Anxiety is the feeling you get when your nervous system sends a signal to your brain that you’re being under attack. It’s a primal instinct triggered by real or imagined stress. Luckily, scientists have studied anxiety and found simple ways to calm our ancient nervous system down. So have these tools on hand when you need them and don’t worry, be happy.
Coming from someone that had terrible anxiety growing up, I use these tools daily, as needed, like medicine (without harmful side effects of course). With these simple tips, you will know how to get rid of anxiety, calm yourself and maintain your composure in order to treat yourself and others with kindness, and you may find it easier to make rational decisions.
1. Forward folds
As your system starts freaking out and your thoughts begin to turn negative, it can quickly spiral downward until you are in a poor mood and raining on everyone else’s parade too. Have no fear, forward folds are here. Standing or seated, simply fold forward. It’s that easy. It calms your nervous system down. Your anxiety will start to subside and you will be whistling Dixie before you know it.
I love a good forward fold a couple times per day. Forward folds also help to decompress the spine and let the energy flow better through your meridians. The acupuncture points utilize the energetic ley lines in the body. When the energy isn’t able to flow (often because we have been sitting for too long) it’s important to bring harmony and balance into the spine.
The spine to me is practically sacred because I know that our stress and back pain are tightly linked. I also know that stretching the back, makes a huge difference for my anxiety as an outlet for the stress that would otherwise build up there.
2. Deep breathing
Breathing slows your mind down. Do this while doing forward folds and you’ll feel double the calm. This is a great way to prepare yourself for your day while driving to work. It helps to get you in a positive mind set.
At the beginnings of my yoga classes I often ask people why they do yoga, most people say because it helps lower stress. In yoga, we breathe deeply for an hour to develop the habit of deep breathing when we are not doing yoga.
Here is a great deep breathing technique. Breathe in through your nose counting to seven. Hold your breath in for seven seconds and then breathe out slowly through your nose for seven seconds. Repeat that whole process three times. It also helps to do this lying on your back for a few minutes with your hands resting on your stomach.
But if you’re driving and the traffic is getting under your skin, you can do it anywhere. Even the sound of breathing slowly through your nose is calming to your inner ear because it sounds like waves crashing onto the beach.
Anxiety can create all kinds of different symptoms in the body such as: inflammation, ulcers, insomnia etc. and we need to arm ourselves with the tools to keep our stress low and our bodies well.
3. Negative ions
Flowing water creates negative ions that calm the nervous system. Ever notice how calm you feel at the ocean side? Not to worry, a shower can work too! Himalayan salt lamps and amethyst (a type of crystal) also produce negative ions that calm your nervous system. It’s pretty cool right?
Rumor has it that ancient Greeks drank out of amethyst chalices to protect them against drunkenness. You may want to get one of these lamps or geodes for your desk at work, for your car and for next to your bed. This has no gimmicks and no harmful side effects. Amethyst has also been known to help reduce acid reflux.
4. Lavender essential oil
This is an old trick that still works. I recommend the therapeutic grade essential oils though. DoTerra and Floracopeia are good brands. If you want, get lavender soap, shampoo, and lotion. The plant’s fragrance has a very calming effect on the body. Seriously though, get high grade products that have ingredients you can understand so you don’t put harmful products on your skin.
5. Reduce caffeine and alcohol
As much as I love coffee, I know that more than one cup makes me nervous for no reason. I start thinking about what could go wrong instead of what could go right. After talking to other people who drink coffee, I found that they noticed the same thing. It also matters what time of day and what type of caffeine you drink.
It’s better not to drink caffeine after 12pm and it’s better to drink low acid organic coffee. With the advent of Bulletproof coffee, we have realized most coffee has invisible mold that causes stomach pain and would therefore put our system on alert and cause anxiety.
Look for coffee that is at least $12 per pound and you’re pretty much guaranteed it’s good. I’m not saying to spend your kids tuition money on coffee, but don’t let a daily habit contribute to your anxiety, okay?
Alcohol is a depressant and when we feel anxious, our society encourages us to reach for a glass of wine. That is a temporary relief that will, afterwards, leave you worse off than when you started. The alcohol stays in your system and affects those mysterious chemicals called hormones that we are trying to balance to subdue our anxiety.
While alcohol may help you relax in the moment, over time it doesn’t give you the coping skills that will empower you to truly overcome anxiety. It’s a Band-Aid and an illusion that doesn’t encourage us to get to the root of our anxiousness, face it and debunk it.
I use this one all the time when I’m having a rough day, and it definitely works. Laughter releases chemicals in your brain that make you happy. When I want to laugh, I watch Flight of The Conchords videos on YouTube or Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David. They both have equally awkward and smart humor.
I listen to music that makes me laugh that I usually would never listen to, and sometimes, I sit down and watch a Pixar cartoon movie. Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Tosh.O or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are all good laugh inducers for me when I need to lighten up.
7. Get your sugar levels back up
Ever notice how ‘on edge’ you are when you’re hungry? For that matter, ever notice how other people get when they are hungry? They can’t make a decision and get snappy. They often just stare off into the distance. The body needs regular amounts of fuel, like every 2-3 hours.
Pack snacks (healthy snacks) and you will notice, just like I did, that your anxiety will subside. It’s a pretty cool trick actually, and you’ll be able to help other people manage their anxiety once you get yours under control.
8. Soothing chamomile tea
Yes it does work. It’s not the only herb that can calm you down either. You can find a consortium of calming tea blends or supplements that will help mellow you out. I highly recommend these over prescription medications unless you have serious panic attacks which I recommend seeing a physician about.
Herbs have been around in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and there are many that are used to calm the body down.
9. Calming music
I read recently that crime rates went down in an area that played calm classical music on the streets. That just goes to show that music affects us. Sound waves do have a physical effect on the body and can calm or energize you.
Reggae, classical piano, nature sounds, wood flutes, Tibetan bowls, Norah Jones, there are so many options. I also like lounge music, acoustic and instrumental. Why make it harder on yourself? Use some music and get your vibe back on track my lady.
10. Soft lighting
If you’ve ever worked under florescent lighting, you can relate to this. If you walk into a room that is dimly lit with candles strewn about, it has an immediate effect on you. You start to feel all artsy and Zen, right? Me too! I had a roommate that would always dim the lights, light candles and play Amos Lee.
It had a big impact on me and for someone that didn’t know how to relax, it reintroduced me to the art of conversation. I now love to sit and talk about life and be ‘unproductive’ sometimes. But yes, as my mother always says, I hate overhead lighting. Now I get it.
11. Write down what’s bothering you
I know it sounds silly but it really helps. Sometimes we aren’t even sure what exactly is bothering us and we are just anxious. Once you get clear about your anxiety, you’re one step closer to dealing with it and overcoming it. Fear is just an opportunity to grow; we just have to embrace it and not resist it.
Here is an example: we wake up anxious in the morning and get used to being in a bad mood, complaining about having to get up early, being tired and hating the commute.
When you write down what is making you anxious, you realize important things, you feel like you’re wasting your time at your job and wish you were at a company more in line with your passions. See, you just got to the root of your anxiety and now can take practical steps to change it.
12. Stop rushing and do less
We do live in a very fast paced culture. It’s a little too fast for our archaic nervous system to keep up with. A good friend told me to never rush and always give myself extra time to get somewhere. I applied his advice and I now feel very calm. I also recommend crossing off unnecessary things from your to do list. We need down time to relax every day.
Our minds need to chill out before bed and we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard that it interferes with our emotional stability. If you are feeling edgy, irritable, anxious or overwhelmed, chances are it’s time to slow down, relax, grab a cup of tea and read a good book.
Don’t beat yourself up about taking the time to decompress and relax. If you look at it as a way to keep your emotions and thoughts balanced, you won’t feel guilty about it. Our culture breeds type A personalities, and we need to take the reigns over our time and say enough is enough.
I hope these simple techniques are effective for you too. If your anxiety is still bad, try a restorative yoga class or a meditation class. I do both of those. My anxiety didn’t fully go away until I completely eliminated gluten from my diet. Not everyone is affected by gluten, but some people are and do not realize it. If you feel extremely anxious, it’s a good idea to cut it out (without cheating) for two weeks and see if it makes a difference.
Don’t feel weak if you have anxiety, it’s a very common thing, and it’s also a very understandable thing. We are inundated by noise, horns, commercials, cell phone notifications, emails, marketing ads, calls, and all different changing situations. We only need to balance them by making the decision to treat our time and bodies like a best friend or a grandmother.
We need to acknowledge that it is more fun to do things with a smile and energy than to rush through everything just to get to the next thing. We will start to enjoy life when we stop just looking forward and start being aware of the experience we are having and the people that are around us. Make it a point to be kind to everyone, even if you’re never going to see them again. My point is: happiness is contagious.
Thanks for empowering yourself by reading this, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…we strive to offer relevant helpful advice here on YouQueen.