All of us experience anxiety on occasion – it is a normal part of life. Our health, finances, jobs, and family all can cause us to worry at times. And, sometimes we experience feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and stress without knowing exactly what is provoking those feelings.
Fortunately, there are simple things we can do to alleviate or better manage anxiety.
Here are 21 easy ways to calm yourself down and relax when a wave of worry hits you.
1) Breathe: Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing trick because it activates the body’s relaxation response. It helps your body shift from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, suggests slowly inhaling to a count of 4, filling your belly first and then your chest, gently holding your breath to a count of 4, and slowly exhaling to a count of 4. Repeat several times.
2) Accept: Acknowledge that you are anxious and that it is just a feeling and will pass.
3) Understand: Realize that your mind is playing tricks on you. Things are likely not nearly as bad as you think they are going to be.
4) Ask: Is the situation really as dire as you are making it out to be? Is your worry realistic?
5) Visualize: Imagine yourself handling whatever situation is making you anxious with calmness and grace.
6) Focus: Are you worrying about something that might happen later? Are you imagining worst-case scenarios? If so, bring yourself back to the present and focus on what is happening now – and what you CAN control.
7) Move: Go for a walk if you can – clear your head and get some fresh air. Studies have shown that sitting too much can increase anxiety levels, so get up and move around throughout the day.
8) Connect: Call or visit someone you can talk to.
9) Create: Paint, sculpt, or draw. Those activities aren’t just for kids – in fact, adult coloring books with intricate designs and patterns are best-sellers on Amazon, and recent news stories have outlined the calming and relaxing benefits of coloring for stressed-out grown-ups.
10) Meditate: There are several ways to do this – you can find a quiet place to escape for a few minutes, go on a focused walk, or use imagery to bring yourself to a calmer place.
11) Declutter: Clean up your living space or work area. Messy surroundings can make it hard to relax.
12) Plan: Make a to-do list or a schedule if upcoming events or tasks are causing you anxiety.
13) Help: Offer to assist someone else with a task, or perform a random act of kindness.
14) Pet: Animal companions add joy and comfort to our lives, and studies show that bonds between humans and pets provide therapeutic benefits. Even watching fish swim lowers blood pressure and muscle tension.
15) Write: Carry a notepad or a journal with you. Get your thoughts and worries down on paper and out of your mind.
16) Laugh: Watch a funny video, read a humorous story, or chat with a friend who makes you smile.
17) Sun: Weather permitting, go outside and soak up some of the Sunshine Vitamin.
19) Hypnotize: You can learn simple self-hypnosis relaxation techniques with a little practice.
21) Relax: Visit an art museum or gallery, or browse through a library or bookstore. Weather permitting, take a walk through a park or botanical garden and enjoy the scenery and soothing sounds of nature.