How to Reduce Anxiety Immediately: 8 Effective Ways

Anxiety Disorder
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Published On: September 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R

Reviewed On: September 28, 2023

Updated On: September 28, 2023


Life can be stressful, but you don’t have to let anxiety rule your life. Anxiety is a persistent, intense state of anxious thoughts, fear, and/or worry, often stemming from everyday experiences or situations. Work, relationships, friendships, parenting, money, and more can be the source of your anxiety. Unfortunately, generalized anxiety disorder is common, too.

Anxiety can be overwhelming and, at times, debilitating, but when you have the right skills, tools, and know-how, you’ll understand how to calm anxiety quickly at any moment.

Learn how to reduce anxiety immediately before it takes hold of your mental and physical well-being.

1. Deep Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are an effective way to thwart the adverse effects of generalized anxiety disorder. There are several breathing exercises for anxiety you can try, and they’re all easy to learn.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique

The 4-7-8 technique is simple to do and can be practiced anywhere. To use it, follow these steps:

  1. Deeply inhale through your nose as you count to 4
  2. Hold your breath as you count to 7
  3. Exhale very slowly through your mouth while counting to 8

Repeat until you start feeling more relaxed.

Box breathing method

Box breathing is also known as square or 4-count breathing. To do it, just:

  1. Inhale slowly and count to 4
  2. Hold your breath for 4 counts
  3. Exhale slowly for another 4 counts

Pause before repeating the cycle.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you’re looking for tips on how to reduce anxiety immediately, progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that’s commonly used and known for its efficacy. It’s based on the idea that our minds and bodies are intrinsically connected. Performing progressive muscle relaxation is easy — use the following steps.

  1. Tightly tense up a muscle group as stiffly as you can (without discomfort)
  2. Hold the tension for 5 seconds
  3. Quickly release the pressure and fully relax the muscle group
  4. Allow muscles to remain relaxed without tensing up any other groups of muscles or body parts

Repeat these steps with each muscle group individually until you’ve tensed and relaxed every body part.

Tips for effective relaxation

If you’re searching for ideas on how to lower anxiety fast, using relaxation techniques is a good place to start. At first, it can be difficult to perfect your technique, but the following tips will help:

  • Find a quiet and peaceful environment where you won’t be disturbed
  • Focus on taking deep breaths
  • Concentrate on specific muscle groups or parts of the body
  • Practice at least once a day at first, building up to several times a day if possible

3. Visualization and Guided Imagery

Using guided imagery and visualization can help you effectively combat anxiety, center yourself, and release negative energy. Using an app or taking a class can be great ways to familiarize yourself with the technique.

Choosing the right imagery for relaxation

One of the most important parts of using visualization and imagery is selecting the right images to focus on. Don’t overthink this process — there’s no right or wrong imagery. If you’re having trouble finding images that relax you, try the following:

  • Choose a calming place you love like a beach or quiet park
  • Add specific details to make your image a vivid, engaging, and exciting place for your mind to go
  • Try using all 5 senses during the visualization process — focus on what the place would smell, look, feel, sound, and taste like

Combining visualization with deep breathing

If you’re hoping to learn how to get rid of anxiety fast, try combining the process of visualization with deep breathing exercises for optimal benefits.

  1. After deciding on your image, slowly inhale deeply while focusing on the visuals of where you want to go
  2. Continue to focus on your image as you slowly exhale
  3. Allow yourself to become completely immersed in the scene you’ve created, continuing to breathe slowly and deeply in and out

4. Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are an effective way to manage anxiety. They help you focus on the present so you can let go of the anxious thought patterns. Grounding allows you to redirect your anxious thoughts and become centered on your physical surroundings. There are 2 common grounding techniques you can try.

The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise

The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique uses the 5 senses to control your thoughts as you ground yourself in the present. When you’re actively focusing on each of your senses, you bring awareness to your immediate surroundings, allowing you to let go of the things causing your anxiety. Try finding:

  1. 5 things you can see around you
  2. 4 things that you can touch
  3. 3 sounds you can hear
  4. 2 things you can smell or imagine smelling
  5. 1 thing you can taste or imagine tasting

The 333 rule for anxiety

Another grounding technique for anxiety is the 333 rule, which diverts your attention from things that feed your anxiety.

  1. Find 3 things around you
  2. Note 3 sounds you hear
  3. Move 3 body parts

This simple, effective, quick grounding exercise can be especially helpful when dealing with racing thoughts. It can calm the mind and bring you a sense of peace.

5. Engaging in Physical Activity

Research shows that engaging in physical activity is an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety. In fact, people who work out regularly are 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder. It doesn’t take much, either. According to some research, a 10-minute walk might be as effective at reducing anxiety as a 45-minute vigorous workout can be.

Exercises for immediate anxiety relief

Any type of physical exertion can help you manage anxiety. Studies suggest that exercise might be as or more effective than some anxiety medications.

  • High-impact workouts: A fast walk, jog, bike ride, or swim can get the heart rate up and offer near-instant relief from anxiety symptoms.
  • Yoga: Yoga, especially when combined with deep breathing techniques, is a holistic, effective way to manage anxiety. Yoga promotes relaxation while offering added benefits of enhancing strength and flexibility.
  • Tai Chi: The ancient Chinese martial art known as Tai Chi uses methodical, slow movements and deep breathing to promote balance, calm, and relaxation between the body and mind. It’s been found to be an effective way to reduce and relieve anxiety symptoms.

Tips for maintaining regular physical activity

Try consistent physical activity to minimize anxiety. Stay on track by:

  • Doing things you love: It’s easier to stick with a routine when you’re doing something you enjoy. Pick workouts that won’t feel like a chore — if you love being outdoors, try walking or going for a bike ride. If the peacefulness of yoga is more your speed, do that.
  • Being realistic: Setting realistic goals that are small and attainable will prevent you from burning out or feeling like your efforts aren’t paying off. It’s ok to increase your goals gradually, but start small and build up so you’re not inadvertently adding to your anxiety.
  • Setting a schedule, and sticking to it: When you schedule workouts into your daily routine, you’re more likely to do them.
  • Changing things up: Have a variety of activities and routines you can choose from so you don’t burn out by doing the same thing over and over.
  • Finding a support system: Find family and friends you can lean on as part of a fitness pact. Your support group can offer encouragement and keep you accountable.

Exercise and physical activity can effectively manage anxiety by promoting feel-good hormones and offering mental clarity, but another popular tactic is mindfulness and meditation.

6. Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation

Because anxiety often causes racing thoughts that make it difficult to focus, practicing meditation and mindfulness can be an excellent way to control the anxious thought patterns you’re experiencing.

Basic mindfulness exercises for anxiety reduction

Mindfulness exercises help you remain aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Here are some simple, easy-to-use mindfulness techniques you can use to manage anxiety:

  • Focused breathing: In a comfortable position, close your eyes and slowly breathe in and out. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus intensely on every breath as you take each one in and then release it.
  • Body scan: Lie down somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Slowly scan your body, starting at one end (either your head or your toes) and moving to the opposite. Pay close attention to any tension you notice as you make your way along every body part.
  • Mindful eating: Find a small piece of food — like a grape or piece of chocolate. Slowly move it around your mouth while focusing on its texture, taste, smell, appearance, and anything else that comes to mind. Ponder where it came from, how it was grown, or anything else specific to the food item.

How meditation can improve mental well-being

Meditation is powerful. It can train you to observe your thoughts so you don’t allow unhealthy or unhelpful patterns to control your mind or create anxiety.

7. Create a Peaceful Environment

The environment you surround yourself with can play a critical role in your mood and anxiety levels. Fortunately, simple ways exist to create peaceful, calming environments that foster serenity.

  • Declutter your space
  • Use soft lighting
  • Diffuse essential oils that are calming, like lavender or citrus
  • Play soft music
  • Use a sound machine
  • Play nature sounds

8. Identify and Limit Stress Triggers

Part of understanding how to manage anxiety is learning what triggers it. Armed with this knowledge, you can either avoid anxiety triggers or find ways to limit their effect on your anxiety levels.

  • Reduce or eliminate your exposure to social media
  • Set boundaries with toxic people
  • Limit your caffeine intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat healthily or limit the sugary foods you consume

The Effects of Prolonged Anxiety on Your Health

We all experience anxiety from time to time — it’s normal. That said, anxiety can damage your physical and mental well-being when it becomes a dominant force in your life or something you experience over a prolonged length of time. Chronic anxiety can lead to other problems, too, so it’s essential to know how to relieve anxiety fast and take back control.

iconExpert Insight

“If anxiety goes untreated or unmanaged, it can worsen over time. This will end up severely impacting a person’s mental and physical health. It is best to get help and support through therapy and work on managing the anxiety.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MA, MSc Bisma Anwar

Effects on mental health

  • Depression: Persistent anxiety can lead to depression.
  • Anxiety disorders: Long-term anxiety can result in other conditions, like panic disorder or social anxiety disorder.
  • Relationship issues: Living in a constant state of anxiety can negatively affect personal relationships.
  • Professional problems: Anxiety can interfere with your professional life, causing disruption and discord and significantly impacting your job and relationships in the workplace.

Effects on physical health

  • Gastrointestinal issues: Anxiety can change gut bacteria and potentially contribute to an ulcer, acid reflux, or other stomach issues.
  • Weakened immune system: Anxiety and chronic stress can weaken the immune system by releasing the hormone cortisol, suppressing your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
  • Sleep disorders: Persistent anxiety can lead to sleep issues like insomnia.

Tips for Long-term Anxiety Management

While the above techniques can be very effective in providing immediate relief from anxiety, addressing the root causes of your anxiety and developing coping tools is paramount.

If anxiety is taking over your life and affecting your relationships and overall well-being, here are some tips to help you create a healthier mindset.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle can be instrumental in keeping your anxiety in check. Add healthy habits to your daily routine to reduce stress and promote physical and mental well-being.

  • Eat well: A healthy diet is so important for your overall health and can affect your mental health too. Try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon or walnuts, have also been found to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleeping is essential for keeping anxiety symptoms at bay. Aim for 7 – 9 hours per night to allow your body time to recover from daily stressors. Establishing good sleep hygiene practices — like sticking to regular bedtimes — will also be helpful.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise offers multiple benefits for mental health, including reducing anxiety symptoms. Do things you enjoy, like walking, biking, or yoga.Try to get at least 30 minutes of light to moderate activity every day.
  • Manage your stress: Using practical coping tools can prevent anxiety from escalating. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help you manage daily stress and anxiety.

Seeking professional help and therapy options

If anxiety interferes with your daily life, it might be time to seek professional help and anxiety treatment.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence-based therapy that helps you identify negative thought and behavior patterns to develop healthier coping strategies. It has been proven effective in treating various anxiety disorders.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT focuses on teaching skills related to emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. This type of therapy may be especially beneficial for those who struggle with intense emotions or self-destructive behaviors alongside their anxiety symptoms.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies:Mindfulness emphasizes the importance of being present without judgment. Mindfulness practices have been shown in studies to reduce anxietysymptoms by promoting relaxation and increasing awareness of your thoughts and feelings.

iconExpert Insight

“Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Anxiety may be a perfectly normal response when confronted with a significant issue or life transition. Anxiety can have a negative impact on your relationships, academic performance, and employment. Therapy can help by identifying triggers for anxiety and learning healthy coping skills.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MA, MSc Bisma Anwar

Get Help for Anxiety Now with Talkspace

If you’re struggling with anxiety and need immediate relief, Talkspace is here to help with therapy for anxiety. Talkspace is an online therapy platform connecting you to licensed therapists specializing in treating anxiety and other mental health concerns. It’s a convenient, affordable, and effective way to receive professional support and anxiety treatment without leaving your home.

If you want to know how to reduce anxiety immediately, Talkspace ensures access to professional guidance. A Talkspace therapist can equip you with the tools you need to cope with anxiety and stress. Don’t let fear control your life. Take the first step towards better mental health by contacting Talkspace today.

See References

Bisma Anwar

Bisma Anwar is the Team Lead for the Talkspace Council of Mental Health Experts. A major focus in her work has been anxiety management and helping her clients develop healthy coping skills, reduce stress and prevent burnout. She serves on the board of a non-profit organization based in NYC called The Heal Collective which promotes advocacy and awareness of mental health issues in BIPOC communities.

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