Anxiety affects more people than you may imagine. Some seventy percent of adults in the United States alone report feeling stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
Most, though, don’t realize how damaging chronic stress can actually be. And many are unsure of what they can do to relieve their anxiety.
Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect your overall health and well-being. Insomnia, headaches, muscle tension, stomach aches, and fatigue are common physical effects of stress. It can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, increase white blood cell count, spike blood sugar levels, and affect your entire nervous system. Anxiety also can lead to behavioral changes such as overeating, or eating the wrong types of foods, using drugs or alcohol to self medicate, irritability or anger issues.
It’s obvious that relieving anxiety and stress can spare you a lot of health issues. Both your physical and mental well-being is at stake.
Therefore, it’s important to realize that you may unintentionally do things that fuel your anxiety. You may focus excessively on the “what ifs” and end up believing your own negative thoughts, although you have no evidence they are true. Or you may judge and lash out at yourself for feeling anxious, only to cause yourself to feel worse.
What, then, can you do to actually relieve anxiety instead of aggravating it?
10 Simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety
Deep breathing exercises can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response. This counteracts your body’s overactive fight-or-flight mode. Try focusing on your breath, making it slower and deeper by breathing deeply from the diaphragm or abdomen.
Laughter increases oxygen in your body and organs. It relieves stress and tension by relaxing your muscles. In the long-run, it can improve your mood as well as your whole immune system.
3. Listen to soothing music
Slow-paced instrumental music can be especially soothing. It can activate the relaxation response, helping to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. You may also want to try out nature sounds such as ocean waves, babbling brooks, rain or birds chirping.
Spend time with those you care about – your spouse/partner, your children, your friends, and even your pet. Companionship and social ties can keep you active and lower anxiety. In particular, positive physical interaction, such as cuddling, hugging, and kissing can release oxytocin (a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood) and lower cortisol (the stress hormone).
Getting your negative thoughts out of your head and onto paper can be therapeutic. However, don’t just write down what you’re anxious about. Also, note what you’re grateful for. Gratitude helps relieve anxiety and stress by focusing on the positive.
6. Reduce Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant. Consider cutting back on foods like chocolate, coffee, energy drinks, and tea. High doses of these items can make you restless and increase anxiety.
Regular exercise reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol, and releases endorphins (chemicals that boost your mood). It improves the quality of your sleep and promotes an overall feeling of well-being. You don’t have to go to the gym or complete a monster workout every day. Just find an exercise you enjoy. It can be something simple, like walking, dancing, or swimming.
8. Use essential oils
There are some aromatherapy scents that are especially calming. Try bergamot, frankincense, geranium, lavender, neroli, orange blossom, roman chamomile, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, or ylang-ylang.
9. Take supplements
Some that can help relieve anxiety and stress are ashwagandha, green tea, kava kava, lemon balm, omega-3 fatty acids, and Valerian root. Just be careful! Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition.
10. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be an emotional anchor since it combats negative thinking. You can practice mindfulness stress reduction several different ways. Try yoga, meditation, guided imagery, or perhaps mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
If you still feel like you could use some help with your anxiety, reach out to a qualified therapist. He or she can provide you with many more tools to put your worry away so you can start enjoying your life more fully.