Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million Americans aged 18 or older every year (18% of the population), making it the most common mental illness in the United States. While it’s a treatable illness, most people aren’t treated for it and won’t even know to seek help.
When most people hear the term ‘anxiety,’ they think it is referring to those moments in the day when you feel a little anxious or nervous about something. While those feelings can certainly affect the way you live your life, anxiety is often something much more serious than that.
The normal anxiety we feel daily is our body’s natural reaction to the environment around us. Still, clinical anxiety is when our body takes it to a level we can’t control. That’s when anxiety becomes a disorder instead of something that helps us stay alert in stressful situations.
Reducing Anxiety The Right Ways
Whether you’re dealing with normal, everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder, there are natural ways to reduce anxiety anyone can take advantage of. While you should always consider seeing a doctor or therapist to help you through your mental illness, it’s also best to make the necessary changes in your life when pushing through anxiety challenges.
There are two major ways to do this, and they are both just as important to your mental health. The first is through lifestyle changes, which must be met daily. The second is through changes to how you respond to anxiety, which must be met in-the-moment (when anxiety arrives).
Let’s take a closer look at some anxiety reduction techniques that fit into both categories, starting with the lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes That Reduce Anxiety Naturally
Did you know that your habits and lifestyle decisions play a major role in your mental health, including the anxiety you feel daily? That’s why it’s important to adopt the right habits to set yourself (and your body) up for success.
While there are plenty of bad habits we can fix, there are four that almost everyone can do a better job of — staying active, eating better, sleeping right, and social interaction. Finding a healthy balance between these four is a great way to reduce anxiety and finally feel confident in your own skin.
Let’s take a look at how to reduce stress and anxiety by making the proper changes in your life to satisfy each of those four habits listed above.
1. Exercise & Staying Active
It might not be something everyone wants to admit or partake in, but exercise and regular activity can help you better control your stress and anxiety. Of course, this is in addition to the physical benefits we receive when exercising regularly.
Most people fear adding regular exercise to their schedule, especially since their schedule is already filled to the brim. Keeping in mind here is that you don’t need to go to the gym and get a full workout five days per week to see results on the mental end.
Instead, a simple 30-minute jog outside, an hour walk with your furry friend, or even doing a couple jumping jacks in your living room can all prove to be beneficial when reducing anxiety naturally. All it takes is a small commitment every day to get outside, move, and keep your mind off whatever’s troubling you.
A large reason exercise can help is due to the endorphins we release during the act. These chemicals in the brain act as painkillers and help promote a more positive mood. These endorphins are also released during sex, when getting a massage, and while laughing.
2. Eat Healthy And Regularly
Exercise isn’t the only thing that can help you reduce anxiety and promote positivity. Your diet, nutrition, and everything else you digest daily can determine how well your body and brain function. That’s why your doctor is always telling you to pay attention to your diet!
There are several things you need to consider when eating a healthy and regular diet. First, you need to make sure you’re eating enough, but also need to ensure you’re not overeating. Both situations affect mental health and can even result in poor physical health, making anxiety worse.
Second, you need to make sure you’re eating the right foods. You have the freedom to choose whatever type of diet you like, whether it be plant-based, animal-based, or both, but you need to make sure the foods you’re eating are healthy and prepared properly. Avoiding added sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and simple carbs will also help.
Third, you need to make sure you’re regularly eating. Some people like to eat three meals per day, while others like to break their meals up into 5 meals per day. Whichever you choose, try to eat at the same time each day so your body can get used to a set schedule. This is both good for the body and brain.
The more you change your diet and remain inconsistent with your eating, the higher chance you have of feeling overly-anxious.
3. Get Enough Sleep Every Night
When talking about sleep and anxiety, there’s a bit of a catch-22 involved. While getting the right amount of sleep regularly can effectively reduce the anxiety you feel daily, frequent anxiety is known to make it extremely difficult to fall asleep at night.
Not only that, but people living with sleep disorders can start to experience anxiety and panic attacks, even if they aren’t generally an anxious person. The lack of sleep brings out a wide range of other issues connected to the brain and body.
This can be frustrating for anyone living with frequent or clinical anxiety. No matter how hard they try to get enough sleep every night, their anxiety won’t let them. Of course, this is the beginning of a horrid downward spiral with no visible signs of an ending.
Instead, you should try to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep each night while also trying to sleep on a regular schedule. If you find that going to bed around 9 PM every night works best for you, then make that your goal — your mind and body will appreciate it.
4. Valuable Social Interactions
The final lifestyle change we’re going to discuss is how often (and well) you interact with others, especially since anxious people are known to try and hide from the rest of society. While being alone often makes us feel better, it’s not doing us any favors because it’s only a temporary fix.
Eventually, the lack of social interaction and connection with others starts to have a negative effect. It makes it harder to interact and connect with others, to the point where we lose all connection with the outside world.
Instead, you must dedicate yourself to remain in constant contact with those you love most. When you see someone walking down the street and smiling as they walk by, smile back. These social interactions make us feel better about ourselves, they give us someone to vent to, and they let us know we’re not alone.
Techniques To Reduce Anxiety In-The-Moment
Now that we’ve discussed daily techniques to reduce anxiety, you’ll also want to ensure you’re prepared for those moments when your anxiety peaks without warning. You won’t see it coming, and there’s no telling just how serious of an anxiety attack you’ll get, but that’s all the more reason to be prepared.
You might have to go through a bit of trial-and-error, especially since everyone is unique in their own way. A technique that works for one person might not work for someone else. Don’t worry, there’s a technique out there for everyone — you just have to find it.
Let’s take a look at how to lower anxiety in-the-moment, that way, you can return to your confident self as soon as possible.
- Take a deep breath, take a time-out from life, and find your happy place — whether that means doing yoga, meditating, counting to your favorite number, or listening to music.
- Understand that you can’t control everything, and some things happen without your consent. Instead of focusing on those things, focus on what you can control.
- Find a reason to laugh, listen to a comedy sketch, or ask one of your friends to tell you a joke. A simple laugh can help take your mind off of what’s bothering you until you’re ready to confront it.
- The 3-3-3 rule can help you if you need a technique that will reduce anxiety. First, find three things you can physically see and say those items out loud. Then name three things you can physically hear. Then move three body parts while saying the name of the body part. By the time you’re done, you’ll be calmer than you were before.
At the end of the day, you need to know what triggers your anxiety because it’s different in everyone. Once you know what triggers it, you can effectively avoid those things or prepare yourself for encountering those triggers.
If you feel like your anxiety is too much to handle at any point and you need further assistance, you should never feel ashamed to talk to someone about it. Therapists have dealt with countless cases of anxiety and often know the best solution for yourself.
For those that are unsure if what they’re feeling is anxiety or something else, Mind Diagnostics has an interactive anxiety test, you can take to determine this. It’s an easy test and doesn’t take long, but the results could change your life for the better.
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