14 effective calming techniques to help reduce anxiety

Updated 1 December 2022

When it comes to reducing anxiety, there are many techniques you can use. Whether you're at work or at home, anxiety can set in at any time and affect your mood and productivity. Whether you're feeling stressed about an upcoming presentation or just want to calm your nerves after a particularly rough day, there are many techniques that can help calm your anxiety at work and let you focus on the task you need to complete. In this article, we explore 14 of the most effective calming techniques for managing anxiety at work.

Related: How to calm down at work (and what causes work anxiety)

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What are calming techniques?

Calming techniques are helpful practices you can do when you're feeling stressed to make your anxiety more manageable. The most effective techniques are generally based on mindfulness. This includes deep breathing, visualisation, meditation and exercise. These techniques can have a role to play in becoming more mindful of your anxiety triggers. Once you start practising these methods regularly, they can become second nature when anxiety hits.

Related: 11 stress management apps to minimise stress at work

14 calming techniques

It's important to remember that everyone gets anxious from time to time. Learning how to deal with it can help you overcome those feelings quickly so that you can stay focused on your job and get back to your normal, calm self. For a comprehensive list of techniques for de-stressing at work, try the tips below:

1. Breathe deeply

One great technique for reducing anxiety is breathing exercises. Deep breaths are easy to do and can be very effective in helping you calm down during a stressful situation at work. Start by taking a deep breath through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth, pushing all the air out. Repeat until you feel yourself relax and your mind slows down.

Another breathing technique you can try is to inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold for another four seconds and then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Again, you can repeat this until you feel yourself relaxing.

Related: How to manage feeling overwhelmed at work (with steps)

2. Exercise

Exercise is a natural mood booster, and it can help improve your overall health and lead to increased self-confidence. You don't need to run marathons or sign up for a gym, but just taking a walk around the block and getting some fresh air has proven to be beneficial in relieving anxiety. Try putting away your phone and stepping away from your desk every hour or so to stretch or go for a quick walk around the building. You might notice an improvement in energy levels and maybe even workplace productivity.

3. Challenge your thoughts

When you feel anxious, your mind goes into overdrive and questions everything. Challenge your thoughts by trying to think of what's going on around you instead of getting stuck in your head. Even if you don't believe it's going to work, just trying it can help calm some of those racing thoughts.

For example, if you're feeling anxious about a presentation at work and your mind races with thoughts like, 'What if I don't make it through my slides?' remind yourself that those are just your anxious thoughts and not necessarily facts. If you want to take it a step further, you can challenge those thoughts by saying, 'What's the worst that could happen?' and assuring yourself you can get through it if it does.

Related: How to be more patient at work

4. Use a journal or diary

Keeping a journal or diary is one of many effective ways to calm anxiety. When you write down your feelings, you're able to express yourself honestly and openly, which can help you process them better. Knowing that nobody is going to see these thoughts can help you open up if you don't feel comfortable speaking to somebody about how you feel. When you read back on your entries at a later date, you can see what progress you've made and keep better track of what triggers your anxiety.

5. Acknowledge your feelings

Of course, it's not always possible to keep emotions under control, especially when stress is at its peak. Accept that you're feeling anxious, acknowledge what's making you feel that way and understand why you might be feeling those feelings. Once you've done so, take a deep breath and remind yourself that there are things you can do to calm down. Once acknowledging how you feel becomes a habit, it can help calm your anxiety before it takes over completely.

Related: How to deal with phone call anxiety (with signs and causes)

6. Smell your favourite perfume or cologne

Smelling your favourite perfume or cologne can help ground you when you're feeling anxious. Psychologists have closely linked the sense of smell to memory and mood, so bringing yourself back to a happy memory through smell can help you calm down. Bring a sample of your scent to work so that you have it on hand as a grounding mechanism during times of anxiety. Alternatively, you could try another calming scent, such as lavender or vanilla. These scents can help create feelings of relaxation and happiness.

7. Listen to music

Listening to soft or soothing music can help lower blood pressure, which can reduce feelings of anxiety. Listening to music is a great way to take your mind off things and relax. If you don't enjoy soothing music, listening to your favourite artist or genre can help distract you from feelings of anxiety. If your workplace doesn't allow you to play music out loud, try bringing in headphones to listen while you work.

8. Do yoga or meditation

Yoga and meditation are two popular techniques to ease stress. If you want to calm your nerves at work, then it's a good idea to try them. During yoga, try observing your breath instead of thinking about where you are in each pose. Focusing on your breathing is a great way to stop those anxious thoughts from taking over. Also, try focusing on something besides yourself, like paying attention to something in your view or keeping track of how many poses you've completed so far.

Related: What are stress relievers? 10 effective stress relievers

9. Visualise yourself in a peaceful place

Mental imagery, also known as visualisation, can be a powerful tool for easing anxiety. Simply close your eyes and try to recall a place that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed. This could be a real-life location (like your bedroom) or it could be an imaginary one (such as a tropical beach). Imagine yourself in great detail there. Imagining sights, sounds and smells can help immerse you in this peaceful space and allow you to relax completely.

10. Practise gratitude

There are dozens of things to be grateful for, and when you take time to reflect on that, you can start to see life from a more positive perspective. Whether it's reflecting on something major like a promotion or minor like a great conversation, keeping track of what you're thankful for can help keep your anxiety at bay and take your mind off stressors that may not matter as much as you feel like they do.

Related: How to mindfully improve your personal development

11. Drink water

Staying hydrated at work is a good technique for all types of anxiety, from mild, everyday stress to more severe forms. When you're anxious or stressed out, it's easy to forget about taking care of yourself, but drinking plenty of water is an important component in combating those feelings. Take 10 minutes during your lunch break to drink a full glass of water, or have several smaller glasses throughout your day if that feels better.

12. Talk to someone you trust

Sometimes having someone to talk to gets your mind off of things. This can be a friend, family member or even a professional. Whatever you choose, always make sure you feel comfortable opening up about whatever is bothering you. If you don't want anyone from your close circle involved, you could go online and find a group of people in similar situations as yours who need support. They can provide comfort through the knowledge that others are going through what you are.

Related: Q&A: What's the importance of trust in the workplace?

13. Distract yourself with reading

The next time anxiety strikes, you can try to divert your attention by reading something like a magazine or book. You can't always control what thoughts run through your head, but you can focus on something else while they pass. Don't let anxious thoughts linger without some distractions. Paying attention to something else for a little while can give you some breathing room and help you get back to whatever has made you anxious in a calmer state of mind.

Related: 9 tips to help you develop and improve concentration

14. Relax your muscles

Tense muscles can cause or exacerbate stress and anxiety, which can lead to further stress or aggravate any existing condition. A quick exercise you can do at your desk is to sit up straight, take a few deep breaths and tense every muscle in your body as hard as you can for 10 seconds. After letting out your breath, relax every muscle slowly until you're back to normal. Taking a few minutes each day to relax your muscles can help reduce tension and anxiety, while making you more physically comfortable, too.

Related: Coping with burnout from work (with symptoms and causes)

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