Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue in society for people of all ages. It can become life-limiting and debilitating for some people. Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. All of us experience stress, which can lead to anxiety. We must learn to take steps to manage both our stress, but also anxiety.
The good news is that there are many things we can do to improve our coping with anxiety and stress. The challenging thing is we have to realize we have to take action to change over how we approach life to get to a place where we can manage our anxiety and stress in more effective ways. Once we do, this becomes self-reinforcing and we know we have our own personal 'tool kit' we can choose different coping tools when we need them.
Top 12 Anxiety & Stress Busters
1. Sleep - Improve your sleep routine, what professionals call 'sleep hygiene', to ensure you're getting as much quality sleep as you can. This involves creating a calming and grounding bedtime routine, creating a regular bedtime, and planning to get enough sleep hours in.
2. Exercise - Anything we do to get our bodies moving is going to help burn off the stress hormones involved in driving anxiety. Walking, yoga, a gym workout, cycling, Zumba, whatever gets your blood circulating is good for reducing stress and anxiety.
3. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation - This can be as simple as sitting quietly and doing some slow, deep breathing. Count to 5 while breathing in through your nose. Hold your breath for 3 counts. Slowly release your breath through your mouth to the count of 5. Do this cycle 3 times and you should feel a little more calm. See Part 2 of this series for some media resources to help.
4. Spend time in nature - Go for a nice walk at a local park, the beach, in the forest, or hike a mountain. Listen to the wind rustling in the trees, the birds singing, feel the breeze and sun on your face. Gardening is my favourite stress reliever, soul soother, and hobby.
5. Create structure, routine and organization in your life - To improve feelings of competence, predictability, and feel like you have things more under control, create structure by doing things like creating systems at home, or work (things to do lists, or memos in your phone); use your calendar and schedule notifications for deadlines.
6. Positive self-talk - We all have an inner dialogue, become more aware of the messages you send yourself and become your own cheerleader, tell yourself "I've got this," "I'll be okay," "I'm safe," "Take a breath," or "I can do this."
7. Body work - Massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, reiki, or other types of energy healing massage, or body work.
8. 'Feel Good' Activities - Many of us feel good when we engage in activities that make us feel nurtured, taken care of, and satisfied. Take yourself out on a date for a great meal; go for a 'mani-pedi' (yes, guys can do this too); have a spa day; go to a place that nurtures your soul: art gallery, a local attraction; or get out of your town for a day trip, or a few days away somewhere you've wanted to visit.
9. Spend time with supportive, caring people - This can be family, friends, or people we share activities and interests with. Social connection and engagement is a well established technique to get us out of our own heads and boosting our life satisfaction.
10. Use media to distract - Listening to a great music playlist, listening to podcasts, watching videos, music, or any content that helps you shift from the stressed, anxious self to a calmer, more grounded self is a good thing.
11. Create structure, order, routines, and calm in your home environment - When we are living with heightened stress and anxiety we need a calm space to come home to, a place we can relax, let our guard down, rest, and re-charge. Schedule routine, or seasonal chores to keep on top of things at home. Hire someone to help you with the cleaning, decluttering, or getting more organized if need be.
12. Create realistic, future-focused goals - Small, or large goals give us something to focus on and work toward. Do you want to go on a local, or international trip? Start reading about your destination, look at accommodations, and places to see, or dine at. Do you have an interest, or hobby you want to explore? Take small steps to learn more about it, or find out if there is a local community for that interest.