Suggestion for anti stress device I can use when I'm freaking out?
February 9, 2016 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Certain situations drive me over the top with anxiety and even my daily running and meditation can't help me such as doctor's appointments, medical tests, dinner with new people, parties, etc. Something visual or auditory? Thanks very much.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I like to have fiddles on hand. I have a few spinner rings that I can play with. I keep a small slinky on my desk at work and a container of silly putty. I knit. I keep a smooth stone in my pocket to rub. All of these allow me to expend some nervous energy and give myself a focus.

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique might also help you: What are 5 things you can see? 4 things you can hear? 3 things you can touch? 2 things you can smell? take 1 deep breath.
posted by angelchrys at 6:24 PM on February 9, 2016 [22 favorites]

I love angelchrys's suggestions, and I'll also add having a low-effort app on my phone that I can play with (I like Doge 2048 and Neko Atsume because my tastes tend toward cute animals). It's a nice momentary distraction. If you're at a place where you can sit down, I like coloring in a coloring book.
posted by capricorn at 6:28 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're in a circumstance where something visual or auditory would be inappropriate, let your toes frolick inside your shoes: waggling, flexing, pressing up, pushing down, riffling from small to large and back, etc. Develop a toe tapping routine, count each rep, etc. It's subtle, fun and distracting.
posted by carmicha at 7:04 PM on February 9, 2016

My therapist taught me the Emotional Freedom Technique. Stupid name but it really works. It uses pressure points and repetition.
You don't need any equipment, and it will probably get you composed. If it doesn't you probably could benefit from some Xanax.
Emotional Freedom Technique
posted by littlewater at 7:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

Also, the article I linked to says you must repeat a phrase and tap many areas.
I just say nothing and tap one area. Whatever works for you.
posted by littlewater at 7:11 PM on February 9, 2016

Here is a technique to stimulate your vagus nerve and trigger a parasympathetic response. Take a deep, slow breath, making sure to use the diaphragm. Hold for 5 seconds, then release the breath as slowly as possible. Repeat two more times. Use the nose if you can, but it's not essential. By the second or third breath, you will feel your heart rhythm slow, and you should feel the stress response decrease. You can repeat as needed when you feel the stress response return.

If you practice this method during meditation, or just when you're in a good place mentally, it will help you to associate the feeling with deep calmness and make the technique even more effective when you need it most. I use these breaths throughout the day, and they make a big difference for me.
posted by gimli at 7:12 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Stimtastic carry a variety of toys and jewelry for fidgeting/stimming/sensory soothing.

Some people find the scent of lavender essential oil calming, and a bottle fits easily into a backpack or purse.
posted by Lexica at 8:46 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

When my anxiety was really bad, I had a strand of Greek worry beads in my purse for stressful situations. Count the beads slowly, while enumerating things you notice/what you're looking at where you are ( i.e. 1 green table, 2 magazines, 3 pens on the check-in desk, etc. ). If it got really bad, adding in holding my breath for as many seconds as I was counting.

I lost the worry beads somewhere once I stopped using them so often, so if I need to now I will count and do Chinese finger counting under the table (work meetings are one of my remaining stressful places). I miss the tactility of the beads sometimes, though.
posted by gemmy at 9:05 PM on February 9, 2016

There are a lot of apps to help you with the technique gimli described: look for "breathing exercises" on the relevant play store.
posted by snakeling at 12:38 AM on February 10, 2016

i keep looking for those balls on a pole that you punch and they bounce back. they were popular when i was a kid, but i can't find them now (in chile). i really think that would help with stress relief. (i should really go round the shops and look again).
posted by andrewcooke at 4:05 AM on February 10, 2016

Though originally designed as wrist exercisers, I find the specific concentration required to keep a Gyro Ball spinning at high revs, is unexpectedly relaxing.
posted by fairmettle at 4:37 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

My friends with serious anxiety use benzos for these exact situations.
posted by Kreiger at 8:21 AM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I made a Spotify playlist with upbeat songs that I know make me feel good. (It's actually called my Anxiety Playlist.) I have the Spotify app on my phone, and I carry earbuds, so anytime I start feeling anxious I can just pop the headphones in, listen to a song or two and concentrate only on the music. When I'm done I can usually get back to reality and focus on just now, without the anxiety. It works really well for me. Except on a plane, and then, yeah, benzos.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:44 AM on February 10, 2016

This sounds dumb as hell but it's been working wonders for me. I try to picture what a confident, relaxed person would do in the particular situation. Like literally, I ask What Would Confident Kevin Do? Well, Confident Kevin knows that he can handle any situation. Confident Kevin is not afraid of doctor's appointments, dinner parties, etc. - he has been through them before and everything has been okay afterwards! If something did go wrong, Confident Kevin has learned something and it is unlikely to happen again.

And then I act as if I am already Confident Kevin. I throw my shoulders back, stand up tall, take a deep breath, and face the situation, knowing there is no worst case scenario that I cannot handle. It really, truly started working for me in less than a week.

For visual or tactile reminders, there are plenty of bracelets or necklaces with words or motivational phrases. You can keep a piece of paper in your pocket that says "I am confident" or somesuch. An amulet, like the beads mentioned above, can be a powerful reminder that brings you back to the moment.

There is absolutely no shame in using medication to temporarily get you through, though. Once the physiological symptoms are gone, the anxiety almost always subsides.
posted by desjardins at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pause and Breathing Zone might be two good apps to put on your phone.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2016

I recently listened to a podcast episode (Fresh Air) on the placebo effect, and how placebos can in some cases cause measurable improvements - even when the subject is aware that they are taking a placebo. With this in mind, I tried some of those little homeopathic mood candies you see at places like Whole Foods, and they really seemed to help, despite the fact that I think homeopathy is bull.
posted by bunderful at 8:21 PM on February 10, 2016

I find saying yes to be weirdly helpful. Yes, instead of the million ways I have of saying no (it's not fair, oh shit here it is again, I can't, I'm screwed, I suck, Oh God no...) It adds so much more stress for me to rage against the thing. If you can identify the feeling that you're having--anger, fear, disappointment, whatever, and say yes to it (I do it literally,"yes, anger" "yes, fear" "yes disappointment" and sometimes "yes icky thing that I don't know what or why") and just be there for one piece of one tenth of one second, it seems to shift a little, and start to change and I start to notice other things, like all the layers I'm adding to the original feeling, and my stomach growling, or the other sensory things mentioned above. It has been lifesaving for me when in the middle of the storm. Good luck, and hugs from an internet stranger.
posted by eggkeeper at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

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