Battling anxiety? You’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States. They’re hard to diagnose because they often feel like physical illnesses; for example, chest pain, nausea, and headaches. But these physical symptoms originate in the mind.
One key to reducing symptoms of anxiety is to focus on something you can do (as opposed to worrying about things you can’t control). Professional therapy can help you manage anxiety, but there are also some simple ways to cope with anxiety at home. Here are a few techniques that can help on a daily basis:
1. Connect to the physical world around you.
Look around and name at least three things you see. Then name at least three things you hear. Now move at least three parts of your body. Do this as slowly and patiently as possible. Focus on each thing.
2. Practice deep, slow breathing.
It may seem impossible to breathe if your chest feels tight but if the cause is anxiety, it’s possible. Try to cultivate an “ocean sound” by flaring your nostrils as you breathe in through your nose and “funnel” the air through the back of your throat. Use your diaphragm. (In yoga, they call this ujjayi, or “victorious breath.”) After several successful breaths like these, you should start to feel calmer and more in control.
3. Create bedtime a ritual.
Give yourself a better night’s sleep by avoiding electronic screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Start a ritual, like reading a (paper) book, listening to music, taking a bath, or practicing relaxing activities like stretching, yoga or meditation, before you turn in. Over time, this may help you quiet the racing activity in your head.
4. Trade caffeine and alcohol for hot water or tea.
Caffeine and alcohol can make anxiety worse. Hot water or tea, preferably not caffeinated, can help you unwind—and release tension, particularly buildup of gas that could be mistaken for chest pains or other anxiety-inducing body aches. Try decaf tea with calming aromas like lavender and chamomile and set aside some quiet time to sip it.
5. Try aromatherapy.
Consider aromatherapy. If you’re not pregnant or allergic, breathing in a delightful aroma like Lavender, bergamot, cedarwood or ylang ylang during a bath, shower or massage can help you feel less anxious. You can also apply a little diluted essential oil behind your ears for aromatherapy either on the go or while you sleep.
6. Ground yourself. Literally.
Sit or lay on the floor. Sometimes you just need to feel grounded to calm your nerves. Close your eyes and count slowly to 10. Keep counting until you feel calmer.
7. Make lists.
Start a journal. Writing out what makes you feel anxious helps you “get it out of your system.” This can help you separate the many thoughts in your head, which can have a calming effect. Over time, you can revisit this journal and look for patterns that lead to your anxiety. You may be surprised at what you find out!
Just as there are many causes of anxiety, from chemical imbalances to unresolved family issues or the inability to express one’s emotions, there are many ways to cope with anxiety. These are just a handful of ways you can manage symptoms at home or as part of your daily routine. If you need more help, call us. Our qualified counselors specialize in treating anxiety and can help you find lasting ways to keep anxiety from interfering with your best life.