Using the Five Senses for Anxiety Relief
Anxiety is a disease that bites many. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate against age, sex, religion, race, or any other related demographics. It affects people differently and manifests in different ways. It can affect our thoughts, emotions, and even physical health if we let it get out of control.
Everyone might deal with fright or worry from time to time, but take it up another notch and anxiety will override any of those milder forms. Anxiety is nothing to be afraid of because it can be mastered with the right tools. The following is a list of tricks on how to use your five senses to calm and overcome your anxiety. Perhaps one sense helps more than the rest.
The most popular ideas promote this sense as your immediate relief from anxiety. Listening to calming music, raindrops, or other such soothing sounds can relax the nervous system, which is the primary culprit for anxiety. Upon hearing these sounds, the brain switches modes and is gently brought to a state of relaxation. Even those who meditate seek soothing background sounds to help them relax. Babies are swaddled and driven to sleep with slow and relaxing music.
Everyone’s preferences are different. Does jazz or classical or country music help ease your nerves? Do you find sitting by a stream, surrounded by nature, delightful? What kind of feeling do you get when you hear thunder? How do you react to complete silence? Also, recognize the background music in films that make you tense; then recognize the background music in films that help you calm down from that scene. The same idea can be practiced in other scenarios as needed.
This is an odd one if you think about it. One might readily associate sniffing a particular smell as a source of anxiety relief. Just as above in hearing, exploring which smells make you nervous and which make you calm is another great resource. May I suggest, however, that the sense of smell is directly related to your breath, which is directly related to your nervous system. Yes, this is actually about breathing.
DON’T do this: quickly sniff and scout all the smells around you. By doing this, you might begin to associate what you smell with experiencing anxiety. Instead, DO this: sniff away slowly and let it become a slow breathing exercise. Sentimentally embrace any smell and be attentive to its presence, intensity, and proximity. This will not only calm your breathing, if you smell slowly, but it will also take your mind off the stimulus that is bugging you. Unless of course, if the smell is what initiated the anxiety, try finding another smell in the area. We all know that there is more than one smell in any given area. Making this a challenge might also appeal to some.
This sense plays a critical role, yet goes under-recognized. When children go to counseling, most times they will have a set of different tactile objects, such as sand or Playdough. Playing with these helps the nervous system find a sense of calmness. Skin is the largest organ, and the calming stimulus registers quickly and appropriately upon contact.
The activity of playing an instrument, especially drum or string instruments, help not only by its sound, but actually the vibration of sound is the magical ingredient in this solution. Personally, touching something formed with bristles, such as Pin Art or silicone sponges, helps me. In other instances, especially with Autism Spectrum Disorder, feeling physical pressure can help minimize nervous responses and calm the individual suffering from overwhelming stimuli. Also, the feeling of water on the skin can help relieve anxious feelings — try sticking your hands or feet in a bowl of clean warm water. Our sense of touch plays a special role in calming anxiety, which is why Fidget Spinners and stress balls are so popular.
Simply stated, there are those sights that increase anxiety and those that decrease it; images of peace and serenity are associated with reducing anxiety and images of disturbance and unrest promote anxiety. Visual aids are used in therapy, marketing, and more as a tactic to influence the mind and body connection.Even imagining yourself surrounded in a peaceful environment will help bring you to ease. Saving a picture from a time on vacation when the surroundings were relaxing and looking at it during an anxiety rush should help bring back that relaxing feeling. Does the vision of a vast open meadow help calm you? Are there horses or other wildlife? Sometimes imagining a still smooth lake with a bit of haze takes me to a centering place. Watching the sunrise or the sunset is also a great way to slow down and be relieved of a stressful day or night.
This sense doesn’t readily come to mind when thinking of ways to relieve anxiety. However, it is a strong method. It is not necessarily the taste of the food, but rather the neurochemical dietary benefits that come with consumption of particular foods and the conditioning thereof. Foods have different neurochemical properties that affect mood and mental functioning and can be found in most food groups — herbs, veggies, meat, dairy, etc. After conditioning the body to these foods, taste can become associated with soon-to-be calming nerves.
Some teas, namely Chamomile, are widely known to counteract anxiety, providing relief to the drinker. (That’s right, ditch the coffee! It doesn’t help anxiety.) Keeping a diet journal to track both anxiety attacks and what you consume is recommended so the pattern of what inspires and what diminishes anxiety will become obvious. Hypothetically, by recognizing the tastes that help with anxiety, the mind should become conditioned to react with the anxiety-relieving tastes.
Altogether, the five human senses are tools which we use to help us navigate the human experience. Some may lack in one sense yet there is mention of a sixth sense. Everyone is “built” differently and one may be more prone to experience anxiety over another. Anxiety relief is a personal project. A parent may prefer one sensing method of relief and their child may seek relief through another sensing method. It is beautiful growth when one examines oneself sufficiently leading to mastership of behavior.
Hunt, A. (2018). Using the Five Senses for Anxiety Relief. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/using-the-five-senses-for-anxiety-relief/