I’m a definite Type A personality and have had anxiety — the most common mental illness in the U.S. — since my 20s; my particular symptom is a tingling or aching from my left shoulder down my arm. Fortunately, people around me don’t know when I have it and I don’t generally get it very often — might be 8 or 9 months in-between events. But when I do get it, it doesn’t feel good! Here are 19 ways to reduce anxiety — things that work for me. If they work for me, they may work for you!
1) Do some soul-searching and ask yourself what you’re REALLY upset about, then do something to make that situation better. Often, when I stop to think about it, I can point to a specific event that’s overwhelming me and “pushing me over the edge” toward anxiety – even if it’s a month away (a visit, a party, a deadline, etc.). Usually there’s something I can do now to take some pressure off, and when I do — I always feel better.
2) Play soothing instrumental music – jazz, piano, etc., while driving or doing household chores.
3) Don’t read the newspaper for a few days; stick strictly to “take-me-away” fiction books or other enjoyable, mindless reading material.
4) Slow down everything you do. Walk slower, type slower, think slower, work slower.
5) Change the way you talk to yourself; if you often feel overwhelmed and think “I can’t do all this!” constantly, rephrase the thought as “I know this is a lot, but I can do it if I break it into pieces.”
6) Do something fun with friends or family to give your mind a rest.
7) Talk to friends about your anxiety to get ideas on how to cope. (I’ve always been very open with friends about having anxiety and, although they don’t have anxiety, they often have good ideas I can implement.) I have one good friend who also has anxiety – and she really “gets” me like no one else.
8) Set a goal of going through an entire day without anxiety – and do everything you can to achieve it. Once you get a day under your belt, continuing the trend is easier (kind of like AA).
9) Meditate or repeat a calming phrase to yourself when you feel anxious. It could be as simple as “I’m leaving this in God’s hands” or “Just let it go.”
10) Move more. Get up and walk around once an hour at work. Take a walk around the neighborhood.
12) Get a massage.
13) Place a heating pad on the part of your body that feels the anxiety for some soothing warmth.
14) Get enough sleep. This makes a big difference!
15) Go out in nature. Take a walk in the woods or ride your bike. Just go somewhere it’s quiet and peaceful.
16) Let some household things go. Do the bare basics. This can take the pressure off.
17) Make the most of your free time. I’m the oddball who has anxiety when doing nothing sometimes (lying on the couch reading a book), probably because I feel guilty about not doing something productive. So if total relaxation doesn’t work for you, pick a short task to do that will give you a sense of accomplishment. Tell yourself you’re only going to do it for 15-20 minutes and go from there. Then you may be able to quit then and truly relax.
18) If you wear a FitBit, use the “relax” mode for either 2 or 5 minutes a couple times during the day. Staring at the device and concentrating on slowly breathing in and out does help!
19) Write in a daily gratitude journal or simply list 3 good things. Or think of your friends’ and acquaintances’ life issues and be grateful that you’re you and not them (it seems kind of mean, but this actually helps me a lot!)
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