9 Powerful Anxiety Busters to Help You Regain Peace
Written By: Matt Mignona
Anxiety is more than an uncomfortable feeling: over the long term, it can cause physical and mental issues. High anxiety has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome, upset stomach, chronic respiratory diseases, migraines, and heart disease, as well as issues like insomnia, dizziness, and fatigue. Often, someone may manifest symptoms that can't be explained or attributed to a specific illness; these types of symptoms can be caused by stress and anxiety. If it's extreme, anxiety can become an illness in itself:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Exaggerated concerns about daily life
- Phobias: Irrational fears of specific situations or objects
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Feeling judged and embarrassed during routine social interactions and events
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Reliving extreme threats, such as those experienced during childhood trauma or combat
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Obsessive thoughts and accompanying compulsive, repetitive acts performed in an attempt to relieve the anxious thoughts
- Panic Disorder: Feeling of impending doom
Of course, disorders like these require treatment from a medical professional. However, the stress and anxiety many of us feel on a daily basis in our modern world can be managed before it gets out of hand and causes physical symptoms that impact our quality of life. You can do many of these things at home, work, or school—or anywhere as a way to manage the stress you find in those places.
Relieving Anxiety at Work
If you can't work out before or after work, consider using your lunch break for a quick walk, at least. Exercise is consistently mentioned as a good way to reduce stress: it boosts endorphins, improves your mood, and acts as a meditation practice—if you're playing a sport, for example, it can be hard to think about anything else but the game. Even when going on a walk, you can focus on observing your surroundings and taking deep breaths.
Many people reach for that second (or fifth) cup of coffee or an energy drink in an attempt to fix that mid-afternoon slump, but too much caffeine can increase cortisol and put stress on your heart. By improving your sleep and exercising (both great ways of reducing stress, anyway!), you might be able to avoid relying on caffeine to get you through the day. Breathing exercises and even a few jumping jacks when you start to feel sleepy can perk you up again.
If a particular co-worker, boss, or task increases your anxiety, see if there's a way to avoid them. Sometimes there's no choice—you have to work with these people—but you could turn down an invitation to lunch with one of them, for example. In some cases, you might be able to talk to your boss about getting reassigned or getting help on a particular project if you're feeling overwhelmed.
Relieving Anxiety at School
Take a Deep Breath
Whether you're in the middle of a test, a lecture, or even a tense social moment, it's easy to take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing activates your body's relaxation response, which helps relax your muscles, lower your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, and make you feel calmer. There are a variety of deep breathing exercises you can practice at home or before you go to bed, and these can be taught to children and teens.
Make Time for Play and Downtime
Between homework, social life, and after-school activities, school can become all-encompassing. It's important to help your kids find time to play, relax, and spend time with family after school, on the weekends, and during school breaks. Avoid over-scheduling your kids: help them choose the activities they love most and opt out of the ones that just take up time.
Relieving Anxiety at Home
Hug—a Pet or a Person
Hugging and cuddling releases oxytocin and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone). Positive touch helps you feel loved and supported. Petting and spending time with an animal can do the same, which is why emotional support animals, official or unofficial, are growing more common, and why animals are often used in therapy and other treatment programs.
It's so simple! Laughter can relieve tension, improve your immune system, stimulate organs, relieve pain, and improve your mood. Keep your favorite jokes or cartoons on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or at your office desk. Take a few minutes each day to watch videos that make you laugh. Schedule dates with friends to watch a sitcom or a live comedy show. (Have you ever noticed how watching something funny by yourself can make you chuckle, but watching it with other people will make you laugh out loud?)
Get Enough Sleep
Anxiety can make it hard to sleep, but that will only make your anxiety worse: poor-quality sleep can increase your stress hormones. Besides, we've all experienced what it feels like to be especially tired: we're grumpy, it's hard to concentrate, and we struggle with decision-making. All of those things can increase anxiety on their own. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, and use some other stress-busting techniques prior to bedtime to help you fall asleep: turn off the screens at least an hour before bed and practice some deep breathing exercises.
Keep a Journal
Writing is often used in therapy to help people work through serious trauma; it can also be used to work through the everyday stresses that leave us feeling anxious. Writing about your feelings or certain situations allows you to release pent-up concerns, work through a problem, explore possible outcomes (while realizing none of them are really that bad), and more.
You can also use your journal to get proactive and help yourself feel better by focusing on the good and planning for a positive day ahead. For example, you can write about:
- What you're grateful for
- Your favorite moment of the day
- What you're most looking forward to tomorrow
- Goals and dreams
- Daily action steps to help you reach those goals
- To-do lists that keep you focused and give you satisfaction when you accomplish each task
The Happier Mind Journal helps you organize those positive thoughts and keep you on track to a positive life—free from chronic stress and the damaging effects it can have on our lives. Journaling is a simple step you can take toward a calmer, more peaceful life. If you're not sure where to start, download our Quick Start Guide and you'll be on your way.