Life has been stressful for all of us this last year or so since the ‘pizza party’ happened. Even before that, many people were already suffering from anxiety to the point that some professionals called it an epidemic. So I wanted to share some lifestyle changes and tips you may be interested in to help alleviate some of your anxiety symptoms that have been working for me the last years, but more specifically month or so as I have been dealing with extreme anxiety myself.
Exercise / Physical Movement
When you start to feel anxious, moving around is very useful. Try taking a walk, doing some yoga, go for a swim, play a sport you enjoy. Just move your body. I also like to try doing the 3 3 3 which is moving 3 parts of your body three times. I like to do this if I am in a social setting and I need to calm myself in a discreet way.
Breathing really does work
I have seen countless times online people saying “Telling me to breathe doesn’t make me calm down.” And while someone telling you to breathe may not be helpful, making yourself breathe does in fact help calm you down. I personally enjoy doing a 5 3 7 count with my breaths. I do a 5 second inhale, a 3 second hold, and a 7 second exhale. I will do this over and over again (for as long as it takes) to help myself relax a bit and ground. I find this is also very helpful to do while walking and you can count your breaths with each step you take.
Get up and do something, anything
Lying in the bed or on the couch in a pit of anxiety or endless extistential dread does not help it go away. I’m sure you know by now that it intesifies all those negative feelings. Get up and do literally anything. Take a nice shower, brush your teeth, do the dishes, engage in your hobby, call a friend, vacuum something, play with a pet, etc…
This is sort of the same logic as moving your body or exercising, but it is good to do a specific task that distracts your mind and brings you back to planet Earth.
Reduce or remove caffeine and alcohol from your diet
Your favorite drinks of the day may be increasing your existing anxiety symptoms. This is not just a personal preference of mine either, there are studies to support this notion as well. If you are a person who already has anxiety and is consuming more than normal amounts of caffeine (about a normal size cup of coffee), than excessive caffeine consumption can make your anxiety symptoms intesify.
Same goes for alcohol. This is especially true once the alcohol wears off (or the hangover kicks in). It will make your anxiety symptoms intesify.
5 senses exercise to bring yourself back to reality
If you find yourself hurdling to the edge and about the jump off, go through the 5 senses.
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can feel/touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
I have gone through this many, many, many times in the last weeks. I will do it and imagine I am at the beach, or walking in the mountains, or some place that I find relaxing until I am calm again. It really does help.
Socializing with others
I know that many people have social anxiety, so this may seem counter intuitive, but hear me out. We are social creatures by nature. We were not designed to go through life alone. We need to communicate with friends and family on a regular basis. It is also good to get out and actually be a part of your world / society. I know it is uncomfortable at times, but get out there, rekindle old friendships, reach out to your family, have a chat with your neighbor. Socializing is important.
Eat more vegetables, drink more water
This one is a little self exclamatory. And I am not saying eating some broccoli and having a green tea is going to solve your problems or anxiety. I am saying that it is worth evaluating your diet when having any kind of health issues (mental or physical). We could all drink more water in a day, and there is nothing wrong with a salad a few times a week. It can only help us get enough vitamins and nutrients to make our bodies and minds feel stronger.
How many people do you know go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time everyday of the week? I don’t know any. And working from home makes regular sleep more unattainable in my opinion because how do we finish work, have personal time, and sleep normally when we use the same space for every aspect of our life?
But I think we can all agree that good sleeping habits, or even just a good night of sleep, make us feel leaps and bounds better in the morning. Try making yourself go to sleep and wake up at more regular times to help your body and mind get enough rest.
Have no technology time / no screen time
If you didn’t already know, technology makes our lives more stressful. Sitting at a computer all day is terrible for our bodies. Looking at a phone is bad for our eyes, necks, and mental health (esp. if you regularly consume social media like most normal people these days).
Try keeping a habit or a hobby that does not involve technology of any kind. Personally, I have taken up embroidery this last year and it serves almost as a kind of meditation. Reading a book, painting, drawing, dancing, going outdoors, gardening, cooking, journaling, working on a car if that’s your thing. I think you get the point.
Create standing times / appointments for destressing yourself
What do I mean by this? I mean get yourself a massage on a regular basis. Make a plan to see your best pals on a monthly basis. Go get a pedicure or manicure every month. Talk to a professional to not only release your problems, but get constructive advice to help solve any underlying issues. Go see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a physical problem going on that could be solved. What you think is anxiety could well be a physical problem you are having.
This is something I am guilty of not doing and I am now realizing it is important to not treat yourself, but just take care of yourself. A massage is not a treat (or they should not be a treat), they are necessary for our physical wellbeing. Life is stressful and very taxing on our bodies and minds. Let’s take care of them dilligently.
As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. I am just a human being like you who has some problems with anxiety. I have found the above 10 lifestyle habits to be super helpful for myself and I hope you find some relief for your anxiety in the near future.
As always, please leave a comment on which habit you found most helpful, or something you do on a regular basis to help reduce anxiety.