Sometimes you just need a quick solution! Below are 15 quick tools that can be done in five minutes for the moments when mom anxiety is getting the best of you.
No matter what stage of motherhood you’re at, you’re probably well acquainted with feeling anxiety from time to time. Something like a late school drop-off can ruin the morning. A toddler temper tantrum in the grocery store could easily throw your nervous system out of whack all afternoon and leave you feeling as though you’ve lost the day. Increased heart rate, feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities, intrusive thoughts, anger and irritation… these are just some of the most common symptoms of anxiety.
Or, maybe you often notice yourself feeling just generally on-edge, uneasy, and unable to soothe anxious feelings. While there are so many logical reasons for that (your world has just changed, mama bear instincts are kicking in, there’s way more for you to do), sometimes you just need a solution. Immediately.
You can always spend time digging into anxiety and learning its roots, your personal triggers, and why you may be more prone to something like postpartum anxiety. In fact, that’s homework and research you probably should do for personal growth reasons and better self understanding. Education is the first step towards empowerment. And truthfully, there are no quick magic fixes for anxiety that will work for everyone.
But sometimes you also just need instant tools to self-soothe now. When your anxiety is outside of the window of what feels tolerable, it’s interrupting your day. That uncomfortable, heart-pounding, unable-to-calm-down feeling can get in the way of caring for your family, work, enjoying moments with loved ones, and other elements of your daily routine.
Below are 15 quick strategies that can be done in five minutes for the moments when anxiety is getting the best of you. Feel free to try some, a couple, or all until you feel yourself coming down from a highly anxious state.
15 ways to ease anxiety in less than 5 minutes
1. Turn on some calming music.
Music can have such a powerful impact on our mood. Whether your jam is calming classical, uplifting folk, or Latin party music that you can seriously dance it out to, this is something that’s always available. Try having it on in the background, or closing the door and fully engaging one of your senses (hearing) in the melody so as to shut out stressors until you’re grounded.
2. Make yourself a hot drink.
There’s something so calming about a hot cup of tea or cocoa. When you feel out of control or anxious, turn on the kettle and pick something like an herbal tea with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Chamomile, valerian root and lavender are all known for their calming effects. Steer clear of coffee or cappuccinos here as the caffeine will only spike your heart rate and ramp up anxiety.
3. Try some breathing techniques.
When we actively want to bring ourselves back to that calm, tolerable state, breathwork is one of the best ways to do it. Box breathing looks like inhaling slowly for four seconds, holding for four, exhaling for four more seconds, and holding for the same amount of time. Or, simply focus on taking as many slow deep breaths as necessary until you start to calm down. The reason why this is so effective is because your body cannot be in a calm state and an anxious state at the same time. Breathwork is the best way to regulate your nervous system by telling your brain that you’re safe.
4. Get some fresh air.
Going off of that last point, if you can take some breaths of fresh air, do so. What scents of nearby flowers and trees can you notice?
5. Go outdoors.
All it takes is a few moments to stop what you’re doing and step outside for a bit. (If you have space in your day, try going for even a 20-minute walk.) Being in nature and taking in the relaxing scenery of a forest, the pleasant feeling of sun on your skin, and hearing rain drops or the calming trickle of a stream are known factors that improve mental health and reduce issues like anxiety and depression. See what five minutes can do for you. If you have more time, amazing!
6. Positive self-talk.
The way we talk to ourselves matters so much. When you’re in the middle of a panic attack or feeling an intense wave of anxiety, you may unknowingly be contributing to that with thoughts like, “Omg I’m not feeling well! What’s wrong with me?” or “I’m so nervous right now. This is going to derail my day!” Instead try something like, “This is no biggie, I’ve got this!” or, “I’m feeling some strong anxiety right now. I’m going to lower my expectations for the day and get through this the best I can.” Even something like, “I’m going to focus on bringing myself back to a manageable state, and then I’ll tackle whatever’s next once I’m there,” is a compassionate way to take it one step at a time.
7. Engage your sense of smell.
It could be a smart idea to create a little SOS stash of scented lotions, essential oils and candles. Scents—particularly calming ones like lavender, eucalyptus and rose—can calm the body and the mind. Engage just that sense for five minutes and let the rest fade to the background.
Both hustle culture and diet culture tend to hype up the workout and make it into something that feels intimidating or not feasible for our lifestyles. When things like running at the crack of dawn or intense weight loss boot camps hog the conversation, we leave out things like movement for the benefit of mental health. Roller skating around the block, a mini dance party in your kitchen or cycling to the grocery store or nearest park aren’t vigorous activities and they can still be so beneficial and help quell anxiety.
I know you’ve heard this a million times, but that’s because this is one of the most common techniques for anxiety reduction because it truly works. It doesn’t have to be done at dawn nor does it have to look perfectly zen. Find the meditation that works for you. The purpose is to be in the moment, engaged, and not attached to thoughts or stressors for five minutes. You could even meditate while drinking your morning coffee, or rocking your baby to sleep. It’s about being fully present to the moment you’re in.
10. Talk it out.
The power of words and naming an emotion can be so very healing. Articulating whatever is stressing you out to someone who will see you, understand you and validate what you’re going through can help. If a friend or your partner aren’t available, try voice notes. Some people who tend to process emotionally may even find audio journaling helps. No need to listen to it later if you don’t want to.
11. A hot shower (or something soothing).
Sometimes when mom anxiety strikes, you just have to walk away from a situation (not an emergent or dangerous one obviously) and take some time and space for you to self-soothe. Sure, it’s unrealistic to aim for a regular Saturday afternoon at the spa, but you can ask your partner to take over a situation while you jump in a hot shower for five or ten minutes. Any moment that you can take where you give your nervous system a chance to settle will be helpful.
12. Watch happy videos.
Seriously, save those adorable and silly dog videos on Instagram and pull them up during a moment of need. Instagram can be a negative thing for anxiety but it also can be used as a tool to help soothe it. You curate your experience. You get a very real dopamine hit when you see sweet or cute moments, so might as well tap into that.
We’re not meant to be “on” all the time. If you’re in a state where you’re suffering from high anxiety, ask yourself which stimulators need to be silenced. That could very well start with your phone. Something as simple as switching your phone to airplane mode means that you’re prioritizing your wellbeing for the moment instead of engaging with stressful messages, notifications, Instagram accounts, and doom scrolling.
14. Observe something out the window.
Whatever is causing your mom-anxiety, the idea is to not focus on it for five minutes (at least). Otherwise, you can start a ruminating spiral. If you catch yourself in worried repetitive thoughts, can you look out the window and focus on trees swaying in the breeze, people watching, or watching the birds instead? Pulling the attention away can prevent spiralling. This is a simple mindful moment where you give yourself some reprieve from the stress.
15. Tidy your space.
Our spaces can sway our mood and mental health. No, you don’t have to deep clean the entire house, but taking five minutes to tackle the pile of dishes from last night or the mound of clothes on the chair is a way to bring more ease to your space and have things feeling less chaotic. Plus you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and get your mind off things for a hot minute!
These are a few SOS tools you lean on in the moment when your heart rate is up and you just can’t seem to get into a calm state. Which ones worked the best for you?
If you want to better understand symptoms of anxiety and how to get to the bottom of it, I have a FREE masterclass all about mom-anxiety that’s a great place to start. You can grab that here.