Just about everyone is anxious. These days, the unicorn is the person who isn’t trying to manage their anxiety. For some, anxiety is very mental — it is persistent thoughts and worrying about one thing until you start worrying about the next. Other people feel their anxiety very physically: shortness of breath, hot flashes, pounding heart, diarrhea, and loss of hunger. Through whatever manifestation, anxiety feels horrible.
There are a lot of reasons anxiety has increased so much in recent years. There is so much more information and stimuli coming at us than there was just 10-15 years ago. Billboards didn’t use to blink and there weren’t TV’s blaring ads at gas pumps. There wasn’t the decision of whether you were going to listen to a podcast, radio, Spotify, or Sirius when you got in the car. When we stood in line somewhere, we just stared and thought thoughts, but now we stand there checking emails, buying stuff on Amazon, responding to texts, making to-do lists, and editing photos so that we may post them on Instagram so all our followers will know what we ate for lunch. We knew fewer details about people’s lives but were far more connected. We spent more time with loved ones and shared news face-to-face, rather than updating the world at large. Our food wasn’t altered and wreaking havoc on our systems, compromising the neurochem chemicals in our mind.
So here we are today, multitasking, overloaded, disconnected, and stressed AF. But what to do? We all know the most obvious solutions — meditate, get good sleep, exercise, go to therapy, take a “chill” pill — but there are a whole list of smaller, less obvious things that will help prevent and/or decrease your anxiety that you should also have in your toolbox.
Make a list of the things you’re grateful for, written or mental. It is very difficult to be grateful and anxious at the same time. (This is especially effective for middle-of-the night anxiety.)
Do research into what supplements make sense for you. Taking a probiotic, magnesium citrate, inositol, Omega-3s, CBD oil, and/or L-Theanine (nature’s Xanax) can make a world of difference with little to no side effects.
Get in your body —
Most of us are often disconnected with our physical body. Doing things like having sex, going for a run, splashing water on your face, dancing to good music, stretching, or laying in the sun with your feet in the grass are all excellent ways to ground you in your body.
Help someone else —
Being of service to others is a really powerful way to reset your anxiety. It helps you get outside yourself, feel a part of something bigger than your feelings, and makes you feel connected to other people. Meaningful human connection is kryptonite for anxiety.
Sure, meditation can be wonderful, but it can also bring up all sorts of complicated feelings and resistance in people. So try concentrating on simply breathing. Breathing in fours tells your body that everything is fine, which will then translate the message to your mind. Breathe in for four counts, then hold your breath for four counts. Do this four times.
Sage your home —
Saging your home is visually calming and helps set intentions and reset your physical environment. There’s a reason people have been participating in this ritual for centuries.
Look at what you’re consuming —
This one is so obvious that it’s often overlooked. Your body needs water and gets panicky if it doesn’t have it, so hydrate often. Additionally, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol increase anxiety, so cut it out or decrease your intake.
Elevate your legs —
Try the “viparita karani” pose by putting your legs straight up against a wall. It’s restorative, relaxing, grounding, and easy.
Jaimi Brooks, M.A. is a therapist in Los Angeles helping people navigate the tricky parts of being human. In addition to providing individual therapy, Jaimi runs therapy groups including Motherhood + Identity, Considering Motherhood, and a Premarital Prep Group.