4 Ways to Alleviate Anxiety
Take Small Steps Toward Reducing Everyday Anxiety
Everyone worries once in a while. It’s a common, warranted, sometimes even healthy thing to do. But how much worrying is too much worrying? Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults in the United States, and is characterized by excessive, persistent worry about a multitude of different things. Symptoms range from moderate to severe and include restlessness, irritability, fatigue, confusion and trouble sleeping.
But you don’t need to be diagnosed with GAD to experience anxiety and worry. Many people encounter a day-to-day anxiety that doesn’t warrant an anxiety disorder diagnosis. For these people, anxiety can still have a negative effect on their social and professional lives, and can bring on a multitude of physical and emotional issues. And while there are many ways to treat anxiety, including therapy and medication, there are also little things that can be done to help ease an anxious mind. Here are four things to try.
Move Your Body
Like most things in life, context is everything. Tactics that help curb anxiety in one situation might not work in another. But when you know you’re approaching an event, occasion or even time of year that bring on anxiety, it never hurts to start taking a little extra care when it comes to exercise, eating well and general, overall wellness.
And it doesn’t take much. Studies show your body starts producing anxiety fighting effects after only five minutes of aerobic exercise. Moving your body can help decrease overall tension, elevate your mood, and even help you sleep better.
Situational anxiety sufferers (like when taking an exam, or giving client presentation), should make it a priority to get up and move before the stressful task. Take a brisk walk around the block or find an empty office to do some yoga stretches. When times get stressful, exercise is the first thing to go for many people. But it really should be the opposite. Even just a little bit of exercise can go a long way in helping to calm anxiety.
If you’re an anxious person in general and often feel stressed or tense even when there’s not a stressful situation approaching, try to work exercise into your daily routine. Exercise can help boost your self esteem, and produces endorphins that act as natural painkillers, helping to calm, relax and reduce anxiety.
Download an App
Sure, that smartphone candy-matching game can be a mind-numbing answer to insomnia, but there are actually some apps out there that tackle stress head on, and are based on research and data.
There are currently more than 50 apps available right now that are meant to help with stress management, behavior modification, emotional coping and other mental health related topics. Some can even help track breathing during stressful situations, and can offer unique ways to medicate, visualize and calm a worried mind.
Of course a mobile app should never take the place of physician visits, or help from a mental health professional if needed. Your care provider can give you an idea of whether or not an app could work for you, and might even be able to recommend a favorite.
Try a Spinner Toy or Weighted Blanket
If you haven’t noticed a child (or adult) playing with a spinner toy lately, you’re not looking hard enough. Spinner toys have been marketed as an aid for things like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and even anxiety. They’re basically small, ball-bearing devices that rotate between your fingers, creating a sensory sensation.
Scientists aren’t completely sold on the effectiveness of these spinner toys, and say more research is needed to validate the marketing claims. They warn they might actually cause more of a distraction than a calming effect. But no one can deny the popularity of these spinners is growing, and may be an inexpensive way to alleviate anxiety.
Another thing that might be helpful in combating anxiety is a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets weigh between 4 and 30 pounds, and can help reduce anxiety in adults and children.
The science behind weighted blankets is simple but meaningful. When you’re sleeping, a weighted blanket helps push your body downwards, which is a process known as “grounding” or “earthing.” Grounding can have a deeply calming effect which helps promote sleep and relaxation and reduce anxiety. It can also have positive effects on cortisol levels, a stress hormone. Too much cortisol can cause weight gain, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Talk it Out
When you’re experiencing anxiety, sometimes the thought of talking to people, either about your anxiety or just in general, can make you feel even more anxious. But the truth is, talking helps. Ask a trusted friend if they’re available to chat, and let them know that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Chances are, a friend can offer support and understanding, and might even have some insight into how you can cope, based on their own experiences.
Never hesitate to speak with your physician or care provider about stress, anxiety and excessive worrying. They can help you discover coping tips that work for you, and can refer you to a counselor or mental health professional if necessary. It’s always better to address anxiety early, than to wait until it grows into something more complicated.
Spinner toys and worry apps should not replace actual mental health care, or conversations with your physician or care provider. But since everyone experiences a little anxiety now and then, it’s important and helpful for your overall well-being to identify little ways to remedy anxiety that work for you.