Even if you're not generally an anxious person, the constant onslaught of dark and twisty mayhem throughout 2017 might have you feeling uneasy. The good news is, astrologically speaking, 2018 is going to be a better year for everyone. If you're looking for ways to feel less anxious in 2018, there are some practices you can embrace to keep your swirling thoughts from taking over your life. I regularly experience mild anxiety about things like going to the grocery store, or social situations where I don't know what's going to happen. And, if I'm not careful, my anxiety can take over my life.
A few months ago I decided to try to reduce my anxiety by doing a breathing meditation that encourages a lot of yelling. And personally, it's helped me a lot. If meditation isn't your jam, there are plenty of other things you can do to try to create some calm in your life during these uncertain times. If you've never dealt with anxiety, a number of things can induce it in even the most level-headed people. While intellectually you might know that your plane probably isn't going to crash, that doesn't make it any easier if you're anxious about flying.
Anxiety can worsen when you're confronted with excessive stress, sudden change, family and relationship problems, mental or physical trauma, or the loss of a loved one, according to the website Beyond Blue. If you're tired of your anxiety controlling you, here are some ways to take back your life like a boss.
Meditation was suggested to me for years before I actually tried it, but I wish I had started meditating sooner. According to Psychology Today, "Beneficial physiological effects of meditation include decreased oxygen consumption, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, as well as long-term beneficial changes in brain electrical activity that result in increased calmness." It's backed up by science, so you really have nothing to lose by trying it.
2. Focus On The Present
A lot of anxiety is caused by worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future. Personally, this is a big trigger for me when confronted with social situations. The trick is to try to stay present and take it literally one hour, or even one minute, at a time. "Ask yourself: What’s happening right now? Am I safe? Is there something I need to do right now? If not, make an 'appointment' to check in with yourself later in the day to revisit your worries so those distant scenarios don’t throw you off track," Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, told WebMD.
3. Change The Way You Think About It
When you're in the middle of an anxiety attack, you might feel like you're literally going to die. One thing a friend always says to me is, "While what you're feeling is real, it's not true." If you can create some space to talk to yourself about what is actually happening — this is where the meditation can help — you might be able to take back your power. Chansky told WebMD that one way to do this is to say to yourself, "I’m having a panic attack, but it’s harmless, it’s temporary, and there’s nothing I need to do."
4. Practice Visualization Techniques
I underwent hypnosis once for anxiety-induced migraines while I was in grad school and working full time. My practitioner asked me to visualize a time and place where I felt zero stress and anxiety and hold it in my mind. He suggested I visit my stress-free place whenever I began to feel overwhelmed, and it actually does help. "Picture yourself on a river bank or outside in a favorite park, field or beach," Psychiatrist Kelli Hyland, M.D. told PsychCentral. Watch leaves pass by on the river or clouds pass by in the sky. Assign [your] emotions, thoughts [and] sensations to the clouds and leaves, and just watch them float by."
5. Accept That You're Feeling Anxious
When you're fighting something, it can have more power over you than it would if you accepted it. There is no shame in battling anxiety, and accepting that you feel anxious can actually take away some of its power. "Acceptance is critical because trying to wrangle or eliminate anxiety often worsens it. It just perpetuates the idea that your anxiety is intolerable," Marla W. Deibler, a clinical psychologist and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC, told PsychCentral. "The bottom line is that the feeling of anxiety is less than ideal, but it is not intolerable."
6. Write Down Things You Feel Anxious About
As a writer with anxiety, I need to start taking this advice. When your anxious your thoughts can create a continuous loop of doom and worry in your head. One way to get them out of your head is to put them down on paper. And writing out your feelings has been found to reduce anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain. "Expressive writing, or writing about difficult emotions that you have about your life or a specific situation, has been found to be beneficial in a wide range of studies," Susan Biali M.D. wrote for Psychology Today. "You set a fixed amount of time, each day, to write out how you feel about difficult things that are going on."
7. Make Self-Care Your Number-One Priority
Coming from the school of hard knocks, this is one I had to learn the hard way. If I am overextended, and I don't have time to take proper care of myself, my anxiety can spiral out of control. Now I know that carving out time to get enough sleep, make sure I eat, and create some space to relax helps me take back my power. "If you’re sleeping less than 6 hours a night, you’re probably looking at a prime cause of your anxiety," Biali wrote. "True, anxiety can make it hard to sleep, but if there’s any way you can get eight hours of sleep a night you should notice an immediate difference in your mood."
8. Move Your Body
If you start to feel anxious, get up and go for a walk. Moving your body can help quiet your mind. "Exercise is also fantastic for healing an anxious brain and discharging physical tension from worries," Biali wrote. You don't have to adopt a new fitness routine. Something as simple as a 30-second dance party in your apartment can be enough to halt an oncoming wave of anxiety.
9. Turn To Technology
This might sound counterintuitive since technology is known to be a factor in inducing anxiety. However, there are some wearables, like the Airo Health Anxiety-Tracking Wristband, that can detect physical signs of anxiety before you're aware of it mentally. Airo uses statistical analysis to detect stress and anxiety in your nervous system, and as soon as it detects a rise in stress levels, it buzzes silently to make you aware of it so you can take action to stay in control before things get out of hand. Once Airo alerts you to rising stress and anxiety, the app guides you through a personalized breathing exercise to help you actively reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
10. Laugh More
There's not a lot to laugh about when you're feeling anxious. But, if you commit to laughing more, even when you don't feel like it, you can reduce your anxiety. One way to do this is through laughter yoga, which is a real thing. "Its core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say. Because it follows a body-mind approach to laughter, participants do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes, or even be happy," Laughter Online University explained on its website.
Laughter yoga also used traditional yogic breathing techniques, and the breathing, coupled with laughing, helps your mind and body stay in the present moment. If you can't find a laughter yoga class, or you're feeling too anxious to go, you can do laughter yoga online for free. And, let's face, we could all use a good laugh after this past year. Here's to feeling less anxious in 2018.