I hear my heartbeat in my ears and feel as though I’m not getting enough air to breathe in and out. My chest tightens and my throat closes up. Sweat develops in my armpits, forming embarrassing sweat stains on my shirts. Repeating “You’re okay. Just breathe.” does nothing to alleviate my symptoms.
This is when I remember to open up my backpack and grab a piece of EXTRA peppermint gum. I start chewing, and almost immediately my chest and throat open up. I no longer feel like I’m fighting to simply breathe. My heart is still rapidly beating, but it’s no longer pulsing in my ears and preventing me from focusing on the task at hand.
Chewing gum is my go-to method for ensuring my anxiety does not spiral out of control. When I began to notice how my habit of chewing gum and anxiety were linked, I did some quick research and found that there’s actual science that supports this idea:
“A study out of Swinburne University found that people who chew gum while multitasking under stress had lower cortisol levels, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and increased levels of alertness and performance. Another found that chewing gum can improve a negative mood, and increase levels of peace and calm.” – Inc.com
“The ancient Greeks and Mayans chewed on tree resin, while the first “chewing gum” was made in the 1800s from a type of rubber known as chicle (yup, the same stuff Chiclets were named after!). While today’s gum tastes a lot better, the ancient Greeks and Mayans may have been on to something— studies suggest the ancient chewers may have felt less stress than their non-gum-chewing counterparts” – Greatist
Keeping this evidence and my own experience in mind, it’s crucial to clarify that gum does NOT cure anxiety – it simply provides temporary relief. Although this method works for me and some others, it does NOT mean that it will have the same effects on you.
Identifying a mechanism to help yourself bounce out of the anxious period – whether that be chewing gum, cold showers, running, etc. – can greatly improve your work ethic, mood, and enable you to attempt to remain in the present moment.
Other mechanisms that help my anxiety (but are not as immediately accessible as chewing gum):
Walks in nature
Driving with music or a podcast
Working out and sweating A LOT
Watching a movie with my family