10 Things You Can Do Every Day to Manage Anxiety
Anxiety has become the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorder in the United States, affecting roughly one-third of the population. While the statistics are dire, the good news is that there are plenty natural, holistic treatments to anxiety. Below is a list of 10 things you can do every day to help manage your anxiety:
A great body of research exists on the benefits of exercise for mood disorders and mental health. Working out - even for just 21 minutes each day - has been shown to flush your body with feel-good endorphins and alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Find the right regimen for you, and get that heart rate up!
2. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts
A hot bath has numerous mental and physical health benefits, and has been shown to produce a calming effect. To capitalize on this and really get the most out of your bath, add Epsom salts: the magnesium sulfates found in the salts has been shown to decrease anxiety.
3. Use essential oils, such as lavender oil
Studies have shown that inhaling lavender oil - through a lavender candle or simply by smelling a small bottle of lavender oil - instantly produces a calming effect in the brain and decreases anxiety. Grab a small bottle and keep it with you (in your purse, car or at the office) and try taking three long, deep inhalations the next time you start to feel anxious.
Meditation has been found to have incredible mental and physical health benefits, ranging from decreasing anxiety and depression to increasing the strength of our immune systems and lowering inflammatory responses. There are various types and styles of meditation, including formal, seated meditation, walking meditation or guided imagery meditation. For a variety of excellent (and free!) guided meditations, check out different apps (such as Headspace and Insight Timer).
5. Practice mindfulness
Research has shown that mindfulness is able to decrease symptoms of anxiety. Mindfulness is a practice that can be learned on its own, or through programs and activities such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and yoga. Mindfulness is simply the practice of "moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness"; mindfulness means being fully engaged and focused on whatever it is that you happen to be doing (or not doing) in a given moment. The practice helps us quiet our minds and find our way back home to our natural state of "pure, radiant awareness" (as the Buddha said)j.
6. Do Yoga
Yoga is an incredible tool to improve both mental and physical health. While research is still growing, studies thus far on yoga's effects on mental health have found that yoga boosts mood and decreases anxiety. In broad terms, yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming, restful system) and deactivate the sympathetic nervous system (our "fight or flight" response, directly linked to anxiety).
7. Listen to soothing music
Listening to slow-paced or soothing music is a highly effective way to help your mind and body calm down. Turn on Pandora, Spotify or listen to nature sounds and relax as you enjoy the music.
8. Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing allows our bodies to switch from the sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight" mode) to the parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest"). Try breathing in for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 2 and then breathing out for a count of 6 (for even more relaxation benefits, increase the length of your exhalation compared to your inhalation). Another technique of deep breathing that can be very helpful for anxiety is called "nadi shodhana", or in English, "alternate nostril breathing". Click here to learn how to use this powerful technique.
9. Connect with other people
Social connection is essential to our mental health, and has been scientifically shown to decrease depression. We are essentially social creatures, and human beings need to feel a sense of connection as much as we need food and water. Depression often leads us to withdraw, isolate and generally pull away from others, so try to pick up the phone, talk to a friend or go meet someone for a meal instead.
10. Spend time with your pet
Finally, spend some time with a furry friend. Research has shown that dogs have a powerful mood-boosting effect and can reduce depressive symptoms. Dogs are uniquely attuned to human emotions and can offer incredible comfort and support. Whether you're a dog lover, prefer canines or love any other type of animal, spending time with your pet can help snap you out of your funk and reconnect with the power of caring for another creature.
The above list is just a snapshot of the numerous activities you can do to help manage your anxiety. If you don't like the idea of taking medication, or simply want to learn a more natural, organic way to care for your mental health, try some of the activities mentioned above and see how much power you really have to help yourself out! (And of course, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet!)