anxiety. So learning about each one will help you decide which is best for you and your situation.

Deep Breathing

Breathing exercises for anxiety are a quick, discrete and effective way to cope with anxiety. Also, it helps to bring your attention and focus to the present moment through the feelings of deep breathing. It’s a great way to cope with anxiety because you can do it anywhere and at any time. You can do it standing or sitting. Whatever the case may be, follow these three steps.

Step 1 — place one hand on your abdomen and deeply breathe through your nose. Then breathe deep enough that you notice your hand on your abdomen begin to rise. Do this for four seconds.

Step 2 — hold your breath in your lungs for another four seconds.

Step 3 — pucker your lips and slowly exhale through your mouth for six seconds.

Repeat these steps until you feel a sense of calmness and relaxation. Breathing techniques can lower blood pressure and slow the heartbeat. This could explain its ability to bring about feelings of calmness and relaxation, resulting in its effectiveness in helping anxiety.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relaxation techniques for anxiety involve a pattern of tensing and relaxing the muscles. It can also teach you to spot anxiety by helping you learn to understand and recognize what muscle tension feels like.

You can do this sitting down or lying down in a comfortable position. For each step listed below, you’ll tense your muscles for about 10 seconds and pay close attention to how it feels. After 10 seconds, you’ll release the tension and observe the difference between the relaxation of your muscles versus the tensing.

  1. Feet — curl your toes tightly into your feet — then release.
  2. Calves — point or flex your feet, then let them relax.
  3. Thighs — squeeze them tightly then release.
  4. Torso — suck in your abdomen and then release the tension.
  5. Back — squeeze your shoulder blades together, then release.
  6. Shoulders — lift and squeeze your shoulders up towards your ears, then let them drop.
  7. Arms — make fists and squeeze them towards your shoulders and let them drop.
  8. Hands — make a fist, then release your fingers.
  9. Face — scrunch your facial features to the centre of your face and then let them relax.
  10. Full body — now squeeze all your muscles at the same time then let them fall back and relax.

For each step, keep your muscles tense for 10 seconds, and focus on the feeling that it brings. When you release the tension take note of the relaxation that comes along with it.

Self-Care Techniques

Coping skills and grounding techniques are just a few of the ways you can help your anxiety. Self care can also play an integral role in helping with anxiety. Since it’s such a subjective topic, some self care techniques may be suitable for you, while others might not be.

Write It Out

Take note that several studies done prove that positive journaling can actually improve many factors associated with the well-being of patients that have anxiety. There are many ways you can practice journaling. You might decide to write whatever's on your mind when you journal, or you could write out 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

Finally, no matter the choice you make, journaling is a powerful and easy way to express yourself, reflect, and practice gratitude. Hence, it’s a great way to deal with overwhelming emotions in a healthy manner. It can help you not only manage anxiety but also reduce stress and cope with depression.


Similar to breathing exercises — meditation is a powerful way to become more aware of your thoughts and live in the present moment. Additionally, Mindful meditation may help ease stresses like pain, depression, and anxiety. The best way to build up a habit of meditating would be to start by doing it for only five minutes a day and work yourself up to a time you’re comfortable with.

For beginners, it's especially effective to use guided meditations as they can help you stay focused if you’re inexperienced and not sure how to do it.

Pleasure and Mastery

Both pleasure and mastery can increase the positive emotions we feel. Pleasure can be looked at as the hobbies we take part in for “play.” We participate in these activities simply for the sake of having fun and enjoying ourselves. While mastery involves sports or work that have us improving our skills and developing ourselves. Embracing and taking part in both areas in moderation can help us live more fulfilling lives and ease our anxiety.

Some examples for pleasure might be:

  • Listening to music
  • Hanging out with friends and family
  • Going to the movies
  • Travelling
  • Exploring nature (e.g. hiking, fishing)

Examples for mastery include:

  • Learning about your interests
  • Playing sports and developing your skills
  • Enjoyment and creativity in your day job or volunteer work
  • Woodworking and/or home improvement
  • Visual art (e.g. painting, sewing, knitting)

Conclusion — Calming Exercises for Anxiety

In summary, all of the exercises discussed in this article have the ability to help with your anxiety. From breathing techniques all the way to the hobbies you take part in. However, anxiety can be a complicated matter. It’s not always simply solved or dealt with by writing out your thoughts or meditating. Often times talking to a professional for guidance can help. Dealing with anxiety and the feelings that come with it can bring about problems in your day-to-day life. It’s important to address it and do your best to help yourself. Whether you’ve been struggling with anxiety for a bit now, or just recently it’s developed — we offer a free consultation with any of our experienced clinicians. Here at On Your Mind Counselling, we’re dedicated to helping you deal with stress and anxiety and bringing about the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.

Written by the OYMC Team

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