Anyone who suffers from anxiety will tell you that it is a daily struggle. You have to deal with racing thoughts, a sense that everything is too much, and a myriad of physical side affects. And although it can be treated with medication, there are also daily habits that will ease your anxiety, which are refreshingly simple and effective.
You don't need me to tell you that the number of women suffering from anxiety is on the rise, because chances are, you or someone you know is dealing with some form of anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. That's 18 percent of the population, hitting women hardest. Women are twice as likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder than men, according to the ADAA. Additionally, women are twice as likely to suffer from panic disorder than men.
But, what causes anxiety? It's a good question, and there are a lot of theories, especially as to why women today are so affected by it. The ADAA counts genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events as major indicators of anxiety. However, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that millennials report more stress than any other generation. One theory as to why this is, according to Psychology Today, has to do with the myriad of choices millennials face, coupled with higher work, family, and financial expectations.
If you think anecdotally about it, you're probably dealing with more options and expectations than your mother was, right? Though that's awesome, with opportunity comes stress and anxiety about not being able to live up to expectations. And although treatment for anxiety is readily available in the form of pharmaceuticals, (the ADAA reported that anxiety disorders cost the United States more than $42 billion a year in health care) there are also some easy daily habits you can try to alleviate anxiety. The following are not meant to be a substitute for a physician's care, but are worth trying because of how simple they can be for immediate relaxation.
1. Take Deep Breaths
According to Psych Central, deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you calm down. Changing your breath patterns can quickly send messages to the brain that control physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses. In a quick paced world, don't forget to take time to breathe. And deeply.
2. Paint A Picture
Shape reported that certain colors can help improve your mood, like blue, which has a calming effect. But paint color isn't the only thing that can reduce anxiety. The act of painting has a therapeutic effect, noted a study published in Art Therapy Journal. So, why not pick up a paintbrush? It's an easy and fun habit to rid yourself anxiety. Come on, and paint some happy trees.
3. Journal Your Thoughts
The Huffington Post reported that journaling helps bring you into a state of mindfulness. By writing down your thoughts and emotions, past frustrations and anxieties lose their "edge." Plus, you gain a sense of control over thoughts that might consume you.
4. Practice Yoga
It's no secret that a daily habit of yoga can reduce stress, tension, and anxiety, noted another article in the Huffington Post. There are even specific poses intended to boost relaxation and calm the mind.
5. Do Some Aerobic Exercise
The AADA recommended aerobic exercise to reduce anxiety. And you don't have to go crazy at the gym; all you need is five minutes of aerobic exercise to jumpstart the anxiety-reducing effects of exercise. Exercise specifically targets tension, can elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. How's that for motivation?
Singing can change your brain, as noted in Time. In fact, group singing can decrease stress, relieve anxiety, and elevate endorphins. You don't have to have Adele's vocals to belt it out.
Prevention reported that easy stretching can relieve anxiety that's stored up in your muscles. So, make a daily habit of unraveling your sore spots, and don't forget to breathe (see list item number one).
8. Apply Make-Up
OK, hear me out. The idea here is not to cover up your so-called imperfections. You're just as gorgeous bare-faced as you are with winged eyeliner. But the ritual of putting on make-up helps you practice mindfulness, which according to Mindful.org does not just mean sitting around and meditating.
9. Play With Puppies
The Today Show's website reported that playing with animals relieves stress. And puppies, well, need I say more? Just look at all that furry cuteness.
10. Talk To A Therapist
According to Live Science, talk therapy may be more effective in reducing anxiety than drugs. If you can afford daily trips to the shrink, good for you. But if you can't, which is probably more likely the case, find a trusted confidante who is good at listening for a 50-minute hour.
11. Walk Outside
According to Mayo Clinic, walking outside can boost your mood and help you feel less anxious. Walking is another way to practice mindfulness, especially if you take the time to feel the wind in you hair.
12. Play With A Feline Friend
Puppies aren't the only furry friends that can help you relieve anxiety (see list item number nine). Play with a cat; do it for John Stone.
13. Dance Like No One's Watching
The American Dance Therapy Association touts the psychotherapeutic use of movement to make you feel better. When you dance like no one's watching, you can let go of the idea that people are judging you and bust a move.
14. Practice Self-Massage
Acupressure massage can also relieve anxiety, according to WebMD. This type of deep tissue work keeps you in the moment in addition to its health benefits. But you don't have to pay, or even leave the house for this type of massage. You can do it to yourself by locating points on your body that are associated with stress, (like your foot). Then apply pressure.
The Huffington Post reported that decluttering your physical space on a daily basis can help reduce the clutter in your mind that's making you anxious. Plus, for some, cleaning can be an aerobic exercise (see item number five).
The Wall Street Journal reported that cooking is linked to improved mental health, but this daily habit also helps you feed more than your soul. Even if you're cooking for one, you can reap the rewards of this daily habit. Yum.
17. Express Gratitude
The United States National Library of Medicine reported a positive relationship between gratitude and anxiety. Being thankful for what you have helps you let go of thinking about all the things you don't have, right?
18. Smell The Roses (Or Something Fragrant)
Therapist and social worker La Shawn M. Paul told Huffington Post that aromatherapy can trigger happy emotions. Paul noted that scents associated with nature (like flowers or essential oils made from floral notes) remind you of the large natural world around you. This can help make you feel less paralyzed by anxiety.
19. Create A Vision Board
According to Oprah, a vision board can change your life. Not only does the hands-on activity let you be creative for an afternoon, when you're done, you have a tangible product of your goals and aspirations. Think about how awesome your life will be if you create a vision board every day.
20. Take A Cat Nap
According to the organization Healthy Sleep, if you're not getting proper rest, your body will feel anxious. Although you might rattle off to a friend that there aren't enough hours in a day to do everything you need to do, you can make time for a daily 20 minute nap, (which according to WebMD is the ideal time to power nap) especially if a said snooze will calm you down.
Maybe you're smiling to help you fake it 'til you make it. Or maybe you're smiling because according to the United States National Library of Medicine smiling can reduce anxiety, and help you realize that life isn't as stressful as you think.