Living with anxiety is never easy. Millions upon millions of people just like you struggle with anxiety daily, looking for ways to find any type of relief. Anxiety control is a long-term process - not something that can be completed overnight. But there are ways to fight your anxiety that can be integrated into your life.
If you're suffering from anxiety right now, or you suffer from anxiety often enough that you need immediate relief, try the following anxiety reduction strategies.
What is Your Anxiety Score?
Before you can treat anxiety, you have to be able to know how your anxiety compares to others. Try our free 7 minute anxiety test to find out what your anxiety score is, and receive recommendations for treatments.
Tips to Stop Anxiety Now
Living with anxiety can be incredibly difficult. It's important that you don't allow yourself to live with the symptoms forever. You need to make smart decisions and commit to a long-term treatment, in addition to the following ten strategies. If you haven't done so yet, take my free 7-minute anxiety test.
1. Control Your Breathing
Severe anxiety symptoms are often linked to poor breathing habits. Many men and women with anxiety suffer from poor breathing habits that contribute to anxiety and many of the most upsetting symptoms.
Controlling your breathing is the solution - and it's not what you think. Even if you feel you can't take a deep breath, you actually need to slow down and reduce your breathing, not speed it up or try to take deeper breaths. Take more controlled, slower, shallower breaths, using the following technique:
- Breathe in slowly and gently through your nose for about 5 to 7 seconds.
- Hold for about three or four seconds.
- Breathe out slowly and gently through pursed lips like you're whistling for about 7 to 9 seconds.
Repeat this exercise ten to twenty times. This method of breathing will ensure that you're not hyperventilating (a common problem of those with anxiety) and will help to regain the Co2 balance in your body that creates many of the worst anxiety symptoms.
2. Talk to Someone Friendly
Effective anxiety reduction is often about distraction since your mind can be your worst enemy when you have severe anxiety symptoms. A very effective technique is to talk to someone you like and trust, especially on the phone. Don't be shy about your anxiety - tell them you feel anxious and explain what you're feeling.
Talking to nice people keeps your mind off of your symptoms, and the supportive nature of friends and family gives you that added boost of confidence. If you're suffering from a panic attack, it also helps you feel more confident that if something were wrong, you'd have someone that can watch over you.
3. Try Some Aerobic Activity
During periods of anxiety, your body is filled with adrenaline. Putting that adrenaline towards aerobic activity can be a great way to improve your anxiety. That's because exercise has numerous advantages for controlling your anxiety symptoms:
- Exercise burns away stress hormones that create anxiety symptoms.
- Exercise tires your muscles, reducing excess energy and tension.
- Exercise releases endorphins which improve overall mood.
- Exercise forces healthier breathing.
- Exercise is a healthy distraction.
Aerobic activity, like light jogging or even fast walking, can be extremely effective at reducing the severity of your anxiety symptoms, as well as your anxiety itself.
4. Find What Relaxes You
There are already things in your life that relax you. Don't avoid them and try to fight it out. Instead, do the activities as fast as possible. For example, if you find that a warm bath is relaxing, don't wait to take a bath. Jump in the bath, light some candles, add a few nice scents, and jump inside. Whether it's a bath, a shower, skipping stones at a park, getting a massage - if it works, do it right away, rather than let yourself become overwhelmed by your anxiety.
5. Consider Kava
Kava (also known as Kava Kava) is an anti-anxiety herb that many believe is one of the most effective, natural ways to control anxiety. You'll want to talk to a doctor before taking kava as it can interact with other medications and alcohol, but kava has nutrients known as kavalactones that are very effective at regulating the way you experience anxiety and promoting greater levels of relaxation without any addiction risk.
6. Learn How to Trick Your Anxious Thinking
Anxiety doesn't come out of the blue. When you have anxiety attacks, it's often because your mind tends to spiral into negative thoughts - often without your control. Sometimes you can control this anxiety by keeping these thoughts at bay and learning to dismiss triggers that cause you anxiety.
For many, this is easier said than done. But there are many different strategies you can try that may be effective. These include:
A Question Checklist When you feel severe anxiety, have a checklist on hand of questions to ask yourself about that anxiety experience. The longer the checklist, the more you'll find that your thoughts become more realistic. Questions that you can use include:
- Is there a reason to believe something is wrong?
- What evidence is there that something is wrong?
- Is there a chance I'm blowing this out of proportion?
Affirmations Affirmations are not for everyone, but those that do use them find them to be very beneficial. Affirmations are things that you say to yourself to make yourself feel better. These include:
- I'm okay. This is just anxiety and I will get over it.
- I have a great life and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
- My anxiety won't control me.
Getting Used to Physical Symptoms Many of the thoughts that affect anxiety are not thoughts per se, but reactions to physical experiences. This is especially true if you experience panic attacks, where a physical sensation can trigger severe anxiety and panic. By getting used to the symptoms when you're not experiencing anxiety, your mind stops associating them with your panic attacks. Examples include:
- Dizziness - If feeling dizzy causes a panic attack, spin around in a chair and let yourself feel dizzier.
- Rapid Heartbeat - If a rapid heartbeat causes panic attacks, run in place as fast as you can until your heartbeat speeds up.
The latter is known as "exposure therapy" and there are countless ways to create exercises that will habituate you to your panic attack triggers.
7. Listen to Good Mood Music
Every little thing matters. That's why even if it sounds like it won't make a tremendous difference, listening to your favorite music can have a powerful effect on your anxiety. They key is to not just choose songs you like, however. The key is also to make sure you're listening to music that represents the way you want to feel. Happy or relaxing music, not just any music.
The reality is that music does affect emotions. So while many people find it soothing to listen to angry music when you're angry or sad music when you're sad, the truth is that this type of music will only help you get in touch with those negative emotions. They won't help you feel better. When you're trying to stop anxiety now, you should listen to music that will help you feel the way you want to feel.
8. Let it All Out
Anxiety is interesting, because it tends to get worse when you try to fight it. It's not clear why that occurs, but most likely the stress that your body goes through in order to control the stress of anxiety only makes it worse, as does the effort it takes to try to not feel your natural feelings.
So rather than have any desire to stop your anxiety, an interesting coping strategy is to go overboard embracing it. I like to call it the "going crazy" technique. When you're feeling anxious, find a place that you can be alone and go nuts. Yell at mirrors. Scream. Punch pillows. In a way, make fun of the things you wish you can do. Have a bit of fun with it, but also let out all of your emotions. Throw stuffed animals. Flail your arms and jump around. Let yourself feel like you're letting out all of your emotions, and then some, to the point where you feel a bit silly, and then keep going with it.
This lets you embrace the anxiety and not try to fight it, while also giving you an opportunity to hold it back. It's best to make sure no one is around, and don't break anything important to you, but as long as what you're doing is safe it can help you feel quite relaxed.
9. Make Love
"When I get that feeling, I want sexual healing."
It's not a myth. Sexual intercourse can be incredibly calming. It is a distracting physical activity that releases endorphins and helps you feel more relaxed and less tense. If you have someone special in your life that understands that you're suffering from anxiety, it is okay to ask if they are willing to share in some lovemaking. To help you experience some relief from that anxiety, the two of you should come to some type of understanding that allows you to release some sexual energy, and possibly improve your relationship in the process.
10. Living in Today
Finally, simply learning to live for today can impact your anxiety. One of the most important things that psychologists and counselors teach those with anxiety is: "Okay, you're anxious. So what?"
Those with anxiety often start to focus too much on how they feel and their worries about the future. Each day becomes trying to live with anxiety instead of trying to live in general. Learning to embrace the idea that you have anxiety and trying to live a great and exciting life anyway is important.
And what's interesting is that if you can learn to finally have that mindset - to let yourself experience the fear and try to live the life anyway - you will find that your anxiety tends to dissipate with it. It's not a cure, but it's close.
Stopping Anxiety Forever
There isn't a rapid cure for anxiety. The fastest ways to cure anxiety are simply there to manage it, and while you can stop anxiety fast, there isn't a magic cure to cure it forever in an instant.
But there are strategies that can greatly improve your long-term outlook, and there are ways to cure your anxiety forever. They take a commitment, but they're highly effective at relieving your anxiety.
To start, take my 7 minute anxiety test now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Aug 06, 2018.