I’m halfway out the door in the morning with a heavy bag in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. Then I wonder: Where did I put my keys? And so begins the 20-minute panicked reconnaissance mission for the keys I swore were on the coffee table. I start to feel flustered and irritable as I frantically search. My memory gets foggy as my heart starts to pound and my palms sweat. It’s another anxious morning.
Anxiety Alert—The Need-to-Know
Technically, anxiety is apprehension over an upcoming event. We anticipate the future with sometimes scary predictions that don’t necessarily have any basis in truth. In everyday life, anxiety’s physical and emotional symptoms can mean an increased heart rate, poor concentration at work and school, sleeping problems, and just being a total Crankasaurus Rex to family, friends, and co-workers.
Anxiety and stress are physical and emotional responses to perceived dangers (that aren’t always real). And since most of us aren’t running from tigers or hunting and gathering in the woods, it’s often the little things that put us over the edge: an over-loaded email inbox, morning rush hour, or losing those keys before running out the door. Luckily, it’s easy to beat this kind of stress with just a few easy changes added throughout the day.
Note: If you feel like you might be dealing with a serious anxiety disorder, please talk to a medical professional about treatment. There are lots of options available to manage your symptoms. But if you’re looking to reduce daily anxiety, these 15 tips will get you on your way to being calm and collected in no time.
If you’re not focused on how to calm your body through slow, intentional belly-breathing, you’re missing out. Belly-breathing is free, location independent, and easy to implement.
1. Sit with your eyes closed and turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control your breath.
2. Be aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of three. Exhale for a count of four. The hand on your belly should go in as you inhale, and move out as you exhale.
3. Concentrate on your breath and forget everything else. Your mind will be very busy, and you may even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier, but the reality is you’re just becoming more aware of how busy your mind is.
4. Resist the temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, and focus on the sensation of the breath. If you discover that your mind has wandered and is following your thoughts, immediately return it to the breath.
5. Repeat this as many times as necessary until your mind settles on the breath.
Don’t wait to begin belly-breathing. The sooner you make this a daily habit, the quicker you’ll feel relaxed.
When you implement belly-breathing, you start the day in a here-and-now state. Better yet, you’re not wasting time worrying about the future, or reliving the past.
Meditate instead of Medicate
Calm is an inside job. Give yourself the gift of serenity and start the day with ten minutes of solitude and positive energy. Think calm, measured and open-minded, and your daily activities will correspond.
Get Rid of the Clutter
Do you ever wonder how much time is lost when you can’t find your car keys, or that package of Epson 400 color ink?
Chances are you’ve got too much stuff clogging up your living space.
Try this quick organization hack:
1. Choose a drawer, cabinet or closet
2. Categorize the stuff you don’t use
3. Make three piles for a) Items to throw away, b) Items to donate, and c) Items to sell
Hold a yard sale and use the money to…
Plan a Day Trip
When you spend time in nature, you give your mind and body a much needed break from the hustle and bustle which causes you to Google things like “How to get rid of anxiety” in the first place.
Chances are no matter where you live, there’s a serene, interesting and charming place within a couple hours.
Go to Bed Early
This may sound impossible if you’re accustomed to staying up late to catch up on the To-Do list. But this one’s a MUST.
Sleep deprivation is a huge anxiety culprit. Inadequate shuteye can amplify the brain‘s anticipatory reactions, upping overall anxiety levels, according to research.
“We all have anticipatory anxiety,” explains researcher Fugen Neziroglu. “Having moderate levels of anxiety about doing well is important. But it can be destructive when it begins to interfere with your life.” It’s impossible to have healthy emotional functioning without adequate sleep.
Don’t burn the midnight oil in hopes of catching up on the weekends. Unused sleep minutes don’t roll over.
Wake up 15 Minutes Early
Like most anxious people, you’re probably rushing around in the morning and yelling at everyone in your wake, “Hurry up! We’re going to be late!”
Go slowly, and set yourself up for a relaxed day ahead. If you start to worry about the To-Do list, take a deep breath and think, There is enough time.
Reduce Caffeine, Sugar and Processed Foods From Your Diet
Caffeine can cause heart palpitations if you ingest too much. Caffeine also can trigger panic or anxiety attacks, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also cause palpitations.
Sugar acts as an adrenal stimulant and can cause anxiety or even panic attacks. Other offensive foods include those containing refined flour products, and even wheat since this causes inflammation.
Besides caffeine, and sugar, food allergies are a big contributing factor in your overactive central nervous system.
Diet affects anxiety. A morning glass of green juice can get you on the right side of calm.
For a different and delicious way to get your daily vegetables try this recipe: Combine one banana or green apple, a bunch of kale, sliced ginger, one lime, cucumber slices, a few ice cubes, and a cup of water to a blender or juicer. For added protein, add an egg, yogurt, nuts, or protein powder.
Know that Feelings Are Not Facts
One of the hardest jobs of a psychotherapist is to convince your anxious client that the feelings of low self-worth, guilt and shame are not accurate. Negative thoughts cause negative feelings. This one’s tricky because many of our negative thoughts are automatic, deeply internalized, and rooted in the unconscious.
Challenge Negative Core Beliefs
Remember that thoughts precede feelings. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors. For example:
- Jocelyn wakes up and immediately thinks, I’m gonna blow the PowerPoint presentation today. I just want to stay in bed all day
- She feels unmotivated, nervous and sluggish
- She yells at her kids when they don’t dress fast enough
How to challenge your negative mood:
1. Record your thoughts periodically. Pay attention to when you feel stressed out.
2. Write the feelings that accompany the thoughts. Think one-word responses like frustrated, angry, worthless and defeated, etc.
3. Challenge reality. This is hard because we tend to lack objectivity about the truth. Is there proof you don’t deserve that job promotion? Were you written up because of shoddy work performance?
If you commit to recording your daily thoughts and feelings, along with reality testing, you’ll see that many of your negative feelings are created in your mind, and not based in reality.
The good news is you created the negative thought, and you can uncreate it.
Get Some Accountability
If you’re BFF with Nervous Nellie or Anxious Allen, put your keyed-up energy to good use. Vow to work on healthier ways to cope when feeling stressed.
How to get your accountability on:
- Share this resource with a friend
- Pick a few strategies that resonate with both of you
- Make a plan to call each other out when you stray
- Give praise when you make positive changes
- Start a Facebook group and post regular tips to decrease stress and anxiety
Attend a Social Gathering (Even If You Don’t Want To)
Schedule a Physical Exam to Rule Out a Medical Condition for Your Anxiety
If your anxiety has spiked recently, or if you were previously able to cope with life, and now not so much, your doctor can determine if there’s a medical condition responsible for your anxiety. Ask for a blood panel, and be honest about your symptoms.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
Exercise is nature’s anti-anxiety remedy. Besides clearing the mind, firing up the endorphins, and helping you sleep soundly at night, researchers have found that individuals who exercise vigorously and regularly were 25 percent less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within five years.
Accept Your Anxiety
Whether you inherited the “anxiety gene” from your parents, or your lifestyle, or both, accept your anxiety rather than fight it.
It’s not about rolling over and giving up. Understand you have to work hard every day to bring calm to your environment.
Remember there’s always options in life, and worse fates exist than being anxiety-sensitive. After all, when push comes to shove, at the end of the (stressed out) day, anxious people get the job done!