4 Strategies for managing anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress can have a prominent impact on your everyday life, whether you realize it or not. As someone who has been a long-time sufferer of an anxiety disorder, I know all too well what this can feel like. After seeing several therapists and reading a lot of different books, I have found four successful strategies that help me live a more peaceful and healthy life.
1. Breathing properly
Breathing is perhaps the most important part of managing your emotions. The next time you feel anxious, stressed, or angry, stop for a second and pay attention to your breathing. You will most likely find that it is shallow and coming from your chest. Don’t worry though- this is just your body’s natural way of handling these emotions, and changing this can help you relax.
To get your breathing on track, take a deep breath through your nose for four full seconds, and then hold it in for an additional four seconds. After this, breathe out through your mouth for six seconds. Focus on your breathing and feel your stomach rising and falling. Do this several times until your heart rate stabilizes and you begin to feel relaxed.
Once you have calmed down a bit, continue breathing in through your nose and out your mouth. Make sure to continue to focus on your stomach rising and falling. If you are breathing through your chest, you will not feel relaxed and your breathing will be shallow. Breathing properly is important to feeling peaceful and relaxed.
2. Challenge negative thoughts
Negative thoughts and feelings can be responsible for creating a lot of stress and anxiety. These thoughts are typically related to real-life situations, such as money or relationship problems, but they generally do not serve a positive purpose. To determine if these thoughts serve any purpose, it is important to challenge them.
A common negative thought is “things are never going to get better”. Whether this thought is related to finances or a relationship, it does not do any good. Determine whether this thought is true, and even if it is true, ask yourself why it matters. Remind yourself that whatever is on your mind, it will not have any impact on your physical well-being and it is just a thought. Everything is temporary, and even if things feel bad at the moment, they can turn around very quickly.
Things get better and they get worse, and that is how life goes. Remember the good things in life and challenge negative beliefs like this one. Perhaps a relationship will end or you will lose your job, but other relationships and job opportunities are always out there. Whatever negative belief enters your mind, do not like it fester uncontested.
3. Live in the moment
This is a bit of a cliche, but it is important to remember when attempting to manage anxiety and stress. A lot of anxiety and stress result in worrying about the future or being upset about what happened in the past. Do not get caught in these traps.
A technique called “grounding” is helpful here, and it is simple to do. Look around and observe things you can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. This can help pull you out of your own head and back into reality. Being aware of your surroundings and living in each moment is called mindfulness, and it can help give you a greater sense of peace and appreciation for life.
This strategy is also a great way to appreciate all the beauty in the world, and get more in touch with your senses. By practicing mindfulness consistently and confidently, you will begin to do it subconsciously and it will become a habit. This is a great habit to develop to have a peaceful outlook on life.
4. Find positive hobbies
This quote by Walter Anderson is very true in my experience. It is important to have fun and meaningful hobbies to take your mind off of life’s hardships. Some people enjoy exercise, others enjoy reading, some enjoy photography, and there are a plethora of others to choose from.
Finding things outside of work and relationships that you can do for yourself is an important part of life. Having these hobbies will give you something meaningful to put your mind on and get excited for each and every day. It may be difficult at first to get into new hobbies, but keep searching and you will surely find a few that you cherish.
No matter how bad your anxiety is, you can use these tools to help yourself relax. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so do not let your emotions get in the way of living it to the fullest. Breathe, challenge your thoughts, live in the moment, and find valuable things to do to stay mentally relaxed and healthy.