6 ways to calm an anxious mind, as Inside Out 2 introduces Anxiety

Anxiety is a new character in Pixar's latest animation film, Inside Out 2. (Pixar)
Anxiety is a new character in Pixar's latest animation film, Inside Out 2. (Pixar)

People who experience anxiety attacks have been praising Pixar’s latest animated film Inside Out 2 for its realistic portrayal of what it feels like to have one.

The sequel to the 2015 film Inside Out was released last week and follows main character Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) and the emotions that live inside her, including Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Liza Lapira).

Audiences have also been introduced to a new emotion, Anxiety (Maya Hawke, who appears as Riley is on the cusp of puberty and about to enter high school). This new stage of Riley’s life triggers big and intense thoughts and feelings that she and her emotions have to navigate.

In one scene, Riley get sent to the penalty box during a hockey game after accidentally hurting a fellow player. While in the box, viewers watch as Anxiety spirals out of control, consuming the ‘console’ of Riley’s mind and forcing all her other emotions away.

On the outside, Riley begins to hyperventilate and appear visibly distressed – she is suffering from a panic attack. Eventually she is able to calm down, by stepping outside and with the help of some friends.

Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke), Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri) and Ennui (voice of Adèle Exarchopoulos) are ready to take a turn at the console in Inside Out 2. (Pixar/Disney)
In Pixar's Inside Out 2, Anxiety joins a host of other new emotions, including Embarrassment, Envy and Ennui. (Pixar)

A number of people have spoken out about how Disney Pixar’s depiction of a panic attack, also known as an anxiety attack, was so relatable and realistic.

One person said on X, formerly Twitter: "It’s so beautiful and unreal how accurately Inside Out 2 pictured what an anxiety attack feels like, and the way Joy says, ‘Anxiety, please let go’ had me bawling, I felt that, you felt that, everyone felt that."

Another added that the film was "particularly noteworthy for having the most genuine and honest depiction of a panic attack I’ve ever seen on screen".

A third said: "Almost bawled my eyes out watching Inside Out 2. The anxiety attack scene was so real, that’s EXACTLY how it feels. But I’m so glad Disney showed it, anxiety is real and it’s OKAY!"

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but it can sometimes escalate and become overwhelming for some people, making it a mental health issue.

Dr Jo Allen, clinical psychologist and member of The British Psychological Society, explained in a blog post: "Anxiety is a fear or threat response. Physiologically, it is adrenaline's impact on the body and part of the body's fight or flight system. It will cause one's heart rate to go up, sweating, a red face and quick, confused thoughts that go round and round.

"Anxiety comes along when someone feels threatened. What causes anxiety can be wide ranging, but is often to do with fear of death or loss – particularly of relational loss. It is a very natural, normal and important psychological and physiological process. It helps us know there is danger around.

"However, often in our lives the fear response is more than might be necessary in any situation. This is due to previous experiences that heighten our threat response or mean it sticks around longer than is helpful."

A child breathing clean air in nature
Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can be useful ways of dealing with anxiety. (Getty Images)

Anxiety can feel paralysing and many people may not know how to deal with it. We turned to Dr Lalitaa Sugiani, psychologist and author of High Functioning Anxiety, for her top tips:

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Engage in mindfulness meditation by focusing on your breath and staying present in the moment. This practice can help reduce anxiety by interrupting the cycle of negative thoughts and bringing a sense of calm and clarity to your mind.

Engage in deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can help activate the body's relaxation response. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale through your mouth. This can slow down your heart rate and reduce anxiety.

Physical activity

Exercise is a natural anxiety reducer. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Even a short walk or a quick workout can help clear your mind and reduce anxious feelings.

Grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can help bring your focus back to the present moment. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique – identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This helps divert your mind from anxious thoughts.

Limit exposure to news and social media

Constant exposure to news and social media can increase anxiety levels. Set boundaries for how much time you spend on these platforms and be selective about the content you consume.

Practice self-compassion

Be kind to yourself when you're feeling anxious. Understand that it's okay to feel this way and that you're not alone. Practising self-compassion can help reduce the intensity of your anxiety.

Inside Out 2 (Pixar)
Inside Out 2 provides parents with an opportunity to talk about complex feelings with their children, an expert said. (Pixar)

Inside Out 2 has been a popular film among parents and their children. Harriet Finlayson, mental health nurse at insurance group BUPA, tells Yahoo UK that the film presents parents with a "great opportunity to talk to their children about the complexities of feelings".

"Anxiety, in particular, stands to be a significant addition to the cast and shines a spotlight on the importance of talking about it with children at an early age," she adds.

To help parents have an open and honest conversation about anxiety with their kids, these are Finlayson’s top tips:

Recognise the signs

Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of forms whether that be heart palpitations, feeling dizzy or nauseous, trouble communicating or connecting with others, or even trouble sleeping. As such, it’s important to explain to your child that anxiety can look like different things and feel different too, depending how severe the anxiety is.

Figure out the trigger

Is there something in particular that makes your child feel anxious? This could be a physical place like school or the dentist but could equally be more situation-based like being in a crowd or sitting in an exam. Encourage your child to list what makes them feel anxious, no matter how big or small, or get them to sort out different scenarios or locations into what makes them feel anxious and what doesn’t to help get them started.

Think about the opposite

As important as it is to think about what makes your child anxious, it’s equally important to consider what makes them feel safe and calm. This could be a place like their room or even an activity like drawing or building blocks. Try and think together about how being in an anxious situation could be diffused by doing something that makes your child feel calm.

Try out different solutions

There’s no one way to solve anxiety and anxious feelings but there are several methods and activities that can help ease it, such as using ice. This is a great technique to use when your child starts to experience difficult thoughts and feelings. By holding a couple of ice cubes in their hands, their mind focuses on the sensation of coldness rather than the difficult emotion which is causing the distress.

Speak to a professional

It’s worth reaching out to a professional if you’re feeling worried. Not only can they share their expert opinion but they can also suggest techniques and methods which can be helpful for your child going forward, be that through healthcare providers like BUPA or the NHS, or you can also seek help through charities like Young Minds.

Watch: Amy Poehler mix of ‘anxiety and joy’ as a teen

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