Anxiety: it affects over 40 million people in the United States of America.
With the current uncertain times, a record number of people are left nervous and on edge. Anxiety can interfere with daily life like school, work, and relationships.
But it’s also highly treatable.
Here are nine calming strategies you need to know to help combat stress and anxiety.
- Just Breathe
Breathing exercises are one of the most effective things to do to relax. It allows an increase of oxygen to travel to your brain and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for calmed body functions like rest, a decreased heart rate, and energy conservation. To help trigger this system, try these three simple breathing tips:
- Lay on your back
- Breathe in through your nose
- Breath out through your mouth
Keep one hand placed on your belly and one hand placed on the chest to increase the connectivity and awareness throughout your body. Your breaths should be deep and fill your belly with air.
Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for seven seconds, and exhale on a count of eight. This method, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, helps you to gain control over your breathing and hold your attention in the moment.
- Use Visualization
A great tool to add to breathing is visualization. It helps you focus and divert your energy away from the stress and anxiety. To practice visualization:
- Close your eyes
- Relax your muscles
- Picture yourself calm
As you breathe out, imagine the anxious and angry feelings leave your body. Having trouble forming an image in your mind? Try repeating a mantra out loud to help you concentrate on your meditation.
- Listen to Music
Listening to music helps your autonomic nervous system recover faster. This helps improve mental and emotional functioning. Check out relaxing tracks with labels like:
Everyone one is unique and so are their music tastes. Some may feel more relaxed listening to Classical songs while others thrive off of Rock and Roll. Listen to what works for you!
- Stay Connected
It can be easy to feel isolated during times of uncertainty. Try virtual meetups to stay connected with friends and family. Focus on group activities that bring everyone together. Some great games to play over video chat include:
Remember you are not alone!
Check out other activities that you can do with friends remotely that help keep your brain engaged and add variety into your day. Try games like:
- Word Searches
- Relax Your Body
Can’t figure out how to calm nerves? Give progressive muscle relaxation a go. This practice involves tensing up a group of muscles as you breathe in and relaxing them as you breathe out.
Try starting with your toes and work your way up to your body. Remember to focus on only one muscle group at a time. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, progressive muscle relaxation may be the answer you’re looking for.
Another great way to relax your body is to use hemp flower buds. These buds contain high amounts of CBD, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Try Writing
Writing can help you work through your anxious thoughts and feelings. Start by journaling for five minutes every day. Not only will this help create structure to your day, but it will also make your anxiety feel less abstract.
Writing can help you control and improve your anxiety by:
- Prioritizing fears, concerns, and problems
- Recognizing triggers
- Identifying negative thoughts
- Go Outside
Nature is calling! A connection with the outdoors can help reduce stress and anxiety. A study in 2015 suggests those who do nature walks experience lower activity in their prefrontal cortex, which in part is responsible for negative emotions.
Can’t make it outside? Try listening to nature sounds and incorporate it into your visualization and breathing exercises.
- Eat Right
There are some foods you can eat to curb your anxiety. Look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and Vitamin D. Six scientifically proven foods and drinks that may help reduce anxiety include:
- Dark Chocolate
- Green Tea
Try to eat a balanced diet to help keep your brain happy and healthy.
- Do Exercise
Studies show routine aerobic exercise can help decrease stress and anxiety and improve overall mood. Aerobic exercise pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body and to the brain. Some great exercises include:
When you exercise your body releases endorphins, a natural chemical in your brain. Endorphins help to reduce pain and generate an overall positive feeling throughout the body.
Not up for that? Give yoga a try. Yoga helps connect the mind and body. Hatha yoga helps combat stress and anxiety. It incorporates breathing, yoga poses, and meditation.
If you’re new to yoga, check out instructor-led videos to ensure you are adapting poses to individual skill levels. Remember to always consult with your medical provider before starting any new exercise program!
Stress and anxiety can be very overwhelming. But, remember you are not alone. These calming strategies can be incorporated into daily life by anyone and make a positive difference in your overall health.
Looking for additional resources? Consult a medical professional or mental health professional like the ones here to help manage your stress and anxiety symptoms.
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