3 Sense Practices to Calm Anxiety

3 Sense Practices to Calm Anxiety

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Our senses offer an immediate doorway to the present moment, and there are potent added benefits to these three sensory experiences. Try one the next time your stress and anxiety meter spikes.


Bergamot is a sweet and spicy scent, sourced from the peel of a citrus fruit known as Citrus bergamia. It smells like yummy oranges mixed with a pinch of feisty floral. Bergamot is actually the oil that gives Earl Grey tea its lovely aroma.

But it’s more than just another pretty fragrance. It’s a helpful mood balancer.

According to a review in Frontiers in Pharmacology, some studies indicate that bergamot essential oil can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate and lower anxiety.

A 2017 study described in Phytotherapy Research was performed on folks in the waiting room of a mental health treatment center. Researchers found that the aroma of bergamot greatly boosted these patients’ positive feelings.

According to a South Korean study, the smell of a blend of oils that included bergamot—along with lavender and ylang-ylang—lowered serum cortisol levels, aka the body’s stress hormone.

Fire stress, fire up calm: Light a bergamot-scented candle. Let the scent infuse your environment. Spend two minutes inhaling the scent while thinking about an outcome you want. Fill in the blank in this meditation: “I’m at peace knowing I’ll get to my goal of ___ in a way that is best for my long-term growth and fulfillment.”

Bonus: Think about your wish coming true, and then blow out the candle before you leave your home. Trust the process.


Reach out and pet a pet. According to doctors at Johns Hopkins, petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Actually, I’ve personally done my own research on this petting-a-pet tool with our Havanese dog Fluffy—and I can tell you that petting this cutie-pie pet feels good (to the touch) and makes me feel good.

I love his soft fur. And I can easily get lost in his fur and forget about whatever was on my mind.

The cuddle cure: Find a dog, cat, or furry pet of some kind to cuddle up with. If you don’t have a pet, see if you can borrow someone else’s. They might let you—if you offer to dog-walk or cat-sit for free! Or simply visit a dog park or cat café and make some new furry friends. If you’re allergic to furry creatures—or simply a huge fan of that furry feeling—get yourself a faux fur blanket.

Bonus: Find someone you trust and give them a nice, long hug. A study from the University of North Carolina showed that hugging can lower blood pressure and boost oxytocin!


Next time you’re feeling stressed, you might want to spend some time with your honey—a bottle of local organic honey, that is. I’m recommending honey for two reasons:

Honey offers a positively delicious distraction from your bad mood.

• Honey scientifically helps to reduce anxiety and nerves.

As you might already know, honey contains the relaxation-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Spanish researchers at the University of Extremadura reported that foods rich in tryptophan lessened anxiety—and even helped people fall asleep.

Plus, unlike eating processed sugars, eating honey raises blood sugar level only slightly. This small rise of insulin causes the tryptophan to enter your brain slowly and get converted into serotonin. And in darkness, serotonin is converted into melatonin, a well- known cure for sleeping disorders.

Use this honeycomb tool—and stop pulling out your hair: Cut a small square out of a piece of fresh honeycomb. (If you can’t find honeycomb at your local market or beehive, substitute a honey stick or natural honey lozenge). Suck the honey out of the honeycomb, allowing it to dissolve as slowly as possible in your mouth. Become fully aware of its texture as well as its sweetness. Think only sweet thoughts for the time the honey is dissolving in your mouth.

Bonus: When you feel like you’ve reached the last straw, reach for a honey-filled straw! Snip the end. For 1 minute, focus on sucking down the yummy honey—and stop thinking about how life sucks.

Excerpted from Instant Calm. Copyright © 2019 by Karen Salmansohn. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Sarah Ferone. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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