Inconspicuous. Camouflaged. Hidden. Unnoticeable. This is what you want as you manage your anxiety in public.
That moment hits and that’s all you want. To be inconspicuous and unnoticed. Maybe you’re in the middle of a meeting and bam! You hope no one notices the fright you feel as the jolt of adrenaline sweep straight through you. Or you’re dining with friends when the tunnel vision and racing heart begins. Even worse, you’re behind the wheel with no exit in sight. Now what??!
You desperately need to calm this anxiety, but without making a scene.
After 20 years of living with diagnosed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I’ve discovered several inconspicuous tools that work wonders in these very situations.
Read on to learn about the very things I do when anxiety strikes, and why it works for me.
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What is Anxiety?
Occasional anxiety is a normal, and even healthy, part of everyday life. It’s when it becomes frequent, excessive and begins to interfere with every day life that it becomes a problem to address.
And it’s this interference with daily life that the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) defines as an Anxiety Disorder. “Anxiety Disorder refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder/attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety and specific phobias.”
Anxiety disorders are real. They can be serious and debilitating. And financially costly. The ADAA notes that approximately 40 million people in the U.S experience an anxiety disorder in a given year.
Before I understood anxiety, I missed school and work. I avoided social events and public places. I’ve visited the emergency room and endured several EKGs and and endoscopy procedure.
But please, do seek professional help if you feel the need.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The general symptoms include: nervousness, restlessness, sense of impending doom, increased heart rate, fast breathing, unable to concentrate, trouble sleeping, GI problems and situational avoidance.
In reality, the physical symptoms you could feel are across the board. Check out this extensive list from Anxiety Centre to see what I mean. I found this page years ago and helpful to see how many different ways anxiety is capable of manifesting. And I swear I’ve felt every one of these at one time or another over my anxiety journey.
3 Inconspicuous Ways to Manage Anxiety
1. Drink a glass of ice water. I’m the kind of person that always has a reusable water bottle with me. You should see me when I leave the house! Coffee, water, my “bag of (reusable) bags,” snacks…this mom is always prepared.
Ice cold is great, as it provides that little extra punch, especially if your teeth are as sensitive as mine…ack, that’ll distract you! But any plain water will do.
Plus, it’s possible that a lack of hydration is contributing to your anxiety in the first place. Did you know that dehydration can cause your heart to race and feel lightheaded? Those aren’t things you want to feel if you already have anxious tendencies.
I can attest to the lightheadedness – the first thing I do when I feel off is drink a big glass of plain water. IT WORKS.
Why is this great for public places? The greatest thing about chugging some water is that no one will ever think twice about what you’re doing. Everyone gets thirsty. Talk about inconspicuous!
2. Controlled Breathing. This is my go-to relief for anxiety. Slow, controlled breathing is an essential part of my toolbox. It doesn’t always come naturally, but can and should be learned. When I say slow and controlled, make sure the diaphragm is involved, that way you get as much oxygen as possible.
To do this, close my eyes if able, or find a focus if you cannot. The first inhale is a slow, controlled breath. Counting for 4 seconds, feel the air entering your lungs, fresh and calming.
Lungs filled, hold for 7 seconds. On the exhale, focus on the sensation of air flowing through your throat and mouth (or nose, if you’re trying to be extra inconspicuous). It’s that slow, drawn out exhale that is the most calming. I will actually feel my heart rate slow with each exhale. Relax your shoulders relax and return to the inhale.
This method is called the 4-7-8 method. This alone often settles me down.
Why is this great for public places? Deep breathing can be as subtle or exaggerated as your situation allows. When I’m home my breaths are loud and my face looks funny as I purse my lips. But when I’m in a meeting, I modify by breathing quietly with mouth only slightly open.
3. Essential Oils. While being very therapeutic, oils also have a distinct smell. And the sense of smell is such a powerful one. It can bring back memories and associations. My favorite blend is Worry Free by Plant Therapy. I bring this roll on with me everywhere. It goes from my purse, to my lunch bag to my coat pocket. The thought of being without makes me anxious! The Worry Free blend is formulated to ease tension, panic and anxiety. It contains Lavender, Marjoram Sweet, Ylang Ylang Complete, Sandalwood Australian, Chamomile Roman, Peru Balsam. It’s slightly sweet, slightly woodsy.
Put some on your wrists, a lava stone bracelets or diffuser necklace. Besides the theraputic benefits of these oils, this combination smells calm and comforting.
Why is this great for public places? This too is a subtle method to beat that anxiety. If I find myself in a meeting, I’ll just clasp my hands together, elbows on the table with my hands near my nose. Just deep thoughts about the discussion at hand, right?!
For example, as a Wisconsinite, we’re no stranger to snow. But I was still caught off guard, shopping 45 minutes from home when the forecasted snow hit the area a bit sooner than expected. The triple lane, 70 mph highway became a 2 lane 30 mph obstacle course.
Have you ever driven in heavy snow at night? Imagine soaring through an outer space star field. Crazy! And anxiety inducing. So I pulled out my oil, rolled some on my wrists and took in the aroma as I practiced my deep breathing. And it worked! My high anxiety did not progress into a panic attack.
There you have it! Three of the best inconspicuous anxiety relievers.
3 inconspicuous anxiety relievers:
1. Ice Cold Water
2. Deep Breathing
3. Essential Oils
Which one works