When anxiety strikes, the entire body feels its effects. There are the mental symptoms of course, but so much of it is physical as well. This is because the mind and body are directly correlated. The brain perceives a threat - whether its real or not - and tells the body to act accordingly. Common reactions are increased heart rate, breathing becomes less deep and more rapid, body temperature increases and starts sweating. This then becomes a vicious cycle, difficult to convince the mind that we are safe if our body is suggesting otherwise.
Sometimes to address the anxiety consuming us, we need to tackle the physical symptoms directly. This is where TIPP skills can be extremely beneficial. Each of the skills below triggers a physiological response in the body, reminding you that you are safe and that there is no immediate threat.
Sometimes called the “diver response” or “diver reflex”, by placing icy cold water on specific spots of the face, you can trigger an immediate calming response from the body. Heart rate slows down, body temperature returns to normal, and breathing rate decreases.
To evoke this response, cold water must hit areas of highest sensitivity on the face, including the temples, forehead and just below the eyes. Some people do so by dipping their face into cold water, others use ice packs; however you choose to evoke the response is your choice. Psychotherapist Joelle Anderson recommends holding your breath (for a maximum of 30s) at the same time to further evoke calmness.
When we perform high intensity exercise, the hormone Adrenaline is released in the body. Adrenaline creates similar physical responses such as anxiety. So even after just a couple of minutes of vigorous exercise (ie. jumping jacks, burpees, jog around the block, etc), and we decide to stop, we trick the brain into thinking the adrenaline – and all the physical symptoms that go along with it - is the result of exercise, not anxiety. So when you stop exercising, everything slows down.
Breathing is a simple, yet effective tool to creating rapid improvements in anxiety symptoms. Techniques like box breathing, where we breathe in for 4 seconds, hold our breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, then hold our breath for 4 seconds (repeating as necessary) is a perfect example.
When we pair this deep breathing with muscle relaxation, we have the perfect duo. It is recommended that you focus on controlling your breathing rate first. Once your heart rate and breathing has begun to slow down, you can introduce this next step. Beginning at your toes, squeeze your muscles so you feel the tension. While squeezing, breathe in deeply. Then after 4 seconds, release the tension in your muscles as well as your breath. Really focus on how it feels to release the tension. Now slowly work your way up your body, focusing on one muscle group at a time.
The best part about these skills is that they can be done from the comfort of your own home. All you need is an ice pack, or a bowl of cold water. Everything else comes directly from you. Try any of these skills, and experience the rapid emotional relief!