With everything going on in the world right now, I can’t be the only one feeling more anxiety than usual.
Whether the news cycle is ramping up anxiety or personal events are adding to the stress, we all sometimes need a little help managing. Ignoring the stress in your life, or putting off dealing with anxiety, can trigger many different health problems, including inflammation, depression, headaches, heart disease, digestion problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
There are long term solutions for managing an anxiety disorder, but I recommend reaching out to your doctor for those. In the meantime, anyone can benefit from these strategies to relieve anxiety and stress. If you don’t know where to start, maybe try one a day for the next two weeks and see how you feel!
1 – Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
This may seem cliché coming from Clean FOOD Crush, but I cannot emphasize enough the effects food can have on your mental health. We even have a list of 15 foods that can help you naturally fight anxiety and stress. However, it’s not always making one cup of tea when you’re stressed. The most helpful thing to do is to be consistent. Do not skip any meals or feel defeated if you have one unhealthy meal. Instead, keep healthy, energy-boosting snacks on hand and try a nutritious, balanced, sustainable diet that can be a lifestyle, rather than a quick fix.
2 – Stay Away from Sugar
I know this is super similar to tip number 1 and tip number 3, but it deserves its own section. I mean, how many times in your life have you heard the words “comfort food”? Reaching for the M&Ms hidden in the back of the pantry may be second nature when feeling overwhelmed with stress, but I promise, that can do more harm than good. Comfort food only comforts while you’re eating it. As soon as those M&Ms are gone, the anxious feelings may skyrocket. Instead, try drinking drink a glass of water (maybe with lemon), eating some protein, or try a new comfort food recipe. If you need a little help with this one (no shame in that, I know I’ve needed help staying away from sugar!) here are 9 ways to detox from sugar.
3 – Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Caffeine, the stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate, can increase (and sometimes cause) levels of anxiety and depression. I’m sure you’ve noticed the physical manifestations of this before in feelings of restlessness, nervous, irritable, or actual jitters and tremors. If you still need a little boost of energy, there are plenty of natural ways to do this that don’t involve caffeine.
Similarly, alcohol changes levels of serotonin in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. Keep in mind that a few glasses may seem to erase all anxiety, when the effects of alcohol wear off, you may feel even more anxious than before. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking. Quick fixes are not really fixes at all.
4 – Take Time for Yourself
If you’re like me and constantly busy, or living in a crowded house, this can simultaneously be one of the hardest tips and the most helpful. Try carving out just a bit of time to be by yourself and do something that makes you happy.
- Write things down. This can be done through journaling, writing a letter you won’t send, or something creative like poetry. This is a valuable tool for improving mental health.
- Listen to music. I often pair this with something else, like cooking, cleaning, or jogging. Music affects emotions and can be an extremely effective stress management tool.
- Be with your pet. Whether you’re a dog person, cat person, reptile person, or whatever, science has shown that spending time with your pet can reduce stress and feelings of isolation. So, feel free to tell your family that you have to spend fifteen minutes petting the dog for your own health.
- Do some reading. Pick up that book on the back of your shelf you’ve been neglecting, blow off the dust, and enjoy! Fictional novels can be extra helpful because, depending on the genre, you can trust there will be a happy ending.
5 – Exercise
I’m sure every list of tips to reduce stress has this one, and for good reason. You may be tempted to look over this tip and get back to things like petting the dog, but I highly discourage that. Sometimes, all we need is some fresh air and a brisk walk. And, just like with a well-balanced diet, consistent exercise will have the strongest benefits through the regular release of endorphins, improved sleep quality, and improved confidence.
Here are some exercise ideas:
- Walking or jogging
- Rock climbing
6 – Get in Touch with Nature
You can kill two stressed-out birds with one stone by doing your exercise outside! Studies show that spending time outside is good for your overall health. Enjoying nature can relieve feelings of worry, anxiety, anger, fear, and stress. The outdoors can also reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones and sunlight increases the brain’s release of serotonin, that feel-good hormone we’ve been talking about.
7 – Try Grounding
This therapeutic technique is meant to reconnect you with the earth when you feel disconnected. Really, it’s a fancy term for focusing your mind on what is happening around you to keep you from getting lost down that bunny trail of stress.
Ways to practice grounding:
- Walk barefoot. Whether this is on grass, sand, or even mud, try letting your skin come in contact with the natural earth and focus on what that feels like.
- Lay on the ground. It’s almost like we’re telling you to take a nap outside! You can increase your skin-to-earth contact by lying on the ground. (Just be sure to be aware of your surroundings so you are safe!)
- Submerge in water. This can be wading in a lake, the ocean, or a pool. You can also just do your feet or hands in the water. As always, stay safe!
- Use your senses. Engage your body by using all five senses. Find one thing you can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see. Or, try the 3-3-3 method and name 3 things you see, 3 you hear, and move 3 parts of your body, like your ankle, fingers, and neck.
8 – Breathe
This one might seem too simple, but it’s incredible what breathing can do for the body. Because it’s so natural, the majority of the time we aren’t thinking about breathing. So, pausing to take deep, intentional breaths can help calm you down. If you need structure, you can try specific breathing techniques, such as breathing in for five seconds, holding the breath for five seconds, and breathing out for five seconds. Or, you can simply focus on deep inhaling and exhaling.
9 – Clean Your Room
Decluttering your physical space can declutter your mental space, too. Anyone else feel like they have trash, dirty clothes, and empty mugs littering their mind? It’s time for a bit of spring cleaning!
10 – Stand Up Straight
While on the surface, this seems as simple as that breathing tip, I’ll bet you anything your posture wasn’t perfect when you started reading this sentence. According to Dr. Tamar Chansky, “When we are anxious, we protect our upper body – where our heart and lungs are located — by hunching over.” So, why not give yourself a physical to that natural instinct and pull your shoulders back, raise your chin, place your feet shoulder-width apart, and open your chest. This will help give your body that sense of control back.
11 – Phone a Friend
This isn’t just a helpful tip in Jeopardy! Talking to a loved one can be so soothing for the soul. Maybe even get a second opinion on what’s causing the stress. Giving voice to those anxieties can rid them of their power and help you see them more clearly. And if it’s seeing people that’s causing the stress (quarantine jitters anyone?) then you can always Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Text, or even good old fashion write some letters!
12 – Do Something That Makes You Laugh
Sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine. Laughing is a good prescription for an anxious mind and has many benefits for mental health and well-being. It stops distressing emotions, helps shift perspective, adds joy and zest to life, eases anxiety and tension, and triggers those feel-good endorphins that remain even after the laughter subsides.
So, what makes you laugh? Try making a list to keep on hand for the future! Here, I’ll start for you…
- Dad jokes, puns, and memes
- Funny videos or home videos
- Forcing laugher
- A funny book or comic
13 – Try Some Supplements
Be mindful when exploring supplements, since some can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor. That being said, many different natural supplements can help manage anxiety and relieve stress. Here are some I suggest checking out:
- Lemon balm
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Kava Kava
14 – Try Aromatherapy
While this can come in many different forms (including scented candles, inhalers, body oils, and lotions) essentially, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to help improve your physical and mental health. There are many different oils that can enhance health, decrease anxiety, and improve sleep.
Here are some of the most calming scents:
- Ylang ylang