In these crazy times, you may be experiencing a heightened state of anxiety. Or maybe anxiety is something you struggle with anyway. Either way, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US, with about 40 million adult cases each year.
Some anxiety is healthy, like before a big test, presentation, or in an obviously scary situation. But severe anxiety can make work more unnecessarily difficult, strain our relationships, negatively impact our social lives, and make it difficult to sleep. In order to help you combat your excessive worry, here are 10 small steps you can take today to reduce anxiety so you can live a healthier, more productive life.
Research shows that meditation can reduce anxiety and stress, among other benefits. If you are new to meditation, start slowly with just a minute or two and build up from there. There are several apps that can help guide you so you feel more comfortable, like Headspace and Calm. Or, take a look at our free FitOn meditations located in the yoga section of the app!
#2 Prioritize Quality Sleep
Anxiety can cause sleep issues, but not sleeping can also increase anxiety. Working toward good quality sleep is absolutely vital to combat anxiety. Here are some tips for better sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation:
- Get on a strict sleeping schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Make sure you have a cool room (between 60-67 degrees), as being too hot can disrupt your sleep.
- Avoid naps.
- Avoid bright light in the evening (it’ll throw off your circadian rhythm).
- Avoid screens at night.
- Get a comfy mattress! Who wants to sleep on a pile of bricks?
Studies show that journaling about your feelings can help reduce anxiety and stress, cope with depression, and improve overall mood. Keep it simple; just spend a few minutes every night or morning jotting down some of your feelings, thoughts, and anxieties. By getting it down on paper, you can get it out of your head and begin the process of working through the tough stuff.
#4 Go For a Brisk Walk
Not only has walking been shown to improve medical conditions like diabetes, preventing cancer, heart attacks, and stroke, but it’s also an excellent way to reduce anxiety and depression. Even just 10 minutes of brisk walking can have positive effects, so try to squeeze those walks in where you can.
If you struggle with setting aside time, here are some ways to multitask and get those walks in:
- Take the dog out!
- Use this time to complete work calls.
- Catch up with family or loved ones during your walks.
- Bring your kid with you and use your walks as a bonding time.
- Practice mindful walking, a form of meditation, so you can get two self-care activities in one!
#5 Watch Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine has been associated with stress, anxiety, and depression in school children, but some research suggests that it’s more about the amount you’re ingesting. Every person’s body is different, so you might want to try cutting caffeine (coffee, black and green tea, etc) out entirely to see if your anxiety decreases.
If that’s not sustainable (I’m a total coffee addict, so I get it), try limiting your caffeine consumption to around 1-2 cups a day. This is where self-assessment becomes crucial!
#6 Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol and anxiety are closely linked. Studies show that alcohol withdrawal can lead to heightened anxiety and agitation, so if you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety right now, it’s best to put the bottle down. You don’t have to go extreme; it’s not forever. Maybe just start with taking a little alcohol break and see if it helps you feel better.
#7 Experiment with Different Kinds of Self Care
Self-care is so important. It’s about nurturing your mind, body, and spirit, and, okay, also feeling like absolute royalty. Here are some ways to practice self-care:
- Take a luxurious bubble bath.
- Ask your partner or friend for a massage or foot rub.
- Apply a calming face sheet mask or cream.
- Paint your nails.
- Listen to a relaxing audiobook.
- Listen to calming music.
- Practice yoga or some light stretching.
- Spend some time in nature, like hiking or at the beach.
#8 Limit Your Social Media
With all the issues going on the world today, too much social media can definitely increase anxiety. It’s important to stay current on world events and informed on what’s happening, but boundaries are key. For example, you could say, “I’m going to check Instagram for 15 minutes at 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM.” You can also set limits directly through your phone or the app, if you’re too tempted to check!
#9 Try Yoga
Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise to reduce anxiety, since the practice has been shown to reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses. Yoga also helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, and ease respiration. If you’re new to yoga, take a peek here to find the perfect practice for you!
#10 Confide in a Friend
Sometimes all you need in a moment of panic is a supportive, nonjudgmental ear. Let your loved one know you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious and could use a friend right now. It’s important to be specific about what you need. Try these phrases:
- I’m having a hard time with anxiety lately, do you have some time to chat?
- I would love it if you could listen and be there for me right now. I don’t need advice at the moment, but I’ll let you know if that changes.
- I am feeling so overwhelmed. Do you have any advice for ways I could handle the stress?
- It would mean so much to me if you could talk me through this difficult anxiety episode I’m having.
Deep Breaths, It’s Going to Be Okay
Anxiety can make us feel like the world is ending. It sucks, but it’s not impossible to overcome. We don’t want to let anxiety hold you back in life, so try these simple tips to reduce anxiety today.