Anxiety is so pervasive, and with good reason. We are sooverstimulated by media and cold brew, with access to emails and work 24 hours,plus pressure to maintain the kind of abs and travel routines that used to onlybe reserved for celebrities, but thanks to Instagram appear to be the standard.
Self-Care is the word du jour, but good self-care is aroutine like daily meditation, with results that build up over time afterconsistency. What do you do in the moment in a bout of anxiety right now? Hereare some tips to try out for some short-term relief.
First, acknowledge whatever you are anxious about needs to be put on hold at least for a short time. Anxiety tends to convince it we must focus on the thing and simultaneously stops us from being productive at it. Stepping away for 20 minutes to an hour will allow you to relieve some stress and perhaps gain some additional perspective on it.
Next, pick something else to focus on to break the cycle. Try one of these options out:
- A vigorous workout: Even ten minutes of high intensity interval training can reduce the anxious energy in your system. A fast run, a kickboxing session, or intense spinning class can deplete that extra stress energy. It will also force you to take a relaxing shower after, bonus!
- A complicated, but nonconsequential, distraction: like a live sporting event, an interactive activity like playing pool, or a pickup basketball game, anything that commands some attention. Anxiety usually ends up putting the same thoughts on repeat, doing something that demands attention will break up the topics in your head and give you some relief.
- Cook a new recipe: cooking or baking is time-limited with a predictable outcome, which will give you a sense of accomplishment and productivity. If it’s a shareable recipe, it might also give you an excuse to drop by a friend or neighbor’s place to give them a few cookies and see how they are, taking the focus off of yourself and how you are feeling.
- A small household project: put together a bookcase, deep clean your garage, or weed in the garden. This again engages you physically and mentally in something that has a timeline and ends with a productive outcome. Do something that is relatively simple, save the complicated Ikea desk that’s missing a part for a time you are more relaxed.
- Groom your pet: get yourself focused on something somewhat complicated that involves the little furry friend that brings you joy. If you get outside for a walk and let them get dirty first you will feel extra energy from the outdoor activity.
- Limit your use of substances. Anxiety is a tricky problem, so keep in mind that many things you think will soothe anxiety actually exacerbate it. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana all increase anxiety over time. This is because the withdrawal from any substance is the opposite of the effect it initially provided. So, if you get stress relief from a substance, when it leaves your system your anxiety naturally increases.
- Limit your caffeine intake. Try to stick to just one regular cup of coffee in the morning instead of an energy drink or triple venti concoction. Caffeine and other stimulants increase anxiety as their primary effect. If the extra energy just goes to worrying, it’s not as helpful as you think.
- Commit to working out 3-5 times per week whether you feel like you want to or not. Remember, a mildly annoying thirty minutes on the treadmill will probably pay off by making it easier for you to enjoy the other 23.5 hours in your day. Skipping exercise when your stressed often seems like a great way to chill out, but often we have worked in a sedentary position all day while our nervous system has been repeatedly activated by emails and tasks we need to complete, providing no relief from the build-up of stress. Exercise puts good use to your stress-energy and provides a better sleep pattern which can also reduce stress levels.
- Schedule Self-Care. I am not saying you need a pricey massage every week. I am saying you need small, enjoyable, relaxing routines that don’t cost extra money daily. Start with coffee on the porch for five minutes in the morning without your cell phone. Take a bath instead of a shower every other day. Have a healthy dessert like berries with a bit of chocolate hummus to savor. Listen to classical music on your commute. Find several ways to soothe yourself on a daily basis and try to time them so that you get many bursts of relief on a regular basis.
Try out some of the methods on this list or try other things until you find what’s most effective for you. Be patient, and pat yourself on the back for making the first step toward a lower-anxiety life.