These days, feeling anxious can seem like the norm. That’s to be expected, considering that our lives were turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But here’s the catch: reducing anxiety isn’t just about negating the short term effects (like elevated blood pressure). It’s also about taking care of your long-term mental health so that you can live your best life.
While there’s no substitute for professional medical advice, there are some everyday stress relief techniques that can help you manage your anxiety. If you feel like stress has been weighing you down, here are some tips and tools to learn how to manage anxiety and stress.
What Causes Anxiety?
The short answer to this question is this: your brain. And it all begins in the amygdala. This portion of your brain sends distress signals to your hypothalamus.
Once those signals are received, your body goes into the infamous ‘fight or flight mode’. As your hormones prepare your body for survival, you might start to feel the common symptoms of anxiety: increased perspiration, elevated heart rate, and increased alertness.
But you can’t blame it all on the amygdala. There’s also an increasing amount of data that suggest a link between the cerebellum and stress. There have been a growing number of scientific studies that demonstrate that your cerebellum might play more of a role in anxiety disorders than we originally thought.
In addition to its role of helping regulate movement and balance, the cerebellum also plays a role in processing stressful and traumatic memories. When the brain struggles to process, accept, and file these memories, then can cause recurring anxiety.
Remember that anxiety-inducing factors vary from person to person. While the thought of running a mile might stress you out, for others, that might be their preferred way to manage their anxiety.
Here’s How Stress & Anxiety Affect Your Body
In the long run, it’s important to learn how to manage anxiety because it can wreak havoc on your body.
When you’re stressed and anxious, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. There is a time and place for cortisol. But you probably don’t need it to survive on a daily basis.
Long-term anxiety can cause respiratory system issues. When your anxiety kicks in, you might notice that your breathing becomes more rapid – but also more shallow. This can lead to an excess of carbon dioxide buildup in your body because you aren’t exhaling as deeply as you are inhaling.
As a result, you might experience dizziness, tingling extremities, and even loss of consciousness as the blood flow to the brain is restricted. For those who struggle with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions (like COPD), this kind of anxiety can lead to hospitalizations.
Stress and anxiety can also mess with your gut. Ever had those pre-event butterflies that make your stomach feel like it’s turning upside down? Yeah, we feel ya. That’s because anxiety can lead to chronic digestive problems like cramping, diarrhoea, IBS, and even vomiting.
Anxiety can wear your body down. It’s exhausting work being in that constant fight or flight state And that can really do a number on your immune system. You might experience more frequent (or severe) illnesses when you’re chronically stressed. Plus, all those stress hormones can interfere and reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations.
For fitness enthusiasts, anxiety can also lead to increased muscle tension, chronic pain, and even weight gain. When your amygdala prepares your body for survival, it’s natural for your muscles to tense up in preparation for battle. This tension can leave you feeling cramped, stiff, and sore all over. And that extra dose of cortisol can also influence your cravings for unhealthy foods.
Everyday Tips & Tools to Manage Anxiety
The key to learning how to manage anxiety is getting to know your personal factors. It can take a higher level of awareness and mindfulness to put a pin on exactly what causes your anxiety. But once you do, you’ll be able to more easily identify it and respond to address your anxiety.
Anxiety Action Plan
The easiest way to combat anxiety without medication is to start by setting up an anxiety action plan. We’re all about staying realistic – and it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll never have to deal with anxiety. It’s time to accept that stress and anxiety are a part of normal adult life.
An anxiety action plan is a healthy coping mechanism that can help you offset anxiety. Your action plan should include the following steps:
- Identify the triggers
- Call them out
- Propose solutions
- Remind yourself of your strengths
- Show yourself grace and kindness
You can find a more detailed example of an anxiety action plan here.
20 Minute Meditation to Reduce Stress
Meditation is a quick and easy natural way to improve mood and energy. This is one of the best tools to help with anxiety because it doesn’t require any fancy equipment. Plus you can easily teach yourself and it can be done anywhere!
Meditation is kinda like 20 or 30 minute therapy for anxiety. It helps focus your mind and reduce the stream of loud thoughts and emotions. Meditation isn’t necessarily about forgetting about what’s worrying you; it’s about learning to manage your thoughts and feelings so that they don’t override your day.
If you’re new to meditation, it’s easy to get started. Check out our guide to meditation for beginners here.
Self Calming Statements to Manage Stress
If you’re having a bad day with anxiety, you can use self-calming statements to help bring you back to the present moment. Mood management activities, like self-calming statements (or affirmations), can help keep your amygdala in check.
Whether you’re dealing with a rough day at work or a long night at home, you can use some of these self-calming statements to reduce stress and anxiety:
- It’s okay to be upset
- I can take the time to feel the way I need to feel right now
- It’s not my job to control everything
- I’m doing the best that I can
- Nobody expects me to keep it together all the time
- I’m human – not a superhero
Relieve Nervous Energy with Feel Better Fitness
“Exercise is the best therapy” – sound familiar? While it might sound cliche, it’s true. Exercise can be one of the best behavioral strategies for stress and anxiety. That quick morning routine can be enough to take your mind off what’s stressing you out.
That’s because exercise has a neurochemical effect on your body with a direct relationship between your cortisol levels and working out. As you sweat it out, your blow flow increases and your stress hormones go down.
Conclusion: Learn How to Manage Anxiety to Stay Healthy and Happy
There are countless benefits to reducing stress and anxiety. While you might use your adrenal gland to keep yourself motivated through that high-intensity workout, there’s a dramatic anxiety reduction following exercise and meditation. You can easily reduce your stress levels with meditation, affirmations, an anxiety action plan, and a quick morning exercise for anxiety.
Workout is our therapy. Ready to give it a shot? Grab your high-performance activewear then keep calm and go workout for natural anxiety and stress relief.