5 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

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 sometimes. It is hard enough to calm yourself when anxiety strikes when you are at home or alone somewhere, 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. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of four… hold for a count of four… exhale for a count of four...and leave your lungs empty for a count of four. Slow deep breaths stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system by sending a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.  By breathing deeply you can shut down your "fight or flight" response that is the essence of an anxiety attack.

Remind Yourself This Feeling is Temporary

In your mind, remind yourself that you are experiencing an intense feeling,  but that you are NOT that feeling and that feeling is temporary.  While you may 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.

Carry Lavender Oil

Keep a small vile of lavender oil in your purse or pocket and inhale its scent. You can even rub some between your finger and then rub on your temples to calm down.

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious while out in public, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window. What do you hear? Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall… It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done. Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away. When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques. And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.