The thing is, you don’t have to sit and wait for it to pass. You don’t have to stew in your anxiety for long. Perhaps, the issue that triggered your anxiety isn’t getting resolved right away, but your uncomfortable feelings can be eased in only minutes with these proven tips.*
1. Breathe: This one may seem cliché, but regardless it’s scientifically proven to work! There are so many different ways to breathe to reduce anxiety. One of my favorites is the simple 1:2 breath. This means that your exhale needs to be double the length of your inhale, signaling to your central nervous system that you are safe and can relax. At a minimum try to get 3 counts on your inhale and 6 counts on your exhale. While sitting tall in your spine, keep this rhythm going for 2 minutes, counting it out mentally.
2. Take a hot bath: A soothing hot bath raises your body heat, which has been shown to regulate mood and anxiety. For a bigger benefit, stir in Epsom salts – which contain magnesium sulfate proven to calm anxiety and lower blood pressure.
3. Walk: Walking gets both sides of your brain working and the movement helps to increase blood flow, decreasing stress. You get double points if you walk in nature, as it’s been proven that even just looking at trees, plants and flowers lowers your heart rate (wacky, but true!).
4. Practice Gratitude: Set a timer for 2 minutes. Either write down or close your eyes and think about all the things you are grateful for in your life. You’ll get perspective and feel better right away. Long term benefits of practicing gratitude was shown to increase a positive feedback loop in your brain making you feel happier more easily, even in the midst of stressful circumstances.
5. Sniff a lemon: It’s that simple. Grab a lemon or some pure lemon oil and inhale. Exposure to pure lemon scent is shown to improve brain function and improve mood.
6. Power pose: It only takes only 2 minutes to increase your confidence (testosterone) and decrease your stress (cortisol) by power posing. What is power posing, you may wonder? Stand up and make your body big, taking up as much space as possible. Think: Champion of World – arms raised up in victory, feet wide apart, chest open, chin held high. It works even if you don’t believe in it.
7. Fake laugh: You may not be in the mood to laugh, but start with a fake “ha ha ha” and keep it going for a minute to get a nice hit of dopamine (the happiness hormone). Be careful, you might realize how silly feels and your fake laugh might turn into a real one!
8. Dance: Turn up the volume on a song that makes you want to move your body. Make big movements, smile (even if you’re faking it), let loose…and notice your mood shifting by the end of the song. Changing the shape of your body and moving helps with changing your mood. This is one fun way to do it!
9. Chamomile tea: Chamomile tea may help to calm you down. Some of the compounds found in chamomile bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium. And, drinking tea forces you to slow down, which helps with getting present and being more mindful – which is proven to help with stress relief.
10. Thank someone: Send an email or snail-mail a thank you card to someone who has made a difference in your life. When you’re in your anxiety, it can be tough to get out of your own head and to connect with others — and it’s not uncommon to isolate. Try reaching outside of yourself and showing gratitude toward someone else to help reduce your anxiety. It feels really good and redirects the focus from you to someone else (bonus: it makes someone else’s day a great one!).
11. Name your feelings: In moments of high stress, it can be hard to pause and check-in with you’re actually experiencing. Proven by brain scans, the act of labeling your feelings in simple terms (ie: sad, angry, frustrated) vs. denying or avoiding uncomfortable feelings, reduces the impact of stress on your body.
12. Head below your heart: Fold forward over your legs (from your hips) for 30-seconds to 1 minute. This can be done from a standing position or even while sitting in a chair. Literally and figuratively, this shape turns your frown upside-down (among offering so many other wonderful benefits). It’s quick, simple, and feels great for your mind and body!
13. Pamper yourself: Treat yourself to something that makes you feel good. Maybe it’s a dessert you like, a hobby you haven’t done lately, a sport you enjoy, something creative, getting a massage (human touch is proven to reduce anxiety as well!), or something else. Whatever it is, do it with your whole heart and your full presence to reduce anxiety.
*Just to be clear, if you suffer from on-going anxiety, you may want to consider more in-depth treatment, such as therapy or MindBodyWise™ therapy. These tips are to help support you in the moment, but are not long-term cures.