7 Ways To Ease Anxiety & Stress, Because Puppies Really Do Make Everything Better

You've heard the same tips a thousand times over: you should eat healthy food, do yoga, and get more sleep in order to curb chronic anxiety in your life. So I won't bore you with the same tune. As important as all these basics are, there are more methods out there that, according to scientific and medical research, can also help us feel more centered, which, in turn, leads to a more fulfilling lifestyle. Some of them are right under our noses, while we would never even think to try the others.

Anxiety is the most common disorder in the world right now, yet women are still not very comfortable self-reporting their struggle with it. Scott Stossel, author of My Age of Anxiety, says anxiety is being passed down genetically, but we're also living in a society that raises our level of stress on the daily. Even if you don't wrestle with severe panic attacks, that doesn't mean you aren't tense. It takes work — and some tricks up your sleeve — to escape the overwhelming busyness that constantly surrounds us. 

No matter what your level of stress is, you can definitely benefit from these seven tips for curbing anxiety and feeling more centered

1. Get Some Acupuncture Done

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This ancient Chinese practice holds real value for reducing anxiety. Acupuncturists place the needles half a millimeter away from the nerves, flooding the nervous system with painkilling chemicals that heal the body. With acupuncture, the brain is even stimulated to handle stress better. Daniel Hsu, a specialist at New York AcuHealth acupuncture, claims the Qi, which is just a fancy word for metabolic functions, flows freely through the meridians and jump starts the circulatory system.

Acupuncture is most effective when done regularly, so try to find a professional who can see you on a steady basis — maybe, to start, a few times a month. There are more insurance providers than ever who cover this alternative form of healing, so check in with your coverage plan to find something in your area. A big bonus of acupuncture is that it rarely clashes with medications and other methods of anxiety control. If you're nervous about the prospect of needles getting stuck in you — I was a wreck before my first sesh — no need to worry. It's barely a prick, and the results make up for the initial discomfort.

2. Start Gardening

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Plant some tomatoes and roses and you automatically cultivate more peace in your everyday life. A garden is the perfect space to give up your iPhone and get back in touch with nature — you know, like our ancestors did before Twitter consumed multiple hours of the day. The repetitive movement acts like a mantra, setting your brain to a soothing rhythm that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the "rest and digest" part of the body that promotes relaxation.

You don't need to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere — or, heaven forbid, the suburbs — to start reaping and sowing. With all the community gardens popping up left and right, you most likely have access to a little plot of land where you can work your magic. This is a great way to meet new people as well, whether they're neighbors you've only greeted a few times or like-minded folks who are interested in spending more of their time outside.

3. Practice Kundalini Breathing Exercises

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Controlling the breath, like gardening, activates the parasympathetic nervous system while getting the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) to lay low. Recently, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funded a research program to track the effects of Kundalini breath work and ease of stress in people's lives. Scientists are in the process of collecting data that explains what so many individuals are already reporting — that they feel much more relaxed after doing Kundalini breathing exercises.

You don't even have to go to a yoga class to benefit from these practices. For three to 11 minutes a day, inhale in short segments, then exhale in the same segments, only for twice as long. Pause at the end of each exhalation, and repeat. There's nothing complicated about it; you can even do it in bed when you first wake up. But the simplicity of intentionally breathing can make a big difference. 

4. Have More Orgasms

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Come on, you knew this one was coming. Reaching climax on the daily can only be a good thing — and it'll give you glowing skin. Every time you have sex or masturbate, a calming heap of endorphins and oxytocin is released, and suddenly a chunk of stress is MIA. Psychologist Simon Rego claims that a solid orgasm can change your whole outlook on life; even if it can't exactly solve your problems, it gets pretty close.

The more time you place between your orgasms, the more tension builds up in the body, making it that much harder to truly relax. Afterwards, your blood pressure levels out, you experience muscular relief in the hands and feet, and your heart can rest after a solid anaerobic workout. Self-worth rockets upwards as well, and you will find it much easier to kick back and enjoy whatever lies ahead.

5. Spend More Time With Animals

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Even a mother's love can't compare to the sloppy, unconditional adoration that puppies offer. (Go cuddle one and try to prove me wrong.) According to the research, it turns out that pet owners are indeed much less stressed than those with an empty apartment. If you're not in the place of your life right now where you can afford to adopt a furry little angel — or if you're living under the reign of a crazy super — find an animal shelter in your neighborhood that allows visiting hours. The cats and dogs who are waiting for a good home need hugs and playtime just as much as your friend's golden retriever.

Animals don't just make us giggle; they have the ability to help lower blood pressure. Arden Moore, author and radio host of Oh Behave, says the "happy talk" we use with furry creatures, no matter how one-sided, can release hormones in the bloodstream that regulate blood pressure. Our thoughts change and we're suddenly inspired to unwind, rather than continue running around stressed out.

6. Cook More

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Baking has always been an incredible way for me to decompress after a long week, so I was thrilled to read that science is on my side. Psychologists say spending time in the kitchen is a form of therapy called behavioral activation, which alleviates depression by “increasing goal oriented behavior and curbing procrastination.” Studies have shown that people suffering from anxiety soothe their own stress and build self-esteem by tossing together a made-from-scratch lasagna for themselves.

The Wall Street Journal reported on counselors who are urging their clients to regularly attend cooking classes, and the results aren’t unlike sweet Amy Adams’ transformation in Julie & Julia. Psychiatrist Carole Lieberman insists that channeling your inner chef helps you feel good about yourself, and it gives you the opportunity to nourish yourself in more ways than one. If you’re going through a particularly stressful time, try your hand at a homemade apple pie. The messier, the better!

7. Consider Medical Marijuana 

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Need I say more? I will anyway. Science says the most commonly reported "side effect" of smoking pot is reduction of stress, anxiety, and tension. A team of experts from the National Institutes of Health, University of Calgary, and the Rockefeller University studied THC's effects on a part of the brain called endocannabinoid system, which naturally regulates stress levels. The results are neurological, not just physical: Chemicals are released that allow the individual to relax. The researchers find that self-medicating in this way can be extremely effective, especially if the person in question suffers from chronic anxiety.

Like anything else, marijuana can be abused, so I'm not suggesting you wake and bake. But if a doctor thinks your anxiety could benefit from medical marijuana, it it worth considering. Lighting up a joint at the end of a busy day can do wonders for the brain, helping you feel more at ease with everything that is happening around you. Some say that weed can exacerbate anxiety, but it's different for everyone. Test it out for yourself and make whatever choice feels best.

Images: Doug Robichaud/Unsplash; Giphy (7)

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