Many people are in a state of uncertainty and high anxiety. Some of the issues the world is facing are not going to go away anytime soon. Building resilience through good health habits, nutrition, exercise, hormone balancing, and sleep is imperative to get through tough times. All of these can ease anxiety but what do you do if you think you are doing everything?
Developing ways to relieve anxiety can be lifesaving. Here are some science backed techniques to turn off anxiety and the stress response that are proven to work. Try one or two, make them a habit and build up to more. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the better you will be able to cope.
Start Your Day the Right Way
How you start your day sets the tone for how the rest of the day will go. To get the most out of life, make things that enhance your life a habit. Many highly successful people have a morning routine that sets up their day for success. Hal Elrod wrote a book called the Miracle Morning which has transformed the lives of many. He uses an acronym called SAVERS for Silence, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (writing). In silence you gain clarity, affirmations program your mind to produce what you tell yourself; visualizations make the affirmations come alive and are motivating, exercise boosts your energy, reading something every day can move you closer to your goals and keep your brain active ed and writing or journaling can help you gain clarity, perspective and set priorities. Starting your day this way can transform your life as it has for many very successful people.
Set Your Priorities
There is always too much to do and not enough time but ask yourself if everything has equal importance. Too many things that feel urgent makes you feel like you are under attack and can create anxiety. Take the time to sort out and choose what is a priority and choose to work on it. Pick out the top 3 things that are your priorities for that day. Things that you absolutely must get done. Yes, you can still have some more long-term goals on your list but some things have a greater urgency or priority than others. Setting your priorities will allow you to focus on what is most important and you can give yourself some leeway to get to the other things when time or circumstances permit.
Multitasking is overrated and it can trigger the sympathetic fight or flight stress response that is counterproductive. Studies by Gloria Mark, an ‘interruption scientist’ at the University of California, show that when people are frequently diverted from one task to another, they work faster, but produce less. After 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people report significantly higher stress levels, frustration, workload, effort and pressure. Multitasking has a negative physical effect, prompting the release of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline. Focusing on one thing at a time can not only decrease your stress response, but it can also increase your ability to focus and allow you to be more productive with fewer mistakes.
Breathe and Be Mindful
Yes, you have too much on your plate. Even though you may have set your priorities and started your day right, things may not be going your way. Something urgent comes up to derail you and there is conflict and stress in your mind and body. This is when it is time to step back, take a deep breath. Then take even more slow deep breaths and ground yourself. Become aware of your body and your breath and refocus your attention, re clarify and reprioritize. Being in a calmer, parasympathetic state otherwise known as the relaxation response, can help you better navigate your mind and body and shift your focus to do the next best thing. Do what you can and let go of the things that are out of your control. It is a mind game so play it to your advantage.
Do What You Can
Many of us have so much on our to do list that involves cooperation from some other person or entity. Perhaps you are waiting for someone to get back to you before you can make a decision, or you are waiting for a part to arrive to fix something or can’t get an appointment to find out what is wrong with your health or something you own. This sets off a cascade of anxiety because you don’t have control and can’t do anything. The best antidote is to let go of what you cannot change and expend some energy and focus on doing something you can do. Taking charge and doing what you can reduces anxiety and allows you to get satisfaction as well as turning on that calming, parasympathetic nervous system response. Just pick another thing on your to do list that will give you the satisfaction of getting something done.
Check it Off and Congratulate Yourself
We all need rewards and a pat on the back. I am a big believer of checklists. It is such a feeling of accomplishment to check something off my list and it a way of congratulating myself and having a feeling of satisfaction. Even if you don’t use checklists, writing down what you accomplished during the day gives you a sense of self-esteem and it is a way of seeing your results and acknowledging or congratulating yourself. Completing a task resolves the stress response and reduces anxiety. It also releases the satisfaction neurotransmitter dopamine.
Take a Time Out in Nature
Get out and experience nature. Nature has a very calming effect on the nervous system. Allow all of your senses to come into play, feeling the sun or a cool breeze on your face, smelling the forest or the flowers, looking at the blue sky and the green grass or trees, hearing the sounds of silence or the birds, crickets, the wind or wildlife is a mental and physical break from our electronics, indoor environments and stagnant indoor air. If you can’t get out then watch a travel show, tend to indoor plants, pamper a pet or play nature sounds and look at nature still lifes. Your nervous system will thank you for it.
Exercise or Move
There is nothing better to expend energy in exercise or movement. This is one of the best antidotes to anxiety. It can burn off your adrenaline, lift your mood, boost heart health, build bone, increase circulation, improve sleep and releases pent up anxiety and tension. Aerobic exercise like walking or bike riding or even yoga or stretching will reduce anxiety. Mix it up and perhaps do all 3! This release of pent-up anxiety will allow you to relax.
Relax and Let Go
Malissa Clark, an assistant professor of industrial/organizational psychology at UGA studied workaholism and found that it relates to job stress, greater work-life conflict, decreased physical health, job burnout and decreased productivity. Regardless of if your job is that of a parent, homemaker, business owner or employee, you need time to relax, rejuvenate and restore your mind and body. Relaxation can be anything from a hobby, sitting in silence, listening to music, taking a warm bath, reading something engaging that is not work related or spending time with friends. All work and no play will make you dull and boring. Engage in something that engages your mind and body in something different and pleasurable. Your brain will get the break it needs and can be more creative and find novel ways to problem solve.
When mind is rested you can better manage the demands of life. During sleep you repair, rejuvenate and process the day. You release growth hormones and toxins are “washed out of your brain”, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep increases your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and accidents. It also shrinks your brain, makes you less focused and more likely to catch a cold or get emotional. It takes toll on your mind and body and this causes dis-stress and anxiety. A good night’s sleep allows you to face the next day and start fresh and new.
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