If you suffer from anxiety, you know all too well how painful it is. You may experience trouble concentrating, a racing heart, overpowering feelings of apprehension or dread, or other number of other symptoms that feel completely out of your control. However, there are actions you can take—both in the moment and over the long-term—that can drastically relieve feelings of anxiety. Here are 10 of my favorite to share with clients.
Get active. Exercise is a natural anti-anxiety medication, so find an activity you enjoy doing several times a week, and you’ll probably notice a difference right away. That’s because working out releases “feel good” brain chemicals like endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body and have a calming effect as well.
Get a good night’s sleep. Make a nightly routine, incorporating calming activities like reading a good book to take your mind off things that have been bothering you during the day. Then try to go to bed at the same time every night—early enough to get a full seven or eight hours of sleep—and remember, no screen time one hour before bed.
Practice belly breathing. Have you ever watch babies breathe at night? Their belly fills with air and deflates as they exhale while their chest and shoulder stay still. This is called diaphragmatic breathing, and it’s a great way to calm your body. Practice by lying down, placing your hand on your stomach and feeling it rise as you inhale. Hold for two seconds, then slowly exhale and watch your hand go back down. You’re slowing your breathing, which helps stop your mind from racing and bring you back to the present.
Pray or meditate regularly. For many this is easier said than done, as anxiety-fueled thoughts keep trying to crowd their way in even when you’re trying to let go. Just practice, practice, practice, because there is a lot of benefit that comes from prayer and meditation. It can help quiet your mind and body, which in turn decreases stress and anxiety.
Reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar. When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, it’s tempting to reach for anything that looks like a quick fix. But instead of making you feel better, these increase the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which can wreak havoc on your nervous system. So instead of grabbing another cup of coffee, take a short walk around the block to help clear your head and lift your spirits.
Eat healthfully. Eating regular meals and snacks to avoid the starve-then-gorge trap, avoiding processed foods and refined sugar, and eating whole foods including lots of fruits and vegetables are all healthful eating habits that will (1) give you energy from natural sources, (2) make you healthier overall and (3) help you feel better about yourself, all of which contribute to your emotional well-being.
Focus on gratitude. Think about what you have in your life right now to be thankful for: your relationships, job, friends, health, or even just the fact that your basic needs are being met. You’d be surprised how reassuring it is just to remember that for all the things you tend to worry about, plenty of other things are going well.
Get connected and have some fun. Close relationships with friends and family can double your joys and divide your sorrows. When you feel heard, understood and loved, you have a natural barrier against runaway negative thinking.
Start a hobby, volunteer or take a class. It’s another way of getting involved with a community while exploring new interests, getting out of your own head by working to help others, or simply learning a new skill. All can help build self-esteem and broaden your outlook on life, which are excellent ways to feel calmer and happier in the long run.
Reach out for help when you need it. If negative thoughts and emotions are interfering with your ability to sleep, function and find enjoyment in life, don’t go on suffering any longer. Talking with a therapist can help decrease your anxiety, stress and worry. If you would like to talk more about this and how I may be able to help, feel free to give me a call and set up a free 20-minute phone consultation at (312) 810-0707. My goal is to help you feel better!