According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect roughly 40 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. While anxiety disorders are highly treatable, sadly only 36.9% of those with anxiety seek therapy to reduce anxiety. Perhaps this is because of busy schedules or people struggling to find a therapist that causes so many people with anxiety to suffer in silence
But there are proven strategies to reduce anxiety that don’t cost a penny and take little time. In fact, you could do any of the following strategies on your lunch or coffee break.
Here are 4 ways to reduce anxiety
1. Breathe deeply
According to a study published by The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 30% of people who go to the ER with complaints of chest pain and no evidence of coronary artery disease are actually suffering from a panic attack. Why is this so common?
When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to take short, shallow breaths. This can cause dizziness and hyperventilation. Slow, deep breathing is a powerful way to gain control over your breath and reaction to a panic or anxiety attack. Studies show taking slow, deep, breaths soothes our nervous system and increases brain activity. You almost immediately feel a sense of calm settle over you.
Take a slow, deep inhalation through your nose for 4-5 seconds so your belly expands like a balloon. Then slowly exhale through your mouth for 10-15 seconds. When doing this breathing exercise, the length of time you are exhaling should be 2-3 times longer than when you inhale. The key to this (and all breathing exercises) is S L O W!
This may take some getting used to, but it is a super powerful exercise to immediately activate the relaxation response in the brain and calm you down.
2. Listening meditation
One way to get your mind to settle down is practicing a mindful meditation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to do a listening meditation – which is exactly what it sounds like.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed and begin to listen to the ambient sounds around you. What do you hear? Buzzing lights? A fan? Someone coughing? Birds? Traffic? A lawnmower?
Be aware of all of the sounds around you and try to expand that awareness to hear as much as possible. After a minute you will begin to notice more and more sounds that weren’t first available to you. This form of meditation can be fun and very effective because you cannot possibly listen, truly listen, and think at the same time.
3. Take a walk
Nervous energy tends to build up in people who struggle with anxiety – and it needs to go somewhere. Taking a 15 minute walk around the block or the parking lot at your office is a great way to get rid of this energy.
Even better is to do it while breathing deeply. As a bonus, your body releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins when you exercise that get your heart rate up. An extra bonus is fresh air, and hopefully sunshine. ????
4. Don’t drink coffee
Yep, you read that right. Don’t drink coffee on your coffee break – or soda – or energy drinks. Caffeine and sugar exacerbate anxiety by making you feel jittery and nervous. They interfere with your ability to focus and concentrate and increase irritability. Stick with water or some flavored seltzer water.
Anxiety doesn’t have to ruin your day or your life. Give these strategies a try and if they don’t work, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you change your relationship with your anxiety so you can get back to enjoying your life.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.