Getting anxious in public can be such an overwhelming feeling. Anxiety often gives us the urge to run and while you should never leave a situation because you’re anxious, dealing with the intense feelings that come with anxiety in a public setting can feel like all too much.
One of the key pieces of advice for non-medicated solutions to anxiety is cold water immersion. At home, you’d do this by putting your face into a bowl of water, resulting in a reset of the vagus nerve which quells feelings of anxiety and stress. However, according to one therapist, you can emulate this sensation when anxiety symptoms hit outside of the home.
The vagus nerve is thought to be the key to helping with symptoms of a range of conditions including epilepsy and depression. Additionally, the vagus nerve is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as vasomotor activity, and certain reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting
So, kicking it into action can be exactly what you need in a moment of difficulty. How do you do this last minute, in public, though?
Well, the answer is: paper towels! According to Katie Pankonin, a social worker and psychotherapist, a cold, wet paper towel pressed to the back of your neck and wrists can help with resetting the vagus nerve and helping you recover from the symptoms that come with anxiety such as heart palpitations and racing thoughts.
Alternative ways to stimulate the vagus nerve
According to the University of Ottawa, there are several ways to stimulate the vagus nerve naturally:
- Deep and slow breathing. Take six deep breaths over the course of a minute, breathing in deeply from your diaphragm and exhaling slowly.
- Singing, humming, chanting, and gargling.
- Meditation. Research shows that meditation also increases positive emotions and promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. These can be found in fish, nuts and seeds, and plant oils
- Foot and shoulder massages
- Socialising and laughing
If you have prolonged experiences of anxiety, speak to your GP for support and treatment.
Help and support:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.