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Find Peace from Anxiety

One in three college aged students meets the criteria for clinical depression. This means that 33% of college students experience such overwhelming and persistent worry that it impacts their daily functioning. This is not even including those of us that just feel stressed out from time to time.

Now, not all stress is bad. There’s a helpful level that helps motivate us and primes our brain for learning and better performance. However, overwhelming stress has detrimental effects on our physical and mental well-being.

Remind yourself that this intense feeling will pass. Give yourself a little time and space. Breathe. Anxiety comes in waves. Know that these rough seas will subside, and calm waters will surely return.

In addition to therapy and medication, I’ve compiled a list of simple strategies that help pull us out of our anxious thought loops and into our bodies in the present moment.


Breathing is the reboot button for our frazzled brains. It’s so simple yet so often overlooked. When we are stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths. This in turn makes us feel more stressed and unstable. The key is to reverse this pattern.

My personal favorite ratio for breathwork is called 4:2:6 breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4. Hold for 2 and exhale slowly through your mouth with pursed lips for a count of 6. Do 5-10 sets. The two keys are: inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth and make your exhale longer than your inhale.

Movement / Exercise

Simply put. moving our bodies helps our mind. Moderate to strenuous exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Physical movement also lowers hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which make us feel anxious. Be creative and find a type of physical movement or exercise that’s right for you.


Hold an ice cube. Wash your hands. If you’ve got even more time, take a bath or shower. These simple interventions provide a healthy distraction from anxiety.

Certain movements are especially calming to our mind. Here are two examples: slowly rock from the balls of your feet to your heels. Next, do ten sets of standing up tall on the balls of your feet (tippy toes).

Stretching is very soothing on our nervous system. Pick a few gentle stretches to hold for one minute each.

Take a quick walk—even 5 minutes helps. Being outside amidst trees, flowers, sunshine, and animals is extremely calming and restorative. Pay attention to what you are seeing and hearing. For example, count birds, focus on different kinds of trees, watch the breeze blowing tall grasses. Pick something different to focus on for a few minutes, and then switch if you get restless. Paying close attention to our natural environment gets us out of our anxious mind and settled into our body.


Repeat a reassuring phrase to yourself like “I’ve got this” or “it’s going to be alright.” We are all doing our best. Treat yourself with the kindness you deserve. Beating ourselves up with harsh criticism only makes stress and anxiety worse. We can’t berate ourselves out of an anxious spiral.

Listen to soothing music, a pleasurable podcast, a great Audible book.


Look at your window at nature. Again, study after study shows that looking at nature heals us. Even if we are inside, research says we should pause and look out our window to feel more peaceful.

Light a candle and watch the flame carefully. This can be very calming. If it’s scented, then you can get the added benefit of engaging another sense.


Especially soothing scents are: lavender, rose, orange, vanilla, jasmine

Get out of your thoughts and into your body by inhaling some different scents – perfume, cologne, scented lotions, peppermint, and cinnamon.

Sensory Combination

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory exercise. In this exercise, you will concentrate on noticing things in your current environment (indoors or outdoors). Count 5 things you can see, hear, feel, and smell. Now, count 4 different things you can see, hear, feel, and smell. Keep counting down until you identify one of each.

What works one day might not work another day. Be resourceful and try different strategies. Just don’t give up. Something will help, I promise. This too shall pass.