15 Ways to Ease Your Anxious Mind
Have I ever told you guys that I have a really bad dental phobia?
As a child, I had a really bad experience at the dentists’ office that pretty much left me scarred for life. I get paranoid even when going for a 6-month checkup/cleaning. Few months ago, I actually started crying during a treatment. No, I wasn’t in pain. I was just scared. It’s that bad. I don’t really know what it is that I’m afraid of. I start sweating at the sound of the dental drill. I don’t know if it’s the fear of pain, the fact that someone shoving their hands down my throat has me feeling like I’m about to suffocate or that I’m a germaphobe and can’t help but think “Are those tools really clean? Are the gloves he’s wearing? Do they even clean this chair I’m lying on?“
So, last week I had a bit of a stressful time at work- which happens a lot when you’re trying to beat some very important deadlines. The following day, I was able to take some work home and work out of the office- sounds nice, doesn’t it? Except that, on my way home I got a text message from my Dentist’s office reminding me “Your appointment is tomorrow at 4 pm. See you then!” Well….f*ck. From that point on, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I was already feeling stressful and anxious and the last thing I needed was sitting in that chair for an hour getting a root canal done, wondering if I’ll come out of there alive.
Guys, I am not exaggerating. Can anyone relate? Because everyone keeps telling me that it’s not normal to be this nervous about going to the dentist. I was sitting in that chair and I swear that I almost had a full-on panic attack. My heart felt like it was about to pop out of my chest, I was shivering, sweating but freezing cold at the same time and constantly holding my breath.
At one point, my doctor asked if I’m feeling ok (he knows all about my anxiety) and when I
said lied “yes, why?” he answered, “because I don’t think you’re breathing.” Ahh, yes. The first sign of stress or anxiety that I (and probably many of you) experience, is shortness of breath. In stressful situations, I kind of tend to hold my breath in anticipation of something “bad” happening. It’s something that sort of happens involuntarily. So, one of the most important things that you can do when you start feeling anxious, is breathing. And do so slowly.
Well.. duhhh, how can you forget to breathe? It’s not so much about remembering to breathe, as it is about noticing when [in stressful situations] your breath becomes rapid and shallow, and immediately trying to stabilize it. This is something that always works for me: place your hand on your belly and take a deep breath through your nose filling your lower lungs (expanding your stomach, rather than your upper chest). Exhale slowly and repeat. Do this a few times until your breath stabilizes and is no longer rapid and shallow. You’ll notice yourself feeling a bit calmer and at ease. These are some of my other favorite ways of calming an anxious mind and body:
1. Try essential oils. Lavender has a calming and relaxing effect, Rose can be very soothing when you feel emotional and Chamomile can decrease irritability. You can use them in a bath and massage them into your wrists (as long as you’re not allergic; always remember to dilute them with water and keep them away from children and pets). I personally love using a diffuser.
2. Omega 3 supplements. There are numerous studies linking anxiety and other mood disorders with low blood levels of omega-3 fats. Low intake of omega-3 is also known to change the functioning of serotonin and dopamine.*
3. Yoga. Yoga helps your body release the tension that’s trapped between your muscles. Try some of these yoga poses to help ease your mind and body.
4. Listen to music. Really listen to music. Don’t do anything else. Put on your headphones, close your eyes and listen.
5. Practice Mindfulness. Let yourself feel. Mindfulness involves awareness; paying attention to and accepting the present moment. Acknowledge the fact that you’re feeling anxious. Don’t look for distractions; surrender. Try to observe your thoughts, without judgment and realize that they’re just that: thoughts.
6. Meditate (you can start right here).
7. Limit your caffeine intake. It’s no secret that if you suffer from anxiety, caffeine is not your friend- it increases your heart rate can and can worsen your anxiety symptoms, making you jittery and nervous.
8. Try lemon balm. Lemon balm has been used to calm the mind for centuries. The leaves of the plant contain terpenes—organic compounds playing some role in its perceived calming effect. You can try lemon balm tea, supplements or oils to help you with anxiety.
9. Talk it out. Whether it be talking to a friend or writing in a journal. Talk it out. Cry, if you have to. Sometimes, all you need to do to feel better is just let it all out.
10. Spend time in nature. Is there anything more soothing than spending time in a quiet, peaceful place somewhere in a park or a forest?
11. Take a nap. Give yourself a break. Turn off your phone, wear your favorite PJs and take a nap.
12. Do something creative. Creating something can be a powerful tool for reducing anxiety. Things like drawing, cooking, photography, writing- they all can be very soothing.
13. Laugh it off. Okay, so last week I had a few of those draining days at work. I came home, we had dinner and then I was getting ready to do some laundry when one of those “Top 20 Funniest” shows came on TruTv. You know, it’s this dumb show that shows short clips of people doing something really, REALLY stupid. I ended up watching that crap for 2 hours. I sat on the floor, completely forgot that I was supposed to fold those 2 loads of laundry sitting next to me, and I laughed so hard that I even shed a few tears. By the time I went to sleep, I felt so much better. I literally felt the tension leave my body with each time I laughed.
14. Snack on some chocolate. Like you ever needed an excuse for that, amirite? Pure dark chocolate (one without the added sugars or milk) is a great stress-reducer. It reduces cortisol- the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms.
15. Give yourself a massage. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body tenses up. Release that pressure by giving yourself a massage- you can use yoga balls like these.
Whatever it is that you feel anxious about; your job, your family, your relationships, maybe you find yourself feeling anxious for no reason, at times, find a calming and soothing routine that works for you. Remember that breathing exercises are great for that immediate sense of relief.
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