Anxiety is another way of saying excessive worry about future events. Worrying is literally one of the worst things you can do to yourself because it doesn't help anything and only makes you feel worse. Those anxious thoughts are not only causing stress on your mind, but also causes a stress response throughout your entire body - not good!
Below are 10 quick and easy ways to stop anxious thoughts right now:
1. Take deep breaths
Yes, this is super simple, and that's the point! Stop thinking, just take a few very deep breaths and focus on your breathing for a minute or two. This focus on your breath allows your mind to focus on something other than your anxious thoughts, even if for just a couple minutes, can be greatly beneficial and make you feel less stressed going forward. Try it anywhere!
2. Take a walk
This is a great one for work, when you have been sitting all day and need to stretch your legs anyway. Walking just ten minutes gets the blood flowing and releases feel good hormones and decreases stress hormones. Get up and go for a walk now or take a walk at lunch time rather than just sitting at your desk.
3. Take a workout class
Go to a workout class at your gym or watch a video on YouTube or DVD. This way your mind is actively engaged in the workout rather than whatever you are stressed about. I don't advise running or some other type of steady-state cardio because sometimes this causes you to think too much - I know that's true for myself! Being told what to do in a class makes you focus on the workout and not on your thoughts. Working out also increases the feel good hormones and suppresses stress hormones, increasing focus and mental clarity.
This goes along with deep breathing, but if you find yourself unable to focus on your breath, try a guided meditation which tells you what to do! Anytime of day works great for this, but most individuals will find the morning or right before bed to be the best time. Again, this does not have to be long, taking just 5 minutes to meditate really helps to reduce stress.
5. Watch mindless television
When you don't want to think, mindless TV (aka all reality shows) can be great. Instead of thinking about your own stressors, watch someone else's! Not only will it get your mind off your own anxious thoughts, but might also make you think of your stress as not such a big deal compared to some of the stressful situations we see in the silly TV shows.
6. Avoid the news
Of course it's great to be informed about the world, however, the news can be extremely depressing more often than not. You are not helping anyone, including yourself, following every news story out there, all it does is cause more stress and worry that may not even directly affect you.
7. Avoid caffeine
Coffee has many awesome health benefits, however, stress relief is definitely not one of them. Avoid caffeine if you are super stressed, because when your brain is already bouncing off the walls with thoughts, caffeine is just adding fuel to that fire. Caffeine is highly stimulatory which is great for certain situations, but not for when you are stressed out.
8. Avoid sugar
When you are stressed, the last thing you need is a roller coaster blood sugar level. When you eat sugar, it raises your blood sugar which gives you a short bout of energy, but then your blood sugar quickly shoots back down even lower than with what you started with. When you get super low blood sugar, that's when the dreaded hypoglycemia kicks in which physically causes a stress response in your body. That stress response presents itself as restlessness, jitteriness, MORE anxiousness, sweating, feelings of anger and hunger. So what do you do to calm this stress response fast? You eat sugar, and yes you will feel immediately better, however, the cycle above continues. Instead of sugary foods, reach for protein and healthy fats that keep your blood sugar nice and stable to prevent the dip in blood sugar.
9. Make a list
Physically use a pen and paper and write down things you need to do rather than making a mental list. The act of putting your thoughts onto paper helps to get those thoughts out of your brain and helps you to stop thinking over and over of all the things you need to do. If you are keeping your list of things to do in your head, this means you are going to have to constantly remind yourself of each and every one of them.
10. Take Action
Ok great, you made your list, now take action! Procrastination is one of the greatest causes for stress and anxiety, the longer you wait to do something means the longer you have to think about the thing you don't want to do. If you are dreading making a call, or dreading a presentation and keep putting it off, the best and only way to relieve that stress is to get it done. Tackle your to-do list now and feeling amazing after.
Try one or more of the above today! Your mind will thank you, I promise.