• Anxiety makes it difficult to be in the present moment, instead causing us to worry about past interactions or future potential challenges

  • Counsellor Jani Santos shares the 4 techniques that have helped her soothe anxious feelings

  • We have therapists and counsellors available to support you here

Everyone seems to experience anxiety differently, although the most common symptoms include fleeting thoughts, a state of hypervigilance and fear, and not feeling grounded.

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, described anxiety as ‘excitement without breath’. At first, I couldn’t make a link between my (perceived) negative experience of anxiety and the word ‘excitement’. It took me some time to realise that ‘excitement’ involves the element of the future – the expectations and hopes; what it is not in the present.

When anxious, I find myself unable to connect with the present, the here-and-now. I am in a state of anticipation of what could happen. My awareness of my racing thoughts and physical discomfort makes me unaccepting of the present moment. In addition, I notice in myself how my breathing becomes shallow and my eyes move around the room, following the fast pace of my mind.

I am aware of how anxiety might unnoticeably become part of one’s ‘natural’ state of being. A form of living life. With the mind in the future, fearing every step, every challenge, every sign of not being in control. And perhaps with a sense of: 'the faster I move, the faster the present will vanish. I better not stop riding the bicycle or I might fall and have no energy to stand up again.'

Slowing down doesn’t seem like an option. I may stop moving but my mind is still working so hard; my body shows its resentment through being in a state of exhaustion. 

In searching for ways to support myself, these are the top techniques that I recommend and that have worked for me:

  • To find a comfortable position where my feet are heavily grounded on the floor, and to connect with my physical experience, with the possibility of feeling rooted
  • To slow down my breathing. To bring my breathing to my belly and listen to it softly for a few minutes. To notice how my heart pace might slow down. With kindness, I try to become aware of my feelings and needs by becoming the silent observer of my racing thoughts
  • To find a way of externalising my thoughts and feelings. I usually practice yoga, dance or I journal – you might want to be creative with this one and do something that suits you!
  • To find a supportive and accepting environment that feels safe. Therapy can be highly supportive when facing anxiety.

Anxiety taught me to listen to my emotions and needs. To notice these with kindness and acknowledge the underlined fear. Through somatic experiencing and my personal embodied practice, I began to recognise parts of my body that are 'anxiety-free'. Slowly I integrate this awareness as part of my daily practice.

With practice and patience, it becomes easier for me to connect with the 'anxiety-free' parts of myself in a supportive and kind way. Recognising the anxiety, allowing it to be felt in my body, investigating with curiosity and compassion where it comes from and finally finding the internal and/or external resources to cope with it.

Ultimately, everyone experiences anxiety in their lives. Happy smiles and fun experiences seem to be the main focus on social media, but the truth is that the ups and downs of life are inevitable. Anxiety is natural and there are ways of coping with it.

Jani Santos is a verified Welldoing online Gestalt counsellor

Further reading

Why do I get anxious about going on holiday?

Running helps me manage anxiety – could it help you too?

The anxiety loop and how to escape it

Connecting with nature helped me overcome OCD

How to manage news-induced anxiety