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  • Writer's pictureAliza Septimus, PsyD

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It's important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you're out in public?


As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow, deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three... hold for a count of three... and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.


In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.


Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent's home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.


If you've never tried listening medication, I highly recommend it. It can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here is why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there are in the room with you, outside the door, and out your window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead... the noise of the ice maker... a bee at the window... a pet's collar down the hall...

It's actually a very fun exercise to do!

Here's why it works: In order to really give sound your full attention, you can't think while listening. (It's a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.) Much of our anxiety comes from anxious thoughts. It's our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one ore more of these techniques.

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