By Alexandra Sunberg
Anxiety, panic, and stress can be crippling, and it doesn’t always happen at the most convenient of times. When you’re anxious, you are not able to function at your healthiest or happiest, and can cause you to spiral down even more.
Obviously, you can’t eliminate stress entirely, but you can minimize the ways it affects your life. Here are some tips to help you start, especially when you’re out and about.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is basically being aware of your body and being fully present in the moment. It is very calming and can be done anywhere. All you need is space to breathe, and maybe some quiet. Take in a deep breath through your nose and concentrate on the way the air moves through your body. Think about how your stomach moves, where the breath goes, and let it out. Repeat.
Body scans are another way to calm yourself. Start at your feet and focus on them, noticing everything you’re feeling. When you’re done with that, move up to your calves, and then your thighs, and then your back, and so on until you reach your head. Be aware of your senses.
You can also practice grounding, if you’re feeling distracted. This exercise involves looking around and finding five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one that you can taste. This helps you be more present in your surroundings.
If you need an extra boost, there are several apps that are designed for mindfulness. My personal favorite is Stop, Breathe & Think, because it has you check in with your emotions and then recommends exercises based on what you are feeling. It’s also free. The Quiet Place is a website and an app that is designed to calm you down when you’re feeling stressed. Either of these are helpful and simple to use.
- Eat Healthy
I know when my body isn’t working right, it can throw my emotions off. To reduce stress, try to eat things that are clean and good for you. That means a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, legumes, and water.
See if you can notice a pattern between what you eat and when you’re anxious. If coffee makes you feel shaky and panicked, maybe you should give it up for a while. If crashing from a sugar rush makes you stressed, try to cut back on your sugar. If eating a lot of carbohydrates makes you feel sluggish and uneasy, see if you can substitute other alternatives.
As always, drinking water is important!
- Get Enough Sleep
It’s hard to wind down sometimes, especially when there’s so much to do, but a good night’s rest is so important. Not only does it mean rest for you body, but your mind goes through important processing when you’re sleeping. Getting too much or too little can disrupt this cycle and make you feel off balanced.
One thing that can mess with our sleep cycle is the blue light of screens. The light wakes your brain up because it mimics the sun, and this makes it harder to settle down. Programs like f.lux reduce the amount of blue light used and helps you be prepared for bedtime. It takes a little getting used to, because the colors of your screen are a little strange during the night, but it’s a small price to pay for rest.
There are lots of podcasts and youtube videos designed to help you sleep. Welcome to Night Vale is a little spooky, but the narrator is incredibly soothing. If you search on YouTube, you’ll be able to find a lot that help you relax.
Make sure you sleep for long enough, too. You might think that you can function on four or five hours but it takes its toll after time. Lethargy is not fun and it limits what you can do for that day.
- Know What Makes You Happy
When I’m feeling stressed or anxious, sometimes it’s hard to remember what makes me happy and relaxed. I’ve found that making a list in a visible place, or easily accessible on my phone, is immensely helpful. Some things on my personal list are:
– Make a cup of tea. This is really centering and calming to me, and there’s something so comforting in holding a nice warm mug in your hands.
– Listen to a calming playlist. I have several on my phone and on Spotify that are guaranteed songs to make me relax.
– Exercise. It takes my mind off whatever I’m stressing about and focuses that energy into something productive.
– Talk to a friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust and tell them what you’re worried about. Good friends are there to support you when you need it.
– Take a hot shower with some nice smelling soap. Treat yourself a little.
– Do something creative. Play an instrument, draw something, or journal.
– Go outside. Sunshine always helps my mood, and sometimes even just the fresh air is enough to make me relax.
Don’t hesitate to make your own list filled with things that center you. Pull it out when you get overwhelmed and take a few minutes to recharge.
Hopefully some of the things on this list can inspire you and help you relax. And if all else fails, just remember to keep breathing. You can get through this, you are strong.
Alexandra is a student living in Nashville, but originally from Eastern Europe with a case of wanderlust, an itch to write, and a bad coffee habit.