Anxiety. What is it good for? Well, in our ancient days, “anxiety” was a useful chemical reaction that helped spur us to make decisions, like to fight back or run away. Our fight or flight syndrome could send us a surge of adrenaline in case we needed to protect ourselves.
Nowadays, however, we aren’t faced with nearly the same amount of physical threats to our person. The threats we are faced with are more complex and long term and come in the form of work, relationships, personal health, and finances. Unfortunately, we can’t exactly fight or run away from these problems.
We can’t turn off mother nature, but we can work to minimize some of the negative side effects that come with anxiety. A healthy amount of anxiety now and then is not so bad since it can motivate us to make decisions and solve problems, but too much can wind up really hurting us. Anxiety left untreated or unresolved can develop into a full blown disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression.
The worst case scenario is developing some type of long term or chronic anxiety and choosing to treat it by self medicating with drugs and alcohol. Learning to rely on a short term solution for a long term problem will only serve to hurt you in the long run. Instead of relying on prescription medication, illicit substances, or alcohol, you will need to learn healthy, natural techniques that can bring you daily relief without any negative side effects.
Deep breathing is perhaps the simplest and most effective way to de-stress. Studies show that daily breathing exercises reduce blood pressure and induce feelings of calmness. Here’s a quick deep breathing exercise you can do at work, at home, in the car, or anywhere:
- Sit down with your chest up and out.
- Inhale slowly through the nostrils and hold for seven seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth and expel all the air from your lungs for eight seconds.
- Repeat four to five times.
You can also close your eyes during this exercise to help sharpen focus and reduce anxiety even further.
Meditation, similar to deep breathing, is a simple yet effective tool that can be used almost anywhere to help you de-stress. Studies show that regular meditation can help you better regulate emotions and react in a more calm and thoughtful manner. There are plenty of resources you look up online to see what different techniques are available, but generally you will be following the same principles: Find a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes, and focus on something simple such as breathing or relaxing music.
Numerous studies have pointed out the positive benefits of exercise as it pertains to mental and physical health. In fact, exercise may be a pivotal component for the treatment of anxiety and depression. It can elevate mood, reduce stress, improve sleep, and improve overall physical well being.
Some important things to keep in mind while pursuing an exercise routine are to make sure that you adhere to some sort of regularity or schedule, that you are doing the exercises properly, and that you are elevating your heart rate for the extent of the exercise.
If you want to know more about the most up-to-date exercise guidelines for Americans, check out the Home of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s guide to physical activity.
Before turning to the temporary relief you may find in prescription medication, illicit drugs, or alcohol, strongly consider trying one of these free, proven methods for relieving stress and curbing anxiety.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a growing chain of drug and alcohol rehab centers in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and has worked in the healthcare industry ever since, creating a holistic treatment model that supports patients in the pursuit of achieving lifelong sobriety.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.