8 Practical Steps To Combat Anxiety, From A Highly Anxious Person
I'm a high energy New Yorker with lots of plates spinning. Anxiety is in my blood. My default is to plan ahead, attempt to predict the outcome and fret endlessly over every detail. My mind is constantly brewing up ideas or drumming through my growing to-do list. I tend to be an anxious person.
In all fairness, I manage a lot. A full-time job, a roster of clients and groups, monthly workshops, online communities, a vibrant newsletter, a growing business, tight deadlines, a demanding schedule, and much more.
Though most of these things are joys in my life and the things that fill me up, at times they are also the source of anxiety, worry, stress and self-doubt. Feelings that keep me stuck and drain me of precious time and energy. I realize that bumps in the road are inevitable side effects to growth and success. But, anxiety and stress can get the best of me, and I know this is the case for so many others.
So how do I combat anxiety? Here are my eight tips for reducing stress, worry and anxiety:
1. Take a moment to breathe.
Anxiety can cause us to clench our muscles and hold our breath, thus depleting our bodies of calming oxygen. Take three-to-five intentional deep breaths. Focusing your attention on the inhale and exhale can help calm nerves, relax your muscles and provide a helpful timeout to regroup.
2. Free write.
In anxiety-provoking situations, you might feel out of control and thus try to control every little detail until it makes you crazy. Rather than act on the fly or do or say something you might regret, try to instead jot your thoughts down on paper. Free writing can help you release some of the tension tied to the situation and help you gain valuable clarity to regain composure.
3. Take a physical time out.
Take a 10-minute timeout from the activity or situation. Whether you're strolling up 5th Avenue with the wind in your hair, or sitting in a quiet space, taking time to yourself can provide a welcome distraction and let your body and mind regroup.
4. Remember, "qué será, será!"
"What will be, will be." It seems like the times in life when I've tried to control circumstances the most is when things did not go my way. Take a few steps back and remember that time heals, and can give you the clarity needed to act with integrity. Realize also that not everything is in our control and some things need to work themselves out naturally.
5. Avoid sugar and caffeine.
If you're naturally jittery, like me, avoid sugar and caffeine when you're feeling anxious. Both ingredients speed up your heart rate and give you that rush of energy, likely adding to your anxiety. Instead, turn to hearty root vegetables, calming soups and caffeine-free tea to soothe your nerves.
6. Make sure you're getting plenty of movement.
There is no greater therapy for me than pounding the pavement, hitting up my favorite yoga class or sweating it out on a bicycle. Exercise helps burn extra energy that's associated with anxiety and also helps rid your body of toxins that stress your system (via sweating). For me, movement of any kind can be a source of meditation and helps me separate my feelings of anxiety from how I see challenges and how to overcome them.
7. Turn to gratitude.
Anxiety, worry and fear have their way of robbing us of the joys and pleasures of our everyday life. They can leave you feeling empty and alone. Turn to your gratitude list. Write down 10 things you are grateful for right in this moment. Make a point to tell three people that you are grateful for them, for something that they did or said. Gratitude lists are an instant mood booster and helps to wash away the feelings not being or having enough.
8. Spend time in nature.
Spending time in nature has a way of naturally calming our nerves. It centers our emotions and helps us feel grounded. Sit by a tall tree and feel the roots. Dip your toes in the water or listen to the waves crash and let the calm wash over you. Listen to the birds chirping, notice the sound of the wind, and feel a calm, cool breeze envelope you. This is my ultimate natural remedy for combating anxiety. When everything else feels off, mother nature comes to the rescue!
So the next time you're feeling anxious, instead of acting irrationally or letting the situation spiral out of control, look to these 8 tips for peace, calm and a timeout to refocus, reframe and get your footing back.