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We’re at a time right now where many people are experiencing an all time high of stress and anxiety due to the events this year, not to mention the holidays which can bring to many stress, worry and anxiety. This year has been a year of change — sudden, unexpected, major change. Change, even positive change, can bring about anxiety and stress.
I’m someone who struggles with anxiety so I know the struggle. The chest pains. The pacing. The lack of focus. The irrational thoughts. And so much more. Below are some useful tips that helped me and will hopefully help you manage and reduce anxiety, worry, overwhelm, and stress.
Practice awareness in yourself. Notice how you feel and when you feel certain ways. Recognize your triggers of anxiety and stress. Perhaps you’re tired or hungry.
Stay in tune with your body and the sensations you feel. Are you tense? Straining? Notice tension in your face, when you’re frowning or squinting. Notice tension in the rest of your body and where you notice tension.
Pay attention to your thoughts as well. These could be leading to further stress and anxiety than necessary. All you want to do is practice paying more attention.
Separate the facts from the feelings and thoughts
When faced with a problem causing anxiety, worry, overwhelm, and stress, sit down and write out the facts. The facts are neutral. There are no opinions, thoughts, or emotions attached to them. This the math. Everything else — the thoughts, opinions, and feelings that you attach to the facts are the drama.
Make sure to separate out the two. Don’t ignore or dismiss your thoughts and emotions, but make sure to focus on the facts. This will give you clarity to move forward and reduce your anxiety, stress, and worry.
Most of our worries come from our imagination and not from reality.
Accept the facts
When you face the facts, accept your situation and circumstances. Don’t try to argue or resist reality. Denying reality and the facts doesn’t change anything.
Acceptance is the first step towards positive change. Focus on what the facts are and stay grounded in reality.
Be solution oriented
A lot of anxiety and worry comes from confusion and indecision. Refuse to remain stuck in indecision and confusion.
Focus on solutions rather than just complaining about problems. This not only reduces stress and anxiety, but it propels you into positive action to overcome any problem you face in life.
Remember that indecision is a decision.
If you’re feeling especially unstuck, the article How to Get Unstuck: What to Do If You Don’t Know What to Do With Your Life may be able to help you out.
Limit and restrict intake
Set constraints, limits, and restrictions with yourself. You can do this clothing, food, social media, television, and many other things. This simplifies your life and declutters your mind.
Limit your options ahead of time. Decide on fewer options. As a result, you focus on high priority things, take massive action, and think abundantly. You set up your mind for success.
When you make decisions quicker, you’re less likely to be stuck and you waste less time.
To learn how to create limits and restrictions with your technology to avoid phone addiction and distraction, check out the article Take Control of Your Technology: How to Avoid Phone and Social Media Addiction. To declutter your closet and set constraints on your wardrobe, check out the article Clean Out Your Closet and Transform Your Wardrobe to Change Your Life.
Choosing and planning ahead of time by setting constraints and limits gives you more time and energy to focus on what’s most important to you.
Simplify and organize
Clutter, disorganization, and complications can undoubtedly cause feelings of stress, overwhelm, and anxiety.
Getting organized can have a major effect on our thoughts and emotions. With a clear and organized space, we have a clear and organized mind. We’re more focused, efficient and productive and less likely to be worried and stressed with simplicity, cleanliness, and organization.
To avoid worry and anxiety about the future, plan ahead. This also helps reduce stress in the moment as there is less mental energy in taking action when things have already been planned and decided ahead of time.
If you tend to be worried about the next day during the nighttime, plan out the next day in advance. Set it and forget it. Take care of your future self by reducing the possible anxiety and worry of your future self. You avoid getting stuck and wasting time and energy in the moment making decisions when it’s already planned in advance.
Planning ahead and scheduling tasks can also help the stress and anxiety caused by procrastination so you’re more likely to complete tasks when you have them planned in advance.
Breath is one of the most underrated and overlooked functions of health, both mental and physical.
While breathing does come automatically without thought, it’s important to pay attention to how we’re breathing and learn to guide our breath when we’re feeling stressed and anxious. Focus on slow and deep breaths while releasing tension in your body.
Stretch and exercise
Stretching is one of the most relaxing and soothing things you can do for your body. It can help relieve pain and tension in the body which can reduce anxiety and stress in the mind. And you can also get more flexible and reduce injury in the meantime!
Exercise is one also one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mind and body. Although it may be intense, straining, and difficult in the moment, the resulting effect is less worry, stress, and anxiety especially in the long run.
Stay busy with hobbies and skills
If you’re worried about things out of your control, distract yourself with hobbies and learning skills. Keep your mind busy and engaged with stimulating and challenging tasks. The article 28 Skills You Can Learn From Home shares some ideas if you’re interested in taking up learning a new skill.
Talk to trusted loved ones
We tend to feel better after talking to a trusted loved one. There’s a reason for this. Talking to others can be soothing and make us feel better. It reduces stress and anxiety when we feel heard and validated.
To an extent psychoanalysis is based on the healing power of talking and being listened to. Talking things out can relieve us of stress and anxiety and it can even cause us to make decisions and find solutions to our problems.
Even just the quality time spent with loved ones can do wonders.
Be interested in helping others
When we are consumed in our own worries, we tend to get overwhelmed and forget the bigger picture and the things that really matter. We lessen our impact on others when we are so worried about our own problems. Take time to be interested in others and help those who need it. This will not only help other people feel better, but it will make you feel better also.
It will give you greater meaning and purpose in your life. Not to mention it will take attention off your anxiety and worries. Helping others can make our own problems seem so much smaller. The article 105 Ideas for Random Acts of Kindnessshares some ideas for acts for kindness you can try out.
Use the worry vault method
Worry only about the things you can’t control. Of course, this is easier said than done. So you can try Ramit Sethi’s worry vault method. This is especially helpful if you’re worrying before going to sleep.
Picture a vault in your mind. You’re going to put your worries that you can’t control into the vault and then you’re going to shut it. Once it’s shut, that’s it. This should help you sleep better.
Journaling can allow you to get clarity on what you’re feeling and thinking which can reduce anxiety and worry. It can also help you separate out the facts from your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Research has shown journaling to be an effective tool for mental and emotional wellness in reducing stress and anxiety.
Be forgiving & compassionate with yourself
Don’t be hard on yourself. Remember that your brain is just trying to protect you when you feel anxiety and worry. You’re human and it’s normal to feel these things. Feel your emotions and be curious about them instead of judgmental.
Judgement causes shame and can create a feedback loop of even more shame, worry, and anxiety. Thoughtful curiosity, self-forgiveness, and compassion can allow you to understand and gain clarity about yourself and your feelings which can then in turn allow you to feel better.
Go for walks and spend time in nature
People who spend time in nature are healthier physically and mentally than those who don’t. Even just going outside once makes a significant difference in your mood and health.
Walks in nature can also lead to boosts in creativity and mental clarity. Stress and anxiety can cloud our mind and cause to have less ability to focus and create.
Spend time with pets and animals
Research has shown the multitude of benefits that having pets and spending time with animals has on our mental and physical health. Giving your furry friends some time, attention, and affection not only benefits you, but it benefits them also of course. Win win!
Take responsibility to feel in control of your life
Of course we can’t control everything and there are many things in our lives out of our control. But taking responsibility for ourselves can make a huge difference. When we feel helpless and out of control, we’re more likely to feel anxious about the world around us.
This can also lead to being disconnected from reality. In the article How to Think Critically and Stay Informed in a Sea of Misinformation, I discuss how those who feel powerless are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories to give themselves a feeling of control.
Feeling in control of ourselves, our lives, and our results can give us our power back. Feelings of power and control can soothe our anxieties. Give yourself autonomy and authority over your own life. Realize that you have control of your life despite your circumstances.
Respond, don’t react
Be intentional with how you choose to respond to your thoughts, emotions, and circumstances. Choose to take the time to stop before reacting.
You can’t control your feelings, but you can control how you react to your feelings, how you think and feel about your feelings.
Research has found that stress itself is not harmful, but how you think about it and react to stress that causes problems.
Talk back to your anxiety and worry
Our anxiety is often caused by irrational thoughts. These are called cognitive distortions. It’s helpful to “argue” with ourselves to reason with ourselves. This can help us take a step back and calm ourselves down. We all have irrational and distorted thinking. The problem is when we listen to those irrational thoughts.
Learn to laugh at yourself — not in a shameful, judgmental way, but in a playful, lighthearted way. Don’t dismiss your thoughts and emotions, pay attention to them, but don’t take it all too seriously either. Have fun with the quirks of being a human with a brain that is only trying to protect you.
Sleep and eat well
Take care of yourself by sleeping and eating well. Quality sleep is one of the biggest factors in your health. We become more affected by a lack of sleep than by a lack of anything else.
Hangry is also a lot more real than we think. Being hungry or tired can lead to irritability and other negative emotions and thoughts which lead to more anxiety and stress. We are more likely to feel better when we are well-rested and well-fed.
Engage in self-care activities
Engage in any other of your favorite self-pampering and self-care activities that you can think of or that you know that you already enjoy. Long showers, bubble baths, curling up with a cozy book, reading inspirational quotes, watching funny animal and kid videos on Youtube.
Do more of what brings you joy and comfort.
Take time for relaxation
Last, but not least, take time to relax. This doesn’t necessarily have to be to meditate. But just take time so sit still and let your body relax for a few minutes at a time during the day.
As you begin to have more awareness and pay attention to your body, this should be easier to notice when you’re feeling too tense to just use that as a small moment to just relax.
We can become so busy and focused or distracted, especially when there’s always someone or something fighting for our attention, that we don’t think to take the time to just do nothing and relax. We should be more intentional about relaxation and prioritize it for the sake of our mental and physical health.
Prioritize relaxation and be intentional about making time to relax.