A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
18% of the U.S. population suffers from an anxiety disorder. You probably know someone who has one, maybe it’s you. In today’s fast-paced, competitive, and negative world, it’s no wonder so many of us are stressed out and anxious.
Anxiety follows me everywhere. I’m always thinking ahead of the moment I am in right now or dwelling on situations that shouldn’t get a second thought. I get irritable and snap at my poor husband for no reason. Even when relaxing on the couch, I am restless and can’t stop moving. James counted one time and I moved 12 times in a minute.
Anxiety affects my whole body. Sometimes I may not even realize I’m anxious until the insides of my cheeks are all chewed up.
With something that consumes such a large part of my life in such a negative way, I find it helpful to have some tools in my back pocket to soothe my anxiety when I feel it coming on.
These are the tips I use to temporarily relieve my anxiety.
Focus your attention
By focusing all your attention on one thing, your mind won’t have time to worry.
I picked up an adult coloring book a while back and found it so useful for de-stressing. If I’m intentional about not letting my mind wander and focusing on the colors and patterns, it releases my stress completely.
Finding a yoga class in person or online that focuses on drishti (focused gaze) is more helpful than just any yoga class. Drishti forces you to be mindful of where you are looking so you are focusing on that during your practice and your mind won’t be allowed to wander. Yoga is also a great way to stretch and relax the body.
Talk to someone
It’s easy to bottle up your anxiety and keep it to yourself thinking that no one will understand or not wanting to burden someone with your problems. Being open and honest with someone you trust can help you release your negative energy.
I found this out a couple months ago when I went up to my husband and told him I was feeling anxious. We ended up having a great conversation about what was causing my anxiety in that moment.
I used to feel like saying it out loud would make it more official and give me a crutch to lean on as an excuse, and I didn’t want that. But it did the opposite. I was able to be honest with James, and with myself, about how I was feeling and could release it (or at least some of it).
I recently came across an article online titled “Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent” so naturally I was intrigued. “Weightless” by Marconi Union was actually specifically created to help with anxiety. Give it a listen the next time you’re feeling stressed.
During a particularly anxious period last year, I typed “relaxation” into my Pandora search bar and created a channel of soothing music. I would listen to it in the car, at work, and would also crawl into bed with my headphones after work to help reground myself.
Whenever you have the opportunity, turn on some music that you find relaxing, even if you’re not feeling anxious. We can all benefit from a little more relaxation.
Deep breathing exercises trick your body into feeling the way it does when you are relaxed. When you’re stressed, your breathing is usually short and shallow. But when you’re body is completely relaxed (like when you’re sleeping) your breaths are long and deep. Breathing in your “relaxed” pattern signals to your body that it should be relaxed.
Mental health days
Last year I started strategically using my vacation days. Once a month I take a day off work dedicated solely to myself. I don’t make any plans. I don’t make a list of things I need to do. I don’t even allow myself to think of what I might want to do.
The reason is because I want this to be the one day where I can totally live in the moment. I cover up all the clocks so I don’t worry about what I should be doing or think, “I have this much time left in my day.” I also allow myself only minimal use of technology.
This day is all about what I feel like doing right now. I don’t do anything that needs to be done. Just what I want to do. Things like go for a walk, go to the park, paint my toenails, and read. Having this time for myself breaks the cycle in my routine and helps me to recenter myself.
There’s something about being outside in nature (or as close to nature as you can get) that is automatically calming. The colors, the sounds, the smells, the textures. Your senses are stimulated by all these positive elements, helping your mind to focus more on the positive that is all around you and less on the negativity you’re stressing over.
Witnessing the earth in its natural state, untouched by man, is also a wonderful benefit of nature. I find peace in knowing there is someone greater than me who is in control and watching out for me.
Wear clothes that are comfortable and you won’t have to fuss with. Pull your hair back so it’s not tickling your face and neck. If your skin is dry, put on some lotion. Whatever you need to do to not have any part of your physical body adding to your irritability will help.
For me, it’s usually my hair and lips so I keep a hair tie handy and put chapstick on religiously. By removing any negative factors imposing themselves on your physical body, you’re able to eliminate that aspect of your anxiety for that moment.
Take a nap
Your conscious mind can’t fret when you’re sleeping. Sometimes it’s nice to have just a few minutes of peace where you’re not stressed out, and to wake up rebooted. Your anxiety may creep back in but at least you’ve had some time away from it.
Sometimes, because of my racing mind, I find it hard to fall asleep for a nap. I still lay there anyway though, with my eyes closed and try to calm my mind and focus on something peaceful. This is also where the music comes in handy.
I find that each of these tools helps me to relax and reduce my stress and irritability. I know how frustrating anxiety can be so I hope these help you, too.
What tools would you add to this list that help you when you’re feeling anxious?