The ability to find instant calm and happiness… Some might consider this a skill only achievable by esoteric monks or meditation gurus, but research shows that there are easy ways to greatly reduce one’s anxiety, even when it threatens to overwhelm.
The stress of everyday life can be daunting, especially with so many of us concerned about recent social conflict and outcries. The ability to reduce your anxiety to lessen the stress on your mind and body, can be said to be an essential skill in modern time.
Here I’ll present 10 methods for reducing anxiety, that have been proven effective. I teach these professionally
1. Breathe Deeply
It may sound obvious, but this is the best way to make an immediate and profound reduction in anxiety.
Take a 5-10-minute break a few times a day to focus on breathing. Slowly inhale feel the breath go into your lungs and expanding your rib cage.Then hold for a moment, and slowly exhale through your mouth (notice the air will be warmer as you exhale).
The count is 4-4-6. Inhale to a count of 4 as you inhale, hold for 4, then count to 6 as you exhale. Repeat this 5 times.
This will automatically calm your nervous system and relax your mind and body.
2. Be Present
The trend about mindfulness is actually a helpful practice. All it means is to focus on what is happening, in the moment.
When you’re outside, notice the sun and air on your face. Notice how your feet feel on the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food. Become aware of your senses.
What you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and experience in this particular moment. Doing this engages your cognitive mind meaning any emotions will take a back seat and that can be relaxing and help focus on the task at hand.
There are many ways to meditate, and it does not even have to resemble just sitting quietly. For some, the popular image of meditation works beautifully; for others, it is very difficult.
There is walking meditation, dancing/moving to music meditation, focusing on a word like “peace” or “calm”, or even just visualizing a peaceful place like a beach, waterfall, or forest. There are many ways to calm your mind, and still your thoughts.
Research shows that meditating: grows areas in the brain that regulate emotions and calm the body.
Just 5 minutes of stretching a day can help reduce stress in the body and the mind. Most of us have jobs with repetitive movements, or that involve sitting in a chair for most of the day. These “holding patterns” stress the body and can result in chronic conditions.
So get up, walk around, stretch your legs, arms, and spine in a way that is safe for your body’s capabilities in order to relax tight muscles. Add some breathing with it and you are getting oxygen to the muscles. This is can increase productivity and concentration.
This is easy to say, yet challenging to follow through with if you aren’t already in the habit. If you are moving the body, it counts.
Walks, gym, yoga, dancing… it doesn’t matter where you start, just start and do what you can, when you can. Be easy on yourself on days you miss; there is always tomorrow. But find ways to motivate yourself to exercise more.
6. Listen to Music
Music is very beneficial to the mind and body so remember this as a resource.
For people who wake up depressed or stressed, I recommend waking up to an alarm with their favorite music; it can set the tone for an upbeat day. Calming music is great for anxiety.
There is something for everyone that can get you out of a mood or put you into a mood quickly and easily. Music is also one of the quickest ways into our emotional brain, it grabs attention away from a stuck emotion or physical discomfort. So if you’re stressed out, turn on some tunes and chill.
And don’t discount sad music. While it may be unhealthy to use sad music to dwell on depressing thoughts or emotions, sometimes what we really need is empathy and the feeling that we are understood. Music can be a powerful source of empathic relief.
7. Connect with Others
I mean really connect, other than Facebook or texting. Talking on the phone is more soothing to the brain than typing on a phone. Hearing a loved one’s voice activates the care-connect pathways in the brain which are opposite of grief and anxiety.
In person is even better, so call a friend ask them to meet you for a walk, movie, or a meal, this is healing on so many levels so make it a habit.
8. Laugh (a Lot)
Laughing is the best medicine, it really is. There are so many studies spouting the positive healing effects of laughter on the brain.
I have my anxious clients save their funniest videos as favorites on their pads, phones, and computers and when they’re stressed, they take a minute to watch something funny and laugh.
It releases tension you didn’t even know was there.
9. Indulge in Self-Care
This means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking care of all your physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs, regularly.
Track this on your calendar or phone so this becomes a habit. Make sure there is “me” time in your life. This includes saying “no” to what you would resent later and saying “yes” to what you would be glad you did later.
10. Be Grateful
This is also something that studies have shown can change the brain to be more positive and happier.
I saw a study at a neuroscience presentation where they had volunteers write up a note to a person who had made a positive impact on their life. Then they called them on the phone and read their statements to the person on the phone.
Their scores on depression rating scales when down significantly. The more depressed someone was, the higher their scores went up after the call.
So keep a gratitude journal to remind you of the amazing things in your life even the simple ones count.
Although these activities may seem obvious at first, challenge yourself to actually use them purposefully, and not just when anxiety reaches a peak. Forming new habits to manage anxiety can be a tall order, but start with just one (deep breathing for instance) and it can become keystone habit that will remind you of the rest of these proven tools.
If you are looking for maximum anxiety relief, try taking a yoga class. Yoga incorporates many of the items above in one activity (deep breathing, stretching, exercising, music, meditation, and mindfulness), if you chat with others there you may get another 2 (connecting and laughing).
May you find peace in every day.