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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Post

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Working with me, you will learn specific breathing techniques that is suited to your particular constitution and system of activation. But here is one techinque that helps most people: Inhale for a slow count of 5… hold for a count of 5… and exhale for a count of 5. Slow, deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.


Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you. If you've done EMDR with me, this is when you begin tapping 6-12 times, then pausing before doing 2-3 more sets.

Orienting: Using your 5 Senses to Connect with your Environment

When we're anxious, our focus is often internally preoccupied, with thoughts ping-ponging all over, leaving our bodies tense and hyper-aroused. One quick and effective skill to manage anxiety is called Orienting. This skill requires you to redirect your attention to your physical environment, using your 5-senses to simply notice -- without analyzing -- your environment.

Notice what you hear: what's loud, what's quiet, what sounds are intermittent and continuous. Ex: The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

Notice what you see: the colors, the lights, the shadows; find something that is interesting or attractive to simply observe.

Notice what you taste: notice the taste in your mouth, the taste in the air... Is it crisp, clean, or something else?

Notice what smells are present and absent, faint and strong.

Notice what you can touch: the points of contacts that your hands, feet, back, and shoulders make. Notice the textures, temperature, moisture, shapes, and sizes that go along with it. Ex: Notice if the placement of feet are perfectly parallel or slightly turned; if there's moisture or dryness in your feet; the softness of the blanket in your lap.

Turn your neck and spine to orient to what surrounds you, not just in front of you, and simply observe.

Using your 5-senses in this way helps your anxious brain to implicitly orient to cues of safety in your environment. Say to yourself, "My 5-senses tells me I'm okay in this moment."

For more anxiety management techniques that are suited to your particular needs, please reach out to me.

Stephanie Post, PsyD. at Higher Self Psychotherapy specializes in anxiety therapy, depression therapy, self-esteem therapy, and in trauma therapy online anywhere in California and in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco. She uses EMDR therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and IFS therapy to help clients thrive.

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