ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This is the second part of a month-long series called “Anxiety 101.” As part of “Mental Health Awareness Month”, WFXR sports anchor and reporter David DeGuzman is sharing his experience with anxiety and what he’s learned along the way. Join him for a special LIVE discussion about mental health on Mondays at 11 a.m. eastern on WFXR’s Facebook page throughout the month of May.

Hey, there! Welcome back and thanks for taking the time to read about my journey with anxiety. I hope that this will help you find ways to manage your anxious thoughts and at the very least, make you feel less alone in the struggle with anxiety.

Last time, I gave a bit of an introduction to my experience with anxiety and panic attacks. From here on out, we’re going to discuss solutions and tools that I’ve learned along the way that have helped me, starting with breathing and meditation.

Also worth noting, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a doctor nor am I a mental health professional. This is all based on my personal experience.

Box Breathing

Whenever I feel anxious, I go back to my breath. Sometimes, my heart is racing or I’m experiencing heart palpitations. When this happens, I take some deep breaths to help me calm down.

One technique that helps is called box breathing. It’s when you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four and then exhale for four seconds. Doing this at least four times helps me feel better and grounds me.

When you breathe in, you want to feel your chest fill with air and your stomach rise. When you breathe out, feel those muscles soften. If you want to take it a step further, breathe out longer than you breathe in (six seconds instead of four seconds). You’ll notice your heart rate start to slow down and as a result, you’ll feel calmer.

Guided Meditation

Meditation is a great way to take some time for yourself, slow down, and break the pattern of anxious thoughts that seem to spiral in your head. Ideally, I’d meditate every day but in reality, I get to it one to three times a week. But I find the more I meditate and incorporate it into my daily routine, the better I’m able to deal with anxiety.

First, start with finding a room or a space where you won’t be disturbed. This could be a spot in your living room, your bedroom, your car, or even your bathroom.

Next, sit up straight, and keep your eyes open but with a soft focus. Then take some deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out the mouth. After three or four times, go ahead and close your eyes.

Then take note of the space around you using your other four senses. Feel the weight of your body against the surface of where you’re sitting. Take note of the feet on the floor beneath you and your hands placed on your lap. Then, pay attention to the sounds around you and any scents you might be experiencing.

Now it’s time for a body scan. Starting from the top of the head, work your way down and take note of any feelings or sensations. Do you feel heavy or light? Do you feel any tension in your neck or shoulders? You don’t have to act on any of those feelings, just recognize them as you’re scanning your body down to the toes.

After the body scan, return to the breath. If it helps, place your hand on your stomach or your chest as you feel the inhale and exhale. Count the breath, one with the rise and two with the fall. All the way to ten and then start over. Allow thoughts to come and go and if you get distracted, take note and then return to counting your breath.

After a few minutes, let your mind wander. If it wants to think, let it think. Then as you wind down, use your senses to get reacquainted with your surroundings as we did at the beginning. The smells and the sounds. How your body feels against the seat or the floor beneath you. Your hands resting on your legs.

Then when you’re ready, go ahead and open your eyes and take in your surroundings. Hope you feel a little bit better and more grounded.

Apps That Help

I use several apps to help me through meditation.

  • Headspace: This widely used app has hundreds of meditation courses and single meditations for any situation, from studying for exams to job interviews to finding happiness. It also helps with getting better sleep and offers exercises that can help with your mental health.
  • DARE: I use this when I feel particularly anxious or close to panic. It guides you through an anxious situation by offering tips and tricks as well as positive affirmations to help navigate through a tough time.
  • Sanvello: This app is kind of a “one-stop-shop” for dealing with anxiety. From guided meditations to group coaching sessions and different modules, there are plenty of tools available in this app. It also offers virtual therapy sessions, which happens to be the subject of next week’s “Anxiety 101”

I hope this provides a starting place for you if you’re dealing with anxiety. Breathing provides me with immediate relief from my anxious thoughts and sensations and meditation helps ground me and gives me space from my thoughts and feelings.