Unsurprisingly, more people than ever are suffering from anxiety. In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, it can be a real challenge to slow down and disengage. While therapy and medication can be great ways to find relief, there are simpler alternatives to mitigating anxious thoughts, habits, and patterns. Here are ten effective strategies to help soothe your anxiety and bring more peace to your daily life.
1. Take a “digi-break”
Aside from calamitous headlines and work emails, even the “positive” stuff on social media can put you into an anxious spiral as you compare your life to others’. Power down your devices for an hour, half a day, or set a rule not to check them for an entire weekend. Instead, focus your energy on your loved ones — family, friends, or pets — and give them the gift of your full attention without distraction.
2. Try a breathing exercise
The next time you feel overwhelmed, find a quiet place, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Notice where you’re carrying tension, then breathe deeply in and out five more times. Next, breathe into the places that feel tight and imagine them melting like marshmallows. At the end of five minutes, open your eyes and stretch.
3. Find an alternative health practitioner
For many, alternative medicine can work wonders at alleviating anxiety. Try Reiki, reflexology, acupuncture, or acupressure. I have found great relief from anxiety through regular acupuncture, having had fewer panic attacks as a result. Overall, this type of therapy makes me feel much calmer. Look to things like Groupon for discount rates to help you find a service and/or practitioner that you like.
4. Seek out good news
Read through a newspaper or your favorite news site and count every good story you find, and at the end of your day, reflect on all the good things you witnessed. These can be big or small — like a friend’s promotion or a happy puppy on the street. You’ll be surprised at how much positive stuff you can think of — and how much better you’ll feel afterward.
5. Treat exercise as a cure, not a chore
Exercise shouldn’t feel like another to-do list item — it should be an essential task, like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. And it can be as simple as housework, gardening, meeting a daily step goal or putting on your favorite album and taking a dance break. After you set the habit, your body will know that even a thirty-minute walk around the neighborhood will lead to more energy and less stress.
6. Take stock of your body in the morning
If you always wake up anxious, try setting your alarm a few minutes earlier and take some time to notice where your tension is. Exaggerate the feeling for a moment in each spot before relaxing, then imagine a huge butterfly net sweeping over your body and collecting all of your negative emotions and carrying them away. Remind yourself that you can face the day, take three deep breaths, and get out of bed.
7. Practice a mindful lunchtime
Instead of diving into your devices, take this time to get outside, or if you can’t leave your desk, at least allow yourself to disconnect from your phone, email, and social media. Instead, focus on savoring your food one bite at a time, contemplating flavors and textures.
8. Tidy up, one task a time
Many of us think of cleaning as an all-or-nothing job and find ourselves seriously overwhelmed by the prospect of it. Instead, try cleaning or organizing one small space at a time, or set a timer for fifteen minutes and see how much stuff you can put away before the alarm goes off. Your mind will feel just as decluttered after.
9. Implement a five-step bedtime ritual
If you wind up whenever you’re trying to wind down, set a nightly bedtime routine. For example, tidy up your room, moisturize, drink mint tea, take five deep breaths, and read a book. Over time, your brain will associate these activities with sleep, and you’ll drift off a lot easier.
10. Keep a “bag of worries”
Endless worries keeping you awake? Start writing them down and putting them in a jar or drawer until morning, when you can either face them or simply throw them away. This not only empties your mind so you can sleep but often, our worries seem much bigger in the dark of night.
For more ways to conquer those anxiety demons, check out Corinne Sweet’s latest interactive read, The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are.
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