How to Reduce Anxiety Right Now
We have an epidemic on our hands. It isn’t a disease in the normal sense of the word. It’s anxiety. That thing we don’t like to talk about but really need to. The thing that has increased in prominence in the past few decades. The thing that is eating us up from the inside out. Let’s figure it out together.
As a society, we are constantly connected to each other virtually; but are we really connected? As someone in her twenties, I haven’t lived in a world without the conveniences of computers, without social media, and without knowledge at my fingertips.
This constant connectedness and the fast-paced world we live in takes a toll. If you struggle with anxiety, like I do (no shame!), then try these tricks that have helped me out.
Put Down That Phone
My family doctor told me that when she was in medical school in the 1980’s, treating anxiety was not even a topic they covered. I thought this was interesting because the increase in anxiety seems to have lined up with the availability of personal computers and the development of video games. And now, we have computers and video games in the palms of our hands, along with constant news, videos, TV, and social media. I personally believe there is a connection between this fast, visual stimulation and anxiety.
So, what to do? Put down your phone, iPad, computer, tablet, or whatever else that emits light at least an hour ahead of bedtime. To avoid all the dinging of notifications, turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode, so you won’t be distracted. Leave it in a drawer or in your purse and don’t look at it until tomorrow. If you think of something you want to look up, or you get an idea, use an old-fashioned piece of paper and a pen. We lived thousands of years without these screens, you will survive, and in fact, thrive! I started to do this, putting my phone away and off two hours before bed, and now I am able to fall asleep much easier. My brain doesn’t feel wired and racing. I found I want to read more. I am able to sleep better, and my anxiety went down. Yay!
Similarly, in the morning when you wake up, don’t go straight for the phone. I have an issue with this, but I try! If your alarm is on your phone, just leave it in airplane mode until later. First, get out of bed and do your morning routine. Eat breakfast without scrolling mindlessly. Think about what you will do during the day and write it down on a physical piece of paper. When you are going to leave for work or whatever else, then you can turn it on, but only check for messages about work or meeting changes.
Ditch the Coffee
Not an issue for me, but for many it is! As we all know, coffee is a stimulant, and stimulation is the last thing someone with anxiety needs.
If you down cups and cups of coffee a day, I ask you, why? Are you honestly that tired, or is your body just expecting to have the coffee? Or, do you just like the taste of coffee? Or is it just an excuse to interrupt your routine. Regardless of why you drink a lot of coffee, it isn’t that great for helping with anxiety. It may wake you up for a little bit, but then you will get tired and drink more, creating a bad cycle. Consider sleeping longer, or try my favorite alternative, tea! All true tea (from the tea leaf), has some amount of caffeine, but black tea has the most. I find it wakes me up as much as coffee; and without the jitters, irritated stomach, and crash later in the day. There are plenty of black tea blends out there, if you want a different taste than the straight black tea. Give it a try and I hope you get more energy, less anxiety, and better sleep!
Call, Don’t Text
There is something magical about the human voice. As children, our ears and brain started to learn the abundance of sounds our voices and languages can create. We learned to pick up on certain sounds that hint at the emotion of the person. This all disappears with email and texting. Even with emojis, though they do help, we can’t truly know what tone the other person is typing in. They could sound like the happiest person ever in typed words, but when you hear them say the same thing out loud, you could pick up on how they actually feel. We lose this with virtual communication, and that disconnectedness can cause anxiety.
When I started to struggle with anxiety, I tried to reduce the texting and call instead. Nowadays, it seems rare to call someone out of the blue. Normally I would have to schedule a time to talk with someone, and one of us could cancel if something else comes up. What happened to leaving messages and waiting for someone to call you back? And even setting up a time to meet, when was the last time you called to schedule something with a friend, which led to talking and laughing or crying? Yes, it is much easier to text and wait for their reply hours later, but, it doesn’t create the human connection we need and want. It may weird out your friends at first, but I’m sure they will appreciate it and even join you!
Work Doesn’t Own You
News flash: your job doesn’t own you. It may seem like it at times, but that isn’t the case. You don’t owe them your life. In fact, your life and your well-being are more important. If you are anxious, could your job be the cause? Are you working every day? Are you constantly on your phone, even up until bedtime, replying to emails and scheduling?
Everyone needs a break from work. I’ve always loved the idea of a siesta during the middle of the day, but since most of us can’t do this, it’s important to do this after work. A lot of us are bad at this. We believe we need to be connected and fix things right away. Well, you don’t. If there is an emergency, someone will call you, not send you an email. Depending on the kind of work you do, maybe you can tell your coworkers you have no-work hours, so you won’t reply to emails from the time you leave work until the next morning. Go be with your family and friends, or read a book, or catch up on that TV show you really like. You, and your body, need a break. Take it.
Go into Nature
This one is my favorite and the one that helps me the most. Ditch the technology for a couple days, or even a couple hours, and go outside into nature. Wherever it may be, just being out there, away from the noise and stress of everyday life, will help. If you have a lunch break, go eat it at a park. If you have a free weekend, take a hike or bike ride in a local park, or a close state park. If you can, give camping a try! Get away from your home area and into a different element. Watch the birds and squirrels, go fishing, watch the sunrise/sunset, listen to the wind in the trees or the birds chirping. Nature is the best healer, since that is where we come from. We are connected to it, and a lot of us have lost that connection. Go get it back!
If you have anxiety, don’t be ashamed. Think of it like a warning or a wakeup call that something in your life isn’t right. Listen to your body, don’t ignore it. If these tips don’t help, or you feel you need further help, please don’t hesitate to see a counselor/therapist/psychologist to talk it out. They can help you figure it out.
Remember, I am not a doctor; these are only the things that have worked for me.