We all suffer from anxiety sometimes, but for those who deal with it on a regular basis, it can drastically diminish the quality of life. Your heart starts to pound, your breathing gets shallow, and obsessive thoughts cycle like a carousel in your mind. When anxiety strikes, it can interrupt your workday or keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be held hostage by anxiety. There are simple things you can do every day (or every hour, if needed) to help you wrangle worries and rein in anxiety symptoms before they take over. And today I will share 17 of these things with you.
Even though you breathe all day long, taking a few minutes to do focused, intentional breathing at a slow pace can help you fend off an anxiety attack. When you take long, thoughtful breaths, your brain gets the message that everything is okay and it’s time to relax. The best thing about mindful breathing is that you can do it anytime, anywhere, and no one else even has to know you’re fighting off nerves.
They say to fake it until you make it, and smiling is one of the best cheats around to help you chill out. Even better, go for a full-on belly laugh. Smiling and laughing could help release endorphins, lower stress hormone levels, and create a general sense of well-being. Bookmark a YouTube video that always makes you laugh, and make it your go-to when stress shows up.
3. Nourish Your Body
A rumbly tummy is likely to increase anxiety, so make sure you keep your belly full—and with the right foods. Stay away from empty carbs and sugary snacks because these can actually add to symptoms of anxiety. Instead, go for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fish and walnuts) and B vitamins (almonds or avocado). Antioxidants can also help with anxiety, so reach for treats like berries, leafy greens, and apples.
4. Say Thank You
Look for things to be grateful for as you go about your day. A gratitude journal, where you record what you’re thankful for is one great way to create the habit of daily gratitude. Looking for things to record during tough parts of the day can distract you from your worries and replace them with positive thoughts.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough rest can lead to (or increase) anxiety, which in turn can lead to poor sleep. Avoid this vicious cycle by creating a calming bedtime routine that includes restful lighting and calming activities like taking a bath or stretching. Make sure you give yourself enough time to wind down and get in the hours of sleep you need to be calm and productive the next morning.
Blowing bubbles or squishing some Play-Doh are great ways to let go of stress and refocus your attention away from the anxiety. Bubbles come with the added benefit of slowing down your breathing, which is, as noted above, one of the best ways to put those nerves in check.
7. Make a List
Anxiety often rears its ugly head when you have too many things to think about. Instead of carrying that to-do list around in your brain, get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper (or electronic note). By writing it down, you don’t have to worry about forgetting something important, and you can minimize those racing thoughts that stress you out and keep you awake at night.
8. Take a Walk
A change of scenery, some fresh air, and the bonus of exercise all work to minimize anxiety and improve mood. You can regularly schedule time for walks, or get up and move when you start to feel overwhelmed. Taking in some vitamin D from the sun will also help alleviate stress and anxiety.
It’s hard to feel calm when you’re surrounded by chaos. Clutter can exacerbate your anxiety, so take the time to put everything in its place. Create a soothing environment at work, in the car, and in your bedroom by staying organized and creating a routine that helps you keep things tidy.
10. Hang Out with a Four-Legged Friend
A dog really can be your best friend—especially if you suffer from anxiety. Pets give emotional support and physical contact, and they can also be a great distraction from whatever else might be stressing you out. And nothing can knock those nerves back into place better than a wagging tail and that look of unconditional love when you walk in the door.
Along with breathing, sleeping, and eating right, proper hydration can also help you curb the symptoms of anxiety. Drinking water is necessary for your body to function properly, but taking a moment to take sip also gives you a chance to clear your mind and slow your breathing.
12. Listen to Some Tunes
What better way to fight off anxiety than with your favorite song? Whether it’s a classical concerto or the latest pop hit, listening to music can make you feel happy and soothe your nerves. Music is a great distraction from worrisome thoughts, and it could even help lower stress hormones, slow your heart rate, and decrease blood pressure.
13. Schedule Time to Worry
Let’s face it, whether you want to or not, you are going to worry. So why not exert some control over when it happens? Instead of taking an unpredictable onslaught of anxious thoughts all day long, carve out time each day that is dedicated to worrying. Whenever you start obsessing over a worry, jot it down and let it go until the designated worry time. This helps you limit the time you spend on anxious thoughts and lets you control the environment in which you worry. It can also help to schedule an anxiety-fighting activity right afterward, like a walk or a healthy meal.
You can battle anxiety with positive visualization that takes you out of the current stressful situation. Imagine yourself sailing through whatever’s triggered your anxiety with calm, poise, and confidence. Or give yourself a mini-vacation by visualizing a peaceful mountain or soothing beach. Surrounding your workspace (or anywhere else you usually feel anxious) with images or quotes that calm and inspire you can also help.
15. Try an App
Yes, there are apps to help you manage your anxiety. When you’re in the grip of an anxiety attack, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of it. For this reason, an app can be the perfect tool to help you get back to calm. Look for apps that assist with mindfulness and meditation or provide reminders and instruction for self-soothing techniques. Some even help you learn your triggers so you can better self-manage your anxiety.
16. Sniff Away Stress
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries to help people relax. Create a soothing environment by using aromatherapy candles or essential oils and a diffuser. Look for lavender, jatamansi, chamomile, lemon balm, and basil. These oils come from plants that are known for their calming effects, making them perfect for when anxiety gives you trouble—especially around bedtime.
17. Plan Something Fun
Having something to look forward to is one of the best ways to distract yourself from anxiety in the moment. In fact, planning a vacation has been shown to be more pleasant than actually taking the vacation. When you’re fighting anxiety, planning works double-duty: it gives you something else to occupy your mind, and it channels your energy into something you can control. Next time you feel your heart pounding in your chest, take a peek at flights to Hawaii and pencil in the dates for your next getaway.
Anxiety is serious, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t have coping strategies to pull you out of those stressful spirals. Use this list as a starting point to better self-manage your anxiety and keep symptoms in check.
What is the one thing that helps you deal with stress and anxiety? You can share your comment in the comment section below 🙂