6 Healthy Ways to Self-Soothe Anxiety
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or you’re going through a temporary rough patch, anxiety can be absolutely debilitating. Interacting with others becomes an annoying, sweaty, shaky-handed hell. You might have trouble making eye contact, you overthink every word, your throat constricts, you can’t breathe, your ears are ringing and you are terrified you’re coming off as unfriendly or “weird.” And most of the time you actually are – and you’re aware of it, which of course makes it worse. You’re jumpy, you worry constantly and it’s difficult to sleep. As someone who has lived with ongoing anxiety for over a decade, I’ve learned a few handy tricks for soothing it.
1. Take a shower.
This is by far the most effective method I’ve experienced. Water is soothing, and is proven to lower blood pressure. Anything that alters your physical state will help you deal with the symptoms of anxiety. Emotions are experienced physically, so if you calm your body, you’ll calm your mind.
2. Do cardio.
In 2016, the New York Times published an article that quoted a physiological study done on the effects of exercise in lab rats by the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. According to researchers, aerobic exercise assists in the generation of new brain cells. So basically, when you work out, not only are you increasing your level of endorphins, reducing stress and improving your health, but you’re actually creating new brain cells. (Bikram yoga has been shown to have significant benefits for the mind and body as well. The inevitable crying will be worth it, I promise.)
If you can’t let your thoughts go, get them out of yourself. Pinpoint your triggers. Describe them in as much detail as you can, make sense of them and then read them over until they no longer make you panic. (It was recommended to me at least once a day… and it worked.) Your triggers will lose their potency and you’ll eventually find you’re no longer affected by them or other similar occurrences as intensely.
When your own thoughts are too much, filling your head with the thoughts of others can be a useful way to start thinking about other things. Not only will it increase your ability to express yourself more precisely, but you’ll be mentally stimulated, which will take your mind off the destructive gibberish that’s buzzing on repeat in your brain.
5. Go outside for a reason.
When you have anxiety, social interaction can seem like a scary chore. The problem is that the more you isolate yourself, the more difficult it becomes to engage with others. The best way for people with social anxiety to get through this is to engage with others through having a common goal. If you’re in a class or volunteering, for instance, you’ll have a way to meet new people in a context that isn’t entirely focused on you. Interaction will become a tool instead of a goal. Human connections are as important to physical health as they are to emotional health. They improve your immune system, have been shown to guard against weight gain, and keep blood pressure low, just to name a few benefits. The only way out is through.
6. Do what you love.
Many people struggle to find their purpose regardless of whether they struggle emotionally or not. The way to do this is to follow your instincts. If you learn to identify your emotions, you’ll become more knowledgeable of their causes, which will, in turn, allow you to become more in tune with yourself. Once you do this, you’ll be able to get a clearer idea of what you love to do, which will be likely to set off a string of positive events. If you’re happy with what you’re doing, you’ll be too focused on it to get hung up on what would normally bother you. You’ll also be likely to attract people who love the same things, which might end up being one of the most healing things you’ll ever have.
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Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash