Modern society can be hard to deal with. We worry about everything from our own happiness to the current state of climate change; that’s stress on levels from personal to global, and everything in between. No wonder so many of us deal with anxiety. It may have become a familiar part of daily life, but that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to a lifetime of panic. Here are some ways to alleviate anxiety the moment you feel it.
Ignoring your anxiety, or the task that is causing you anxiety, is not the way to fix it. Often you’ll know you have to do something, like check a scary e-mail from your boss, and you’ll try to avoid not only doing that task, but thinking about it altogether. Every time it pops into your head, though, your anxiety surrounding it gets worse. Eventually you’re thinking the e-mail must be your boss firing you because they fundamentally don’t like you as a person.
When you find yourself starting to avoid small tasks at all costs, try focusing on the feeling of anxiety instead of trying to push it away. Why are you anxious about this task? What’s the worst that could happen? Is that scenario even likely? And if it is, could you handle it? As uncomfortable as it may be, try to think through your anxiety. Recognize that your brain is functioning on a wildly heightened level, and, while your feelings are real to you, they’re not based in actual reality.
Anxiety can cause you to take shallower breaths than usual because your body is in its fight-or-flight mode. It’s essentially getting you ready to run from danger. Deep breaths that come from your diaphragm help to switch your fight-or-flight response (a product of the sympathetic nervous system) to a relaxation response (thanks to the parasympathetic nervous system). Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds.
Yes, exercise will be on every list of how to improve every aspect of your life. Maybe you’re sick of seeing it, but if you’re looking for other solutions, perhaps you should actually try it. Exercise releases endorphins: feel-good hormones that have been proven to reduce the feeling of anxiety. Steady exercise will help alleviate anxiety overall, but a few brisk laps around the block any time you’re feeling your anxiety levels start to rise can be an immediate fix for those uncomfortable feelings.