Anxiety is part of life — we all feel it from time to time. In fact we would be in trouble if we felt no anxiety whatsoever. However, the majority of we Americans deal with anxiety either in ineffective ways or get hooked on powerful and addictive medications/substances. Once hooked, many report these substances are as addictive as heroin.
While medications like benzodiazepines can be helpful in the short term, it will be more beneficial in the long run to make some productive lifestyle changes. Here are a few options you can try to help calm your emotions. Experiment with those that work the best for you.
You don’t have to train for the Olympics — a 10-minute walk can do the trick for many people. Others may prefer a 45-minute workout. Either can make you feel better for a few hours, like aspirin for a headache. And, if you exercise regularly — at least 3 times a week — you’re less likely to feel anxious in the first place.
It recharges your brain and boosts your mood and focus, and you’re less likely to be anxious if you get enough of it. Block out 7 to 9 hours every night. To get better sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, and don’t watch TV or use the computer right before bed. Regular exercise also can help with sleep, but try to do it in the mornings and afternoons — night workouts can mess with your slumber.
Even a plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, or stressed. But it’s better if you get out there. You’ll give your mood a boost, and it can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones, which all elevate when you’re anxious. A walk around your block or a trip to a nice park can be helpful. Most people report that the addition of being next to some water can turbo boost the calming process
Figure out what you have to do right away and what can wait. A to-do list can help you break up large projects into smaller tasks and keep you focused on what to do next. Ask for help when you need it, and let go of things that aren’t that important.
A trained therapist guides you to think of things that make you anxious, while a computer reads your body and gives you feedback. With your therapist, you practice calming strategies and watch the feedback on the computer to see how they’re working. Over time, this can help you control your anxiety.
Get dirty! Get out there and get your hands in the dirt. Assuming you enjoy the process, gardening makes your brain release mood-boosting chemicals that can help calm your anxiety. Plus, you’ll get some exercise and spend time outdoors, both of which can be good for you, too. If you don’t have your own garden area, call a local community garden – most are happy for the help.
It may be the last thing on your mind when you’re anxious, but sex can lower your body’s stress response. And a healthy sex life, especially with a committed partner, can help make you happier and healthier, and that can help diminish anxiety.
This is one way to whittle your worries down to size. Meditation typically helps you focus on your breath and manage your thoughts. When a concern sneaks in, there are two approaches…you can try to dismiss it quickly and clear your head, or actually focus on the thought thus taking away the power of the “mind chatter”.
A trained massage therapist will rub, press, squeeze, and push muscles and other soft tissues with their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even their feet. Massage can help with sore muscles and other issues, and it may help ease anxiety and stress.
This is another form of meditation: You put your body into certain positions that can strengthen and stretch your muscles and other tissues. At the same time, you try to keep your breath calm. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and make you less anxious. There are levels for all practitioners. Please note, there are some yoga positions you shouldn’t do if you have certain health conditions, so check with your doctor before you start.
Smell is typically the most direct route to the core of your brain. Simple smells like chamomile, lavender and rosewater may help calm you. They come from concentrated oils you can breathe in or rub on your skin. Scientists think they send chemical messages to parts of your brain that affect mood and emotion.
This ancient process can help you relax — as long as you don’t get too anxious at the thought of needles. An acupuncturist puts very fine needles into specific points on your body. Sometimes electric stimulation is used as well to ease muscle and nerve tension.
You may find a couple of drinks relaxing, but too many can rewire your brain and make you more anxious. Heavy drinking also can affect your work and home life and cause other health problems, which can add to your anxiety. No more than one drink a day for women, 2 for men, is a healthy rule of thumb.
Likewise, using greater than 250 mg of caffeine daily can easily exaggerate the symptoms of anxiety.
This can help you look for patterns and figure out what makes you anxious. Family events? School? Work? Too much caffeine? Maybe it only happens when you’re hungry? When you find yourself anxious, try to write down what you’re thinking and doing. Once you know what’s causing your anxiety, you might be able to manage it better.
For extra help and great ideas on journaling please check out the contributions of writing coach Shelia Bender on FineWiner.com.