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Three Hacks to Feel Better Fast

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The day after Thanksgiving, I found myself in a panic. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out why. The oven was off; the dogs were inside. All loved ones were accounted for.

Then, I remembered: I was giving a major talk that night. And, a part of me was terrified.

Sure, I knew what words I was going to say. I had written my talk out weeks ago. But I hadn’t prepared myself mentally. I had really wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving, so like any skilled avoidant, I had done my best to erase the pending event from my mind.

Unfortunately, that compartmentalizing part of me had done its job a little too well. I hadn’t given myself time to think, pray, and acknowledge feelings of excitement and nervousness. As a result, on the morning of the event, those thoughts and feelings ambushed me all at once. “Oh, no!” I thought, “How can I feel better now?”

Thankfully, there are a few quick hacks to help you feel better fast.

Have you ever felt ambushed by anxiety or a backlog of pent up emotion? Maybe you’re facing a stressful evaluation at work or a posse of challenging relatives just arrived on your doorstep. You might have deployed your favorite avoidant activity, instead of planning out how to navigate the emotional landmines in advance. Or, maybe you’ve faced your fears head-on, and you STILL find yourself with sweaty palms and your heart beating fast.

You start to feel overwhelmed and anxious, when what you really need in that moment is to keep your mind steady and your heart strong.

Take heart. And, don’t beat yourself up. Here are 3 hacks to help you feel better fast.

If you notice stress, anxiety or panic start to mount, try these 3 hacks to help you feel better fast:

1. Breathe.

It may sound cliché, but breathing deeply for even a few minutes is one of the quickest, most effective ways to shift into a healthier mental state; it’s a simple way to slow your heart rate, relax tension in your body, and send oxygen to your brain. If you find yourself worrying, panicking, or scrambling mentally, start by taking 4 deep breaths all the way down to your abdomen. Keep going for a few minutes if you can, until you notice the tense parts of your body start to relax. Read here to learn more about how.

2. Pray. 

By pray, I don’t mean a tension-laced “God help me NOW” whispered through clenched teeth. I mean, as you take that deep breath in, simply invite Jesus to draw near. Or, to be more precise—simply remind yourself of his presence. (He’s already there. ) You don’t have to do long-winded penance at this moment, nor do you have to beat yourself up. You might simply open the palms of your hands as a reminder you’re not alone. Or, look up and breath in, “Lord Jesus, I need you.” As you breathe in that simple prayer, you remind yourself you’re not doing this all on your own. (James 4:8).

3. Move. 

Move your body in whatever way that you can. It might be that you excuse yourself and walk into the other room to take those deep breaths. If you are able, take a slow walk around the house, your office, or the block. Do this with intention. Notice what it feels like to move your limbs, roll out your shoulders, or feel the ground underneath your feet. Maybe you reach down to touch your toes or stretch out your arms. Regardless, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to feel better fast. Like deep breathing, it sends oxygen and good chemicals to your brain. It helps calm your mind.

Breathe. Pray. Move.

When your mind is racing, it’s hard to “will yourself” to get it together. That’s when you need to rely on your breath, movement, and the power of God to support you. When you’re tense, anxious, or overwhelmed, these 3 simple hacks provide relief: Breathe, Pray, Move.  Try them this holiday season, and let me know how it goes!

This article originally appeared here.

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Alison Cook, PhD is a counselor, speaker, and the co-author of How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies. For over 20 years, Alison has helped women, ministry leaders, couples, and families learn how to heal painful emotions, develop confidence from the inside out, forge healthy relationships, and fully live out their God-given potential.