If you’re suffering from anxiety, it can be hard to leave the house and face the world. Especially a world full of stress; work stress, traffic stress and sometimes unexpected stress from strangers or situations we can’t control. Like the stranger who had a meltdown on me at the train station the other day! She was clearly stressed out and managed to dump it on me. Ugh.
If you’re feeling anxious and stressed out, going out and facing the world may seem like getting on a stair-stepper or treadmill. Of stress-iness.
I’ve been looking into some simple ways you can manage anxiety and stress before you leave the house. If we step out the door feeling chilled out and calm then the rest of the commute and day should flow easily. At least that’s the plan!
3 Steps to Relieve Stress and Anxiety Naturally
Let’s start with exercises that are easy to do at home with little or no extra equipment
1. Calming Exercises to Do at Home:
When you exercise your body releases good hormones like endorphins. These are the hormones which help relieve stress. Some exercise can also lower the stress hormone cortisol.
Exercise helps us to get out of our heads and focus on our body. Instead of thinking and stressing we’re relaxing and stretching our body. This helps our brain to relax and chill.
Regular exercise is the key to reducing stress and anxiety. A regular routine of walking or yoga helps you sleep better, lowers your stress hormones and makes you feel more confident in your body.
Exercise can also help calm your heart rate.
Choose exercise that’s NOT high intensity such as Crossfit or running. These high energy workouts may increase your cortisol levels. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not if you’re already feeling stressed. You’ll know it’s not right for you if a workout makes you feel wiped out afterwards.
Instead choose exercise with gentle movement such as yoga, pilates, swimming or slow walking to calm your stress levels.
Yoga helps you get out of your head and reduce the anxiety you find there. By focusing on gentle repetitive movements and your breath, your body and mind become one. Anxious thoughts and patterns get calmed down. Stay away from power or hot yoga and practice beginner or gentle yoga instead. Studies show yoga can work like a natural anti-depressant!
Similar to yoga, tai chi combines gentle flowing body movements with controlled breathing. Although it’s roots are in martial arts, think less Karate Kid and more Eat, Pray Love. The exercises are meant to calm your body and mind. Tai chi can have other benefits too. Lower blood pressure and easing arthritic and fibromyalgia symptoms are a few.
STATIONARY BIKE OR TREADMILL
Cycling and walking are good aerobic exercises that give you that endorphin rush without any side effects. Be careful not to overdo it. The idea is to work up a little bit of a sweat, get into a zone and blow off some stress. Try not to be competitive with yourself. Simply go with your natural rhythm and keep a consistent routine of stepping on the treadmill or bike.
If you have a pool or access to one where you live, swimming is a perfect aerobic exercise. It’ll help you lower your stress, stay tuned to your body and practice your breathing. Swimming in cold water also helps release those good hormone endorphins.
How long before exercise helps anxiety?
If you keep a regular habit of exercising 3-5 times a week, you’ll start to notice the results of less anxiety and stress. You should start feeling better after your first workout. Be patient with yourself and commit to a regular habit of gentle exercise.
Besides exercise what are some other habits to create at home that will help anxiety?
One of the most effective ways to deal with anxiety is to regain a sense of control.
2. Calming Anti-Anxiety Habits to Start at Home:
Creating a habit you do every day or on a rotating schedule such as a Monday, Wednesday and Friday will help you feel in control of your world. A habit gives you structure and meaning. It also lays down a pathway of accomplishment and achievement.
Change How You Eat
Our bodies are connected to our minds. If we put too much sugar or caffeine into our body, then it’s going to have a hard time calming down. Especially if our mind is also racing with stressful thoughts. Think of your body and your thoughts as one. One affects the other.
If you eat too much junk food, sugar or caffeine drinks at home then it’s like putting your foot on the gas while you’re in park.
Make a habit of not bringing home sugary treats, sodas or high energy drinks. Think of home as a place to unwind and detox from everything that isn’t healthy for you.
Change What You Drink
You know I’m going to say it. Coffee and alcohol. Off the list. If you really want to tame your anxiety you need to try and wean yourself off these two. Have a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, but not an endless series of refills. Caffeine jitters are the last thing you need.
Same with alcohol. Can you stop at one glass of wine or a beer? If so you may be fine.
You can argue that studies have shown drinking coffee and alcohol in moderation can actually be beneficial.
But if you’re suffering from anxiety, you’ll want to remove anything that triggers it. Both coffee and alcohol can set up dependencies and mess with your chemistry. They can also mess with your sleep, which is 100% necessary for calming your stress.
Change How You Sleep
I’ve talked about how to get a good nights sleep. Because the fact is without 7-8 hours of sleep, our anxiety can run loose. The catch is that anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep all night long, right?
Poor sleep not only makes it hard to concentrate the next day, it can act like a depressant. When you’re tired the world looks a little more challenging. It can be harder to cope with stress and anxious thoughts.
The best way to get a better nights sleep is to start working on controlling your thoughts about it.
Here’s how to use your thoughts to calm anxiety
3. How to Change and Calm Your Thoughts
Change what you think and you’ll conquer your anxiety. Home is a great place to practice being mindful. Let’s face it, once we’re out in the world, at work or school it’s easy to get sucked into other people’s heads. We can lose our ability to stay focused on our well being.
Here’s three calming practices to try:
First Step: Breathing
Your breath is a super powerful way to relax. When we get freaked out, we start taking short shallow breaths and pretty soon our body is saying WTF just happened? It’s like a ping pong game. Our body is getting the signal things aren’t cool (our breathing is out of control) and then our thoughts start freaking out. Stress starts bouncing back and forth between our body and our thoughts.
When you can stop, slow down, stay in one place and breathe deeply you’re telling your body everything is fine.
When your body knows it’s OK to relax, it sends out a bunch of chemicals to calm it down. Which is exactly what you want.
When you intentionally start breathing slowly and deeply, you’re in control of your body and your head. You’re giving your brain and your body the oxygen and the cues that everything’s OK.
Next Step: Space
Now that you’re breathing is relaxed, you can pay attention to what your head is doing. This is when you get the double boost that happens with meditation.
As my first yoga teacher said. Focus on the space between thoughts. In other words, nothing. Focus on space.
Each time your mind wants to wander and start stressing, you just go uh uh not now. Let’s go back to space.
This takes practice. It’s not going to happen right away. Be patient with yourself.
Start with practicing this for 5 minutes and gradually build up to 15-30 minutes at a time.
Find a place in your home or wherever you can find a quiet space and practice daily.
OK this is the most important part. When you slow down your breathing and take a break from stressful thinking, you’re giving yourself love.
You’re taking care of you.
That’s pretty powerful because anxiety can make you feel you’re not being taken care of.
But hey you get to be in control of this.
Each time your mind starts to wander, tell yourself those anxious scary thoughts aren’t real. Remember you’re taking care of this.
Remind yourself that they’re just thoughts. Not real. Thoughts are only real if you choose to believe them.
Think of your anxious thoughts as clouds. Yes they’re up there but hey wait a minute now it’s gone. Was that real?
What about when you look at a cloud and you see a shape of something. Is that real? Only in your imagination right?
The more you practice breathing, space and love, the easier it will become. You’re in control. Believe the good thoughts and let the scary anxious ones float away.
If you can make this a habit to do every day, just 5 minutes or 30, you’ll see a difference.
OK let’s wrap it up.
Change Habits to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
If your habit of having no breakfast and three expressos before noon isn’t helping, how can you change that? What could you eat or drink instead to help your body and mind calm down.
If you’re like me, you have great intentions and then forget to do something about them.
Find a date book calendar and write down some of the different habits you want to create. Start with Sunday and just write yourself a note as a reminder for the week.
“Buy some breakfast bars and regular coffee. Have one cup at home and only buy one latte per day”
“Practice breathing for 10 minutes every morning before I shower”
Writing something down is a powerful tool. Tech is great, but we don’t get the same result from an online calendar or note. It’s too easy to ignore it.
But when you write something down on a calendar you see every day, it’ll make a difference.
You’re doing something positive to help calm your anxiety.
You make yourself accountable by creating positive habits.
This is how you control anxiety and stress. You focus on the little things you can change and then you follow through.
Soothing exercise, mindful eating and drinking that support your body. You got this.
This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.