10 Practices for Reducing Anxiety
Everyone gets nervous from time to time; after all, there are many reasons to feel anxiety these days. But brief situational anxiety passes after its cause is gone. For example, going to the dentist might fill your stomach with butterflies, but once your visit is over, you relax again.
There are other kinds of anxiety that don’t go away. These kinds of anxiety rise to the level of being both chronic and harmful. Anxiety disorders seriously and negatively affect a person’s ability to live a pleasing life. They can become so severe people become incapacitated.
Anxiety is focused on the future. It’s rooted in the question “what if?” and consumes mental energy, leaving a person tired with nothing to show for the psychological exertion. Most times, worry and anxiety masquerade as planning or preparing for events. By worrying, sometimes people feel as if they are giving important events the concern they need in order to solve problems. This is a common illusion people entertain about their anxiety—that by torturing themselves with anxiety, they’re working on a problem they have. In reality, this is untrue. All the anxiety in the world is not as useful as a single completed task.
Anxiety can be beaten, reduced, even eliminated. To reduce day-to-day anxiety, here are ten helpful tips:
- Practice deep breathing. It might seem strange to talk about breathing to reduce anxiety, but most of us don’t breathe deeply enough during our daily routine. This leads to a gradual over-accumulation of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which prompts feelings of anxiety. Belly-breathing is a great way to change that. It’s free and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
First, pay attention to your breathing. Put one hand on your belly. Take a deep, slow breath to the count of three. Hold your breath for three seconds, then exhale for three seconds. Think about making your hand rise and fall, slowly and deliberately. Repeat the process until you feel your anxiety melt away.
- Reduce caffeine. As we age, our bodies change in the amounts of caffeine and sugar we can consume without getting the jitters. If you drink caffeinated beverages, consider reducing your intake, but do that slowly. A “cold turkey” approach to eliminating caffeine can cause headaches. Instead, switch out your favorite caffeinated beverages with non-caffeinated versions.
- Practice incremental organizing. Living in a cluttered environment prompts stress. If you’ve been putting off getting your things in ship-shape order, and the task seems too big to finish, organize just one thing. Clean out one closet or one kitchen drawer, or one cabinet. The goal is to get some organizing done without being daunted by a seemingly insurmountable task.
- Develop good sleep hygiene. Getting enough rest is absolutely vital for reducing anxiety. Having a “shut-down” process or procedure can help. Click here for more information about sleep hygiene.
- Get in some exercise. Exercise does not have to be vigorous to be useful in reducing anxiety. By requiring deep regular breathing, exercise causes the brain to relax and release natural calming agents like dopamine and endorphins, which lower anxiety. It also helps purge the body of stress hormones, like cortisol.
- Learn your anxiety triggers. Figuring out what causes your anxiety to spike may seem easy, but generalized anxiety may have no easily identifiable causes. However, if you discover what causes your anxiety to spike, you can be ready with tools to bring your anxiety level back down.
- Write out what’s stressing you. Even if you can’t pinpoint what’s wrong, you can get some insight by jotting down a few notes about your immediate situation. Where are you? What’s going on around you? Who are you with? It may take a while for this practice to reveal the common thread of what’s stressing you, but by identifying the context of your anxiety, you can focus on fixing the problem.
- Reduce your exposure to social media and news. Doom-scrolling has become common. It’s the practice of consuming tons of social media and news while fixating on the most negative information. People may think they are staying abreast of the news, but the result is elevated anxiety.
- Practice mindful awareness. As we discussed before, non-specific worry is future-based. Mindful awareness redirects your attention to the present moment, which reduces anxiety and helps to train the brain to avoid that level of worry in the future. When practicing mindfulness, start with breathing exercises. Pay attention to your breathing and re-direct your attention to the present moment. Where are you? What do you see? How would you describe your environment? What information are you getting from your senses?
- Practice mindful awareness along with meditation. You can be mindfully aware anywhere and anytime. Adding meditation to the mix isn’t hard. While you’re being mindfully aware, focus your attention on your breathing and your body, while allowing your thoughts to come and go. Don’t linger on your thoughts and don’t focus your attention on them. Your attention remains focused on your breathing and the sensations of your body. Your thoughts will rise to the surface of your mind like bubbles emerging from the depths of a calm lake. Let them rise and fall on their own, giving no energy to them.
It takes time and practice to reduce and eliminate anxiety, and the benefits to physical, mental, and emotional well-being are huge.