How to Help Anxiety When Life Is Stressing You Out
Feeling stressed or anxious? Then you’re not alone. In the UK, according to a new survey from the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.((Mental Health Foundation: Stressed nation: 74% of UK ‘overwhelmed or unable to cope’ at some point in the past year)) In the US, that figure is slightly higher with 79% of Amercians who feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day.((News Gallup: Eight in 10 Americans Afflicted by Stress))
The terms ‘Stress’ and ‘Stress Management’ and ‘Stress Relief’ now receive up to 1million monthly searches on google. The most common causes of stress involve work pressure, lack of time, financial stress, children, health, relationships, and political climate.
Stress will make you feel anxious, it also causes you a number of physical health problems.
Given the potential impacts of prolonged stress, learning ways of managing, reducing, and preventing stress can be important tools for mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Here are 16 actions you can take to help anxiety caused by your stressful life:
1. Spend More Time Gardening
Researchers have shown that spending time in your garden will boost your mood and lower your stress and anxiety.((VeryWellMind: Gardening for Stress Relief)) By spending half an hour a week tending to plants or vegetables in your garden can reduce feelings of tension and fatigue, leaving people less prone to anger and depression.
When you’re feeling stressed and looking for something to get you out of bed in the morning, head to your garden and spend some time tending to your plants.
If you don’t have an outside garden think about creating a mini herb garden for your kitchen or balcony.
2. Take up Yoga
Yoga is great for improving flexibility and strengthening our core. But it is also fantastic for inducing feelings of calm and improving your heart health, if you do it regularly. By spending 15 minutes a day, you could reduce your blood pressure by as much as 10%.
In a recent study by Canadian researchers, they found that, among people being treated for high blood pressure, those who spent 15 minutes five time a week in quiet relaxation, saw no improvement to their condition.((Heart & Stroke: High blood pressure)) However, those who stretched for the same time experienced a 5% drop in blood pressure, and those who practiced deep breathing saw a 7% drop.
3. Celebrate Small Wins
When we pursue our goals and view our daily successes, we have two options:
Look at how far you’ve come, what you’ve achieved and celebrate success every day (Growth Mindset)
Look at how far away you are from the goals you have in life and feel more anxious and stressed because you haven’t achieved what you want (Gap Mindset)
With the Growth Mindset, you will always be making progress, your confidence and capabilities will grow every day.
Rather than worrying about doing everything perfectly and comparing yourself to others, a major source of stress and anxiety, you are focused on staying on the path and daily growth.
At the end of every day, write down 3 things that you achieved that day. It could be big or small. The point is that you made progress, even if it was just a little step.
4. Take up Meditation
Meditation can improve physical health, boost the immune systems and increase our ability to cope with stress.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says mindfulness meditation is perfect for reducing anxiety both short- and long-term:((Health Harvard Publishing: Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress))
“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power … You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that–a thought, and not a part of my core self.'”
Meditation can help improve our attention and concentration, improve our self-control and give us greater overall psychological well-being.
By meditating for just 10-15 minutes per day, it can help reduce stress hormone levels, increasing serotonin, and strengthening your ability to let go of thoughts that don’t serve you.
You can download a meditation app such as Headspace to help you, work with a meditation partner or just give it a go, and see how it helps you.
5. Just Breathe
A powerful way to stay centered and to counteract the physical effects of anxiety and stress is to focus on your breathing.
If your breathing becomes shallow and chest-centered, then breathing deeply or “belly breathing’ can help by lowering cortisol and signalling to your nervous system to rest.
Learn these 5 breathing exercises for anxiety to calm anxiety quickly.
6. Exercise Regularly
Maintaining a regular exercise plan can provide relief for many of the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Exercise can enhance our mood, increase energy levels, give us goals to focus on, improve motivation, challenge us and improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise allows our muscles to move, it encourages blood flow and gets us breathing a lot deeper.
Try any racket sport, going to the gym, HIIT training, boxing or more mind-body activities such as tai-chi or Pilates.
The point is to get your body moving and find an exercise activity that works for you. This may be doing something by yourself, in a room of people or part of a team. Pick something that fits you.
7. Detach Yourself from Work
Do you feel overcommitted at work? Do you struggle to switch off from work when you get home?
If you feel overwhelmed with time pressures at work and struggle to switch off when you get home, you are more likely to additional stress and anxiety.
It is essential to unplug daily and create healthy boundaries upon yourself that separate your work and home life.
Detaching yourself from work can be hard if your jobs are highly stressful, demanding and all consuming. But to ensure you are productive at work and fully present when you are at home, it’s crucial. It can help create less work fatigue and procrastination, build better work-life balance and improve mental health.
If you don’t detach from work, it’s much easier for you to be more distracted, burned-out and increase feelings of stress. Your sleep, happiness and general sense of wellbeing will also be affected.
8. Disconnect from Technology
When you make yourself available to everyone 24/7, you can expose yourself to numerous stressors.
Forcing yourself to take a break from technology can help. This includes taking a break from your phone and taking a break from email.
Technology enables constant communication and often the expectation that you are always available.
It is difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email or message can change your train of thought and get you thinking about work.
Constant notifications on your phone also don’t help. We take a look at what our friends and network are doing, often, because we don’t want to miss out. That fear of missing out can cause anxiety – what have I missed? It also creates a lot of stress when we start comparing our lives to those of others.
Create your own path and take a break from the technology.
9. Practice Daily Intentions
The art of practicing daily intentions can be a powerful way of managing and reducing stress. It can be as simple as stating what you want to happen that day or writing down at the start of each day what you feel grateful for.
I write down 3 things I’m grateful for as well as my weekly and 90 day goals. I share these with others to gather support and stay positive.
Gratitude brings together positive emotions like joy, contentment and hope and gives your mind a positive boost.
10. Declutter Your Home and Work Space
Excessive clutter can be a symptom and cause of stress and anxiety.
Your home and work environment can often be an external representation of what’s happening internally. It can overload your sense and your mind.
If something is cluttered, it’s very difficult to focus and it can feel like there are a million things to do, scattering your thoughts.
Clutter can distract, weigh you down and can create stress in your life. This clutter can also include the relationships that take up lots of time and energy, don’t really go anywhere and cause you more stress than joy.
So, start small and focus on different areas at a time. When I started decluttering, my first focus was my office and then I moved into my home.
Although it might feel worse before it gets better, committing to and taking small steps can pay big dividends.
11. Find Someone to Talk To
When there are lots of stresses and anxieties in your life, one of the best things you can do is reach out and talk with someone.
When you share your concerns or feelings with someone, it can help relieve some of the stress or anxiety you feel.
It starts with choosing someone you can trust, someone who gets you and can validate you.
So, call a trusted friend, family member, colleague or mentor and just talk.
You can also create a group of people going through similar feelings of stress or anxiety. Just like with a Mastermind group for business owners comes together to collaborate, learn and support each other, explore creating a similar group.
12. Read More
When was the last time you sat alone with a good book?
Reading is one of those activities that we do on our own and can help us escape from the daily stresses of life.
This could be a book to help you increase your wisdom, or learn something new, or a piece of fiction to transport you away from daily anxieties and stresses.
In addition to the learning benefits, reading also improves the connectivity between our brain cells, lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
13. Start Walking More
Have you ever taken a walk to clear your mind? Walking is something you should be doing every day. It boosts your mental and physical health and there are numerous studies out there that advises walking to remove stress and anxiety.
Walking also helps you think more clearly. During the day, you are inundated with information and it can be difficult to just get some time away to process our thoughts. Walking helps.
Some of my best ideas, for example, come from taking a simple 15-20-minute walk and letting my mind process everything that’s going on.
To amp up the benefits of walking, try visiting a forest or some woods and taking a nice long stroll through nature. This surrounding can calm the mind.
At the end of your walk, you could find somewhere with an inspiring view and just sit quietly for a few minutes. This gives you a real sense of perspective and can create a sense of awe, creating higher levels of oxytocin.
14. Start Journaling
Writing down positive emotions and thoughts can help to reduce stress and anxiety. This is one of the simplest techniques you can use for stress management, as you can assign a small amount of time to it, and it is hugely enjoyable.
Journaling can help you work through your anxious feelings as well as highlight the positive things that are happening in your life.
By spending just 5 minutes a day journaling, you can examine both anxious and positive thoughts. Write down how you’re feeling, and explore how you can change your mind-set around the things that are causing you to be stressed.
Journaling is also beneficial simply by giving you somewhere to get all of the thoughts from your mind down onto paper. A space to analyze, a place to ask questions and a place to empower.
Another good use for your journal is to express gratitude for what you have. Every day, write down three things you are grateful for. This could be a person, something that happened to you, your environment, anything.
The point is to focus on appreciation. Try doing this for 7 days to see if it creates more positive feelings.
15. Take up Knitting
This may seem a bit left field but stay with me. Knitting is actually really beneficial for a healthy mind and body. Taking up knitting as a hobby can reduce depression and anxiety, as well as slow down the onset of dementia.
According to Knit for Peace, a network of 15,000 knitters in the UK,((Independent: Knitting Can Reduce Anxiety, Depression, Chronic Pain and Slow Dementia, Research Reveals))
“There is an enormous amount of research showing that knitting has physical and mental health benefits, that slows the onset of dementia, combats depression and distracts from chronic pain.”
A 2007 study from Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute, found that knitting lowers heart rate, by an average of 11 beats per minute and creates an “enhanced state of calm” similar to yoga.((Prima: Knitting shown to lower blood pressure, tackle depression and help you cope with pain))
16. Get More Sleep
I’ve written before about the Benefits of Sleep and The Importance of Sleep Cycles on Productivity and Health. If you’re experiencing stress in your life, chances are that you might be struggling to fall or stay asleep at night.
Your anxious worry about life and its problems may keep your brain from settling down, and the disruption of sleep is likely to keep you feeling more on edge the next day.
Getting enough sleep and mood are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can cause irritability and stress.
Getting the right amount of sleep (7-8 hours) can enhance well-being and set you up for a purposeful, productive day.
The quality of our sleep directly affects the quality of our daily life and can affect mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, and physical vitality.
Start focusing on getting a better night’s sleep.
The Bottom Line
These 16 tips can help you reduce anxiety and stress. Some will work better than others, whilst others can be incorporated together into your daily life.
Try them. See which ones make a real difference in your business and life. If they work, share the knowledge with someone in a similar position.