Creating an Anxiety Response Plan
10 Stress-Reducing Activities to Nip Anxiety in the Bud
Since the beginning of time, mankind has had to deal with that bad boy called anxiety. The fight or flight response that sends cortisol rates soaring is an intrinsic physiological function that has enabled the human race to survive (think outrunning the saber toothed tiger).
If you are thinking that our modern day levels of anxiety seem to be out of control you are not crazy. When we consider wistfully the simpler times of the 1950s (think Andy Griffith) we may long for Mayberry and that nice, slow pace of life. In our current day madness, about 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety—the most common of all mental health disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The pace of life is frenetic, the pressures to succeed, intense.
The good news is that there are many accessible methods at our disposal for managing anxiety when it crops up. Here are 10 simple things to do that will stop those feelings of anxiety in their tracks:
- Get organized.
So much of the daily stress we experience is due to feeling out of control. With never-ending duties, appointments, and errands gobbling up our time it is easy to feel like you are drowning in the demands of the day. Jotting down a quick to-do list in the morning helps put some sense of order into the day and alleviates that feeling that you will forget something important. Practicing better time management and organizational skills can go a long way to minimizing anxiety.
- Get moving.
Umpteen studies have confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt the power of exercise to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Just getting outside in the fresh air for a short daily walk will net both physical and mental health benefits. Selecting an activity that makes you smile, like grooving in a Zumba class or hiking while plugged in to a mellow playlist, can make the time spent moving your body even more enjoyable.
- Monitor your diet.
Skipping meals or eating a diet heavy in junk food and sugars will exacerbate your feelings of anxiety. The brain needs lean proteins, fresh veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains for peak functioning. Instead of defaulting to candy bars and chips when you feel hungry, have a stash of almonds, walnuts, or peanuts on hand that you can grab. A banana is a great choice for a quickie snack, and so is a chunk of beef jerky.
- Get better sleep.
Sleep deprived people do not manage stress well. Humans need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to be able to face the demands of the day without flipping out. Begin winding down with a cup of herbal tea an hour or two before bed. Take a bath with Epsom Salts for a boost of magnesium, a natural stress-reducer. Put a few drops of lavender essential oils on your pillowcase. Purchase a white noise machine if you need to block out sleep distractions.
Recent studies show that social media is responsible for ramping up stress and anxiety. Feelings of insecurity resulting from the sense that everyone else’s life is superior to your own can result in social anxiety and low self-esteem. The freeing feeling of unplugging, even for just a day, will remind you that real life is way more interesting that those filter-enhanced, altered pics on Instagram.
- Learn deep breathing.
A go-to activity in response to oncoming anxiety is practicing deep breathing exercises. Just a few minutes of this focused, slow breathing can immediately knock anxiety down. Breathe in for the count of 3, expanding your belling and maxing out your lungs….hold for 2 seconds, then slowly release the breath to the count of three, expelling as much air as possible. Repeat several times.
- Practice mindfulness.
Once you train yourself to access this super focused awareness of the present moment you will quickly notice how helpful mindfulness is in managing anxiety. When something upsetting or stress-inducing is happening, force your thoughts to focus only on your breathing and your physical sensations. This purposeful attention immediately results in a more relaxed state of being. You can practice mindfulness anywhere and anytime that anxiety strikes.
- Write it out.
Yes, a best friend and confidant is great to unload your fears and worries on, but writing in a journal about struggles, conflicts, and worries can promote relaxation. This is because you are processing emotions and thoughts while jotting down your concerns or hurt feelings over this or that. Just the process of writing itself can be like dumping all that worry out onto paper, where it then becomes less powerful.
- Resolve conflicts.
Nothing can stoke anxiety like unresolved conflicts. You sit there ruminating about someone insulted or offended you, and then all the things you wished you had said. Truth is, mulling these tiffs over and over in your head is self-defeating and a big time waster. Why not practice timely conflict resolution? The easiest way is to either a) apologize for any role you had in it, or b) tell the offending party that you would really like to put it away and move forward, or c) forgive them.
- Be constructive.
When things are eating at you, get up and do something about it. If you are having financial troubles, for example, sit down and make a budget for the month. Note the ways you might be squandering money (i.e., Starbucks) and commit to some cost cutting measures. In like manner, if you are worried about work, make a plan to improve productivity or your job performance instead of sitting there worrying about losing your job. Take constructive action.
Life can be complicated, messy, and rarely progresses in a straight line. PeoplePsych is a Chicago-based psychotherapy group that treats adults seeking profound change in their lives. We provide services that affirm the dignity, worth, and value of all individuals. We strive to create a safe non-judgemental space for clients to explore the issues that bring them. To connect with one of our therapists, please contact our Clinical Coordinator at (312) 252-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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