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How the TIPP Scale Can Ease Anxiety and Stress

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — May 8, 2020 — 3 min read
In moments of emotional distress, including panic or anxiety attacks, it may seem like there is little you can do to take control of the situation. However, there is a technique you can start practicing now that is proven to help slow racing thoughts and bring on a state of calm: the TIPP Scale.

TIPP stands for:
  • Temperature
  • Intense exercise
  • Paced breathing
  • Paired muscle relaxation
By using a method from the TIPP Scale, you are taking a big step forward in your mental health journey. Check out the details on each strategy below.

Temperature: A Bowl of Water is Your Friend

Is your heart racing? Try dunking your face in a bowl of cold water.

This is a surefire way to quickly change your body’s emotional response. However, holding an ice cube on your cheek or running cold water over your hands for 30 seconds can work well, too.

Why Does This Work?

When your body experiences shocking cold temperatures, it triggers something called the mammalian diving reflex, which instantly slows your heart rate and relaxes your muscles and brain. 

Intense Exercise: Wall Sits, Sprints, or Jumping Jacks

If you feel up to it, getting your heart pumping with intense exercise like wall sits, sprints, or jumping jacks to calm heightened emotions like anxiety, anger, or sadness.

Wall sits can be particularly helpful since you don’t have to have much space to do them. Stand about a foot and a half from a wall facing out. Lean back onto the wall, keeping your feet in place, bend your knees and slide down as if you are sitting in a chair. Hold this pose as long as you can, and you’ll feel the burn—and the calming effects.

Why Does This Work?

You’ve probably got a lot of emotion built up if you’re feeling seriously distressed. Getting oxygen flowing and your heart pumping for just a few minutes releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain.

Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle Relaxation

These two techniques (explained below) work well together but take some practice, so maybe try them before you’re feeling overwhelmed or on edge.

Paced Breathing: Exhale Longer Than Your Inhale

To help slow hyperventilation (over breathing) that sometimes comes with anxiety or panic attacks, take a moment to count your breaths. To do paced breathing effectively, your exhale should be two or three seconds longer than your inhale.

Ideally, you would want to inhale for six and exhale for seven. If you can’t breathe that deeply or slow your breath that much at first, start with inhaling for three and exhaling for five. You should also pause between inhale and exhale for two to four seconds. This creates a rhythmic pattern that helps center and relax you.
Get started with this guided paced breathing video.

Paired Muscle Relaxation: Flex, Hold, and Release

To relax the tense feeling you might be having, flex and tighten one muscle for a moment, then release. Start by flexing one foot and then relaxing it. Then do the same with the other. Move slowly up your body, flexing and relaxing each muscle, one at a time. If you can, try paced breathing as you do this.

Why Do These Work?

Paced breathing and paired muscle relaxation both help trigger your parasympathetic nervous system (the mode your body uses when it is resting). They also cause you to focus more on your body and less on a distressing emotion or intrusive thought.

Practice Makes Perfect

The TIPP Scale is a proven method to soothe a stressed-out mind, but it will take some practice to get the most out of these strategies. You can practice on your own or with your counselor or doctor.
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