Take control of racing thoughts and your spinning mind with these natural strategies for reducing anxiety.
Occasional anxiety and nagging feelings of worry are a normal part of everyday life. In fact, about 18% of adults in the U.S. will experience anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Though you can’t always control what happens, you can learn to control your reactions. Read on for strategies to ease your mind and body, and prevent letting fears and anxiety get the best of you.
According to Lina D’Orazio, PhD, an assistant professor of clinical neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, breathing is half the battle.
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“One of the most reliable methods to turn down the volume on physiological arousal associated with anxiety is deep breathing,” D’Orazio says. “When we’re anxious, the sympathetic nervous system in charge of getting our bodies ready for fight/flight/freeze kicks in, even if the trigger of your anxiety isn’t life-threatening.”
D’Orazio, who also is a psychologist at Keck Medicine of USC, recommends the yogic “four-seven-eight” breathing technique, in which you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and then slowly exhale for eight seconds. She says this directly triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, “which allows the body to reset and recover. Your heart rate slows down, muscle tension subsides and the brain’s frontal lobes reactivate. These physiological changes can help the brain register that it’s safe to relax.”
Enjoy the great outdoors.
Walking outdoors in nature for 20 minutes, according to one study, may reduce stress hormones. Exposure to the sun also helps boost your vitamin D levels, which is important because vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to depression.
Examine your caffeine intake.
Get out and see friends.
Going to dinner with your friends or doing an activity like getting your nails done or watching a football game together may help reduce stress levels, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Consider seeking help.
If your anxiety still isn’t under control even with strong self-care practices or it lasts for weeks, it may be time to seek out help from a medical professional.
by Anne Fritz