13 Simple Ways To Reduce Anxiety & Practice Self-Care Every Day
Whether you're prone to nervousness in the first place, what's going on in Washington is giving you heart palpitations, or you're experiencing some unpleasant combination of both, a lot of people could use some ways to reduce anxiety lately. One of the problems with anxiety, unfortunately, is that it makes itself seem insurmountable. You worry that you worry too much, then you worry that you won't be able to stop worrying, and suddenly, it's been six hours and you're still wedged in the corner of your bedroom, half-wrapped in a blanket burrito with one sock on. Well, maybe that's just me, but you get the general idea.
Outside of the disordered variety, anxiety is a natural part of life, so everyone develops their own way of coping. Sometimes, though, it's easy to forget to take care of yourself before you get overwhelmed with the infinite, boring responsibilities of being an adult. (Hint: If you watch Castaway and think living on a desert island with only a volleyball for company sounds like a lovely time, you're probably a little stressed out.) Finding the time to focus on yourself might appear to be a tall order, but there are plenty of super simple ways to practice self-care every day.
1. Practice Controlled Breathing
It's amazing how relaxing deep breathing can be. Pay attention to your lungs, and practice controlled breathing exercises at least once a day.
2. Start (Or End) Your Day With Meditation
Mindfulness meditation reduces symptoms of anxiety, including mind wandering and nagging worries, and it only takes a few minutes. If you practice in the morning, it can put your thoughts in order for the rest of the day; if you practice at night, it can take your mind off the stresses of the past 24 hours.
3. Download A Yoga App
Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, and unlike meditation, it gets you physically moving — an important aspect of self-care. Plus, it improves flexibility so you can show off at parties. You don't have to join an expensive studio to take up yoga; instead, download one of the many apps out there. It's free (or relatively cheap), and you can practice in your own home, away from the pressure of a class.
4. Know When To Turn Off Netflix
I completely understand the urge to watch all of This Is Us in one fell swoop, but save your marathons for the weekend. Research has shown the bright light emitted by screens triggers the brain to stop making melatonin, so it's harder to fall asleep even after you finally power down your laptop at 3 a.m.
Instead of drifting off to the sounds of a TV drama, read a book, meditate, or call your parents before you go to sleep. You'll appreciate it in the morning.
5. Learn Sleep Hygiene
There's little more frustrating than being yanked back from the border of dreamland by the thought of a presentation at work tomorrow, or worrying about something you said at dinner. Losing sleep because you're stressed only stresses you out more, and it becomes an exhausting cycle.
You probably know the important points of sleep hygiene by now, but make sure to actually put them into practice. Leave your phone on the nightstand, avoid naps and exercise too close to bedtime, and most importantly, give yourself enough time to get a full night's sleep.
6. Cut Down On Caffeine
Coffee is a gift from the insomniac gods, but don't forget that caffeine is a drug — and a stimulant at that. Drinking excessive amounts has been linked to anxiety. If you're trying to relax, pay attention to how many cups of coffee you put away every day.
7. Carry A Bottle Of Water
Replace all that coffee you were drinking with water. Dehydration can sneak up on you faster than you'd think.
8. Clean Your Room
Everyone's standards for cleanliness are different. I, for example, don't mind sleeping next to a pile of clean laundry on the bed for a few nights before tossing the clothes onto the closet floor, but judging from the twitching of my mother's eye when she sees this, others don't feel the same way. If you're constantly losing your keys/favorite shirt/small children in the clutter of your apartment, take a few hours to organize things. It's easier to maintain cleanliness afterward.
9. Call Your Loved Ones
Social support is one of the most important aspects of wellbeing, so make sure to keep in touch with your loved ones. Make it a routine to call your parents, sister, BFF, or whomever calms you down.
10. Wake Up Earlier
If you feel like you're always rushing around, there's a simple solution: Start your day earlier. One week, set your alarm 15 to 30 minutes before you usually get up, and be amazed at how much more relaxing your mornings become.
11. Take A Daily Walk
Even if it's just a few minutes, make sure you get outside more days than not. Research has shown that spending time in nature improves mood, memory, and even your vision.
12. Make Lunch The Day Before
You know what's stressful? Scrambling to make lunch in the morning when you're running late, then realizing you left it on the counter and going hungry all day. On weeknights, make lunch the night before, so you won't be as rushed and you'll have delicious food to look forward to.
13. Keep A Journal
Keeping a journal has some surprising psychological benefits, even when you're writing about stressful events. Take a few minutes at the end of your day to write about whatever you feel like, whether it's stream of consciousness or a simple to-do list for the next day. It helps organize your thoughts, and years from now, you might look back and wonder why you were so anxious.