To feel more relaxed, to sleep soundly at night, and to put energy into things that matter, you have to stop wasting time on shit that doesn’t matter.
By the end of this post, I’m going to make your life infinitely more productive and Zen-like. Your part is to commit to 15-60 minutes per day and tackle one of the following 22 anxiety busters below.
The more you commit, the better you’ll feel.
You’re probably familiar with some of these anxiety strategies. But if you experience racing thoughts, tightening in your chest, and shortness of breath, you haven’t done all of them.
I’m not the expert on your life–YOU ARE, so please share one of your tips in the comments :).
Anxiety Buster #1: Start Deep-Breathing (15 minutes)
Why this is important: If you’re not focused on how to calm your body through slow, focused belly-breathing, you’re missing out. Belly-breathing is free, location independent, and easy to implement.
Start deep-breathing in 15 minutes:
1. Sit with your eyes closed and turn your attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control your breath.
2. Be aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. Place one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of three. Exhale for a count of four. The hand on your belly should go in as you inhale, and move out as you exhale.
3. Concentrate on your breath and forget everything else. Your mind will be very busy, and you may even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier; but in reality you are just becoming more aware of how busy your mind actually is.
4. Resist the temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, and focus on the sensation of the breath. If you discover that your mind has wandered and is following your thoughts, immediately return it to the breath.
5. Repeat this as many times as necessary until your mind settles on the breath.
Don’t wait to begin belly-breathing. The sooner you make this a daily habit, the quicker you’ll feel relaxed.
When you implement belly-breathing, you start the day in a here-and-now state. Better yet, you’re not wasting time with worry about the future, or regret for the past.
I just breathed deeply for about 90 seconds and I’m relaxed and ready to tackle the next 21 tips :).
Anxiety Buster #2: Meditate instead of Medicate (10 minutes)
Give yourself the gift of serenity. Start the day with ten minutes of solitude and focus your energy in positive ways. Think calm, measured and open, and your daily activities will correspond.
Rather than stress over the To-Do list, focus on one or two things to accomplish today. The rest can wait.
Why this is important: So much of our daily stress and aggravation originates in our minds. When you hit the bottle and the pipe to escape, the problems don’t go away.
Try this: Hit up your inner-Zen, and save the money you’d spend on substances to do something nice for yourself, like…
Anxiety Buster #3: Practice Self-Care (60-90 minutes)
Get a massage, a mani-pedi, or a haircut. Nothing says polished and well-maintained like a sexy, healthy glow.
If money is tight, look for a discount salon or a training school which offers quality services for people on a budget.
So they don’t serve Diet Coke on a silver tray with a delectable lemon wedge–close your eyes and imagine that five-star service while you take in the nurturance and pampering that you deserve.
Anxiety Buster #4: Eliminate Soda (10 minutes–if the tea aisle is foreign to you)
That morning jolt of joe can jumpstart your day and provide warmth and comfort, but anything with high fructose corn syrup and 177 other ingredients will not.
If you’re accustomed to that 3:00 p.m. Dr. Pepper, switch it out for a soothing green tea.
Not only does the caffeine jack up your central nervous system, soda depletes vitamins and minerals from your diet and wreaks havoc on your smile. Teeth become susceptible to cavities when the acid level of your saliva falls below a certain point.
If you drink soda all day, the outer layers of your teeth begin to lose minerals and cavities form. Many dental plans do not cover root canals + you’ll end with a huge bill.
Speaking of which:
Anxiety Buster #5: Trim the Fat from Your Budget (20 minutes)
Financial stress is a common reason people contact me for psychotherapy. Debt keeps you up at night and contributes to feelings of low self-worth and hopelessness.
Take charge of your finances and stop spending on non-essentials.
Track your daily expenses for a week or two and decide where you can cut back. Notice the crap you accumulate mindlessly.
- Switch out your cable TV for Netflix online
- Contact your car insurance carrier, your mobile device company, or your credit card company and ask if they can reduce your bill
- Cancel your newspaper delivery during the week and opt for the Sunday paper, or an online service, instead
Anxiety Buster #6: Get Rid of the Clutter (30 minutes weekly)
Do you ever wonder how much time is lost when you can’t find the spare house key, or that package of Epson 400 color ink?
Chances are you’ve got too much stuff clogging up your living space.
Check out what Alison’s doing here to fight clutter. I guarantee after you read one or two posts you’ll be motivated to get rid of something…
How to commit to decluttering:
1. Choose a drawer, cabinet or closet
2. Categorize the stuff you don’t use
3. Make three piles for a) Items to throw away, b) Items to donate, and c) Items to sell
Hold a yard sale and use the money to…
Anxiety Buster #7: Plan a Day Trip (45 minutes)
When you spend time in nature, you give your mind and body a much needed break from the daily hustle and bustle which causes you to Google things like “How to get rid of anxiety” in the first place.
I’m glad you’re here, though :).
Chances are no matter where you live, there’s a serene, interesting and charming place within a couple hours.
Anxiety Buster #8: Go to Bed Early (30 seconds)
This may sound impossible if you’re accustomed to staying up late to catch up on the To-Do list.
But this one’s a MUST.
Sleep deprivation is a huge anxiety culprit.
Inadequate shuteye can amplify the brain’s anticipatory reactions, upping overall anxiety levels, according to new research.
“We all have anticipatory anxiety,” explains Fugen Neziroglu. “Having moderate levels of anxiety about doing well is important. But it can be destructive when it begins to interfere with your life.”
It’s impossible to have healthy emotional functioning without adequate sleep. Don’t burn the midnight oil in hopes of catching up on the weekends.
Unused sleep minutes don’t roll over.
Anxiety Buster #9 Wake up 15 Minutes Early (2 minutes)
Like most anxious people, you’re probably rushing around in the morning and yelling at everyone in your wake, “Hurry up! We’re going to be late!”
Not that I know ;).
Go slowly, and set yourself up for a relaxed day ahead.
Tell yourself, “There is enough time.”
Anxiety Buster #10: Get Your Lavender On! (10 minutes)
Lavender oil has many healing properties and can be used as a natural remedy to reduce anxiety and other nervous conditions. There are many ways to include lavender with your anti-anxiety tool kit:
1. Add essential lavender oil to your bath water for a calming bath. Use water infused with lavender leaves to soothe painful joints and muscles.
2. Fall asleep quicker when you add a few drops to a tissue and place under your pillow.
3. Use lavender in an oil diffuser to help with insomnia. The sweet woody smell of the lavender oil helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. For headaches, apply lavender oil to a cotton ball or your fingertips and massage slowly into your temples. The smell will relax you as the oil eases your headache.
5. Lavender is used in aromatherapy massage as a muscle relaxant. Massage the oil into the skin and unknot the muscles of the back and reduce spasms.
6. Lavender can be used as an expectorant. It breaks up the mucous from nasal and chest congestion that accompanies a cold.
7. Inhale lavender oil to help with pain management, especially after a workout, a therapy session, or surgery.
Freudian slip: Did I just compare therapy to surgery? Hmm…Don’t miss #19.
Anxiety Buster #11: Reduce Caffeine, Sugar and Processed Foods From Your Diet
Yes, I’m aware that this overlaps with #4.
Caffeine can cause heart palpitations if you ingest too much. Caffeine also can trigger panic or anxiety attacks, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also cause palpitations.
Sugar acts as an adrenal stimulant and can cause anxiety or even panic attacks. Other offensive foods include those containing refined flour products, and even wheat since this causes inflammation.
Besides caffeine, and sugar, food allergies are a big contributing factor in your overactive central nervous system.
Do this step along with #12…
Anxiety Buster #12: Become BFF with Green Juice (15 minutes)
Kris Carr is an amazing woman, and a cancer survivor. I can’t thank her enough for writing Crazy Sexy Diet (among other New York Times bestsellers). I started juicing this summer and the effects are amazing.
For a different and delicious way to get your daily vegetables, blend (nasty) kale with fruit.
It’s super easy. My go-to juice recipe:
One banana or green apple, a bunch of kale, sliced ginger, one lime, cucumber slices, a few ice cubes, and a cup of water. I use a standard blender and it works just fine.
For added protein, add an egg, yogurt, nuts, or protein powder.
Because diet affects anxiety, that morning glass of green juice will calm your anxious mind.
Anxiety Buster #13: Know that Feelings Are Not Facts (15-30 minutes, depending on the negativity that infiltrates your mind)
One of the hardest jobs of a psychotherapist is to convince your anxious client that the feelings of low self-worth, guilt and shame are not accurate.
Negative thoughts cause negative feelings. It’s not the other way around, folks.
This one’s tricky because many of our negative thoughts are rooted in the unconscious; are automatic, and deeply internalized.
Do this in tandem with #14…
Anxiety Buster #14: Challenge Negative Core Beliefs: (20 minutes)
Remember that Thoughts precede Feelings. Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors.
1. Jocelyn wakes up and immediately thinks, “I hate my job. I just want to stay in bed all day.”
2. She feels unmotivated, angry and sluggish.
3. She yells at her kids when they don’t dress fast enough.
How to challenge your negative mood:
1. Record your thoughts periodically. Pay attention to the times when you feel stressed out.
2. Write the feelings that accompany the thoughts. Think one-word responses like angry, frustrated, worthless, defeated, and hopeless.
3. Challenge reality. I know this is hard because we tend not to be objective with our reality. Is there proof that you don’t deserve that job promotion? Were you written up because of shoddy work performance?
If you commit to recording your daily thoughts and feelings, along with reality testing, you’ll see that many of your negative feelings are created in your mind, and not based in reality.
The good news is you created the negative thought, and you can uncreate it :).
And I’ll put my state license on the line with that one.
Anxiety Buster #15: Practice Gratitude (15 minutes)
As bad as your situation is, there’s always someone in a worse predicament.
Read a chapter of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, or check out the headline of the daily newspaper. Be thankful your life is not the feature story.
Make a mental note of the positive things in your life. Know that everything in life is temporary–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Anxiety Buster #16: Get Some Accountability (20 minutes)
If you’re BFF with Nervous Nellie or Anxious Allen, put your keyed-up energy to good use.
Vow to work on healthier ways to cope when feeling stressed.
How to get your accountability on:
- Share this resource with a friend
- Pick a few strategies that resonate with both of you
- Make a plan to call each other out when you stray
- Give praise when you make positive changes
- Start a Facebook group and post regular tips to decrease stress and anxiety
Speaking of Facebook, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d share this post on Facebook right now by clicking that icon in your left sidebar.
Anxiety Buster #17: Attend a Social Gathering Even If You Don’t Feel Like It (15-45 minutes)
If you’re prone to social anxiety, it’s important to make time for socialization. It’s cool to be shy, but know that we live in a universe that revolves around connecting with others.
Just get out, already.
Anxiety Buster #18: Schedule a Physical Exam to Rule Out a Medical Condition for Your Anxiety (15 minutes)
Why this is important: If your anxiety has spiked recently, or if you were previously able to cope with life, and now not so much, your doctor can determine if there’s a medical condition responsible for your anxiety. Ask for a blood panel, and be honest about your symptoms.
Anxiety Buster #19: Schedule a Visit with a Therapist (10-45 minutes)
Why this is a mental health imperative: Nobody deserves to feel bad. A qualified mental health professional is your best bet if your anxiety is unbearable.
Ask a trusted friend or colleague for a referral, or research online therapy directories for a therapist in your area.
Anxiety Buster #20: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! (30-60 minutes)
Exercise is nature’s anti-anxiety remedy. Besides clearing the mind, firing up the endorphins, and helping you sleep soundly at night, researchers have found that individuals who exercise vigorously and regularly were 25 percent less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within five years.
Anxiety Buster #21: Accept Your Anxiety
Whether you inherited the “anxiety gene” from your parents, or your lifestyle, or both, accept your anxiety rather than fight it.
It’s not about rolling over and giving up.
Understand that you have to work hard every day to bring calm to your environment.
Remember there’s always options in life, and there’s worse fates than being anxious.
When push comes to shove–at the end of the (stressed out) day, the anxious peeps get the job done, baby!
Anxiety Buster #22: Check Out These Free Online Resources (22 minutes)
I’ve created a few freebies for you. All resources are downloadable and portable. Just click on the page links:
1. Free 7-minute mp3: Stress Relief
2. Free 12-minute mp3: Body Image
3. Youtube relaxation tips: Caveat–the production end could use some work, but hey, the content’s solid ;).
The key to making the majority of the actions above work is consistency. Change is difficult, but the more you make some of these strategies habits, the more you’ll experience maximum benefits.
You’re the expert on your life. Choose the ones that will work best for you, and give ‘em a shot.
The key is to take action today!
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Thank you to Corbett Barr and Adam Baker for the inspiration to tackle this format. I borrowed the idea from Corbett’s 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today To Set Up Your Blog for Massive Success. Corbett was inspired by Adam’s amazing post titled 24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Change Your Financial Life Forever.
So grateful to them :).
Have a calm week,