Anxiety affects everyone of all ages and personalities. Life is hard and our minds are susceptible to the bombardment of tasks, opinions, and thoughts that race through our minds every single day. Experiencing anxiety is a very normal human emotion, often causing consistent feelings of worry.
Currently, 6.8 million adults in the U.S. suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder but less than half use a treatment. But I am not here to diagnose you. I am here to show you that whether or not you are struggling, you are not alone.
With our busy schedules, it can be difficult to know how to calm anxiety naturally, but it all starts with awareness.
How to Calm Anxiety Naturally
You may be tired of hearing this, but mediation is one of the most effective ways to become aware of your mind and body. Lots of anxiety lives in your head, which is a scary place to be stuck. Through deep, focused breaths, you can bring your body to a state of homeostasis. Here your body can feel safe in the present moment.
You are the observer of your thoughts. When a new thought or feeling pops into your head, acknowledge it, observe it, and then breathe to release it. I like to imagine myself breathing in the thought and then releasing it as it dissipates into the air outside of my body.
I also try to imagine myself sitting in a white box with nothing else around me. Every time a thought pops in, I imagine myself physically pushing the thought out of the box, because it is not welcome.
These thoughts don’t have to be negative. If you want to get theoretical, no thought is negative or positive in origin, it is our judgment of the thought that grants it power. This judgment often stems from social norms, past experiences, and our inner voice.
My recommendation is to set up a small and easy routine of meditating once a day. If you are feeling inspired, record a meditation that is personalized to what you align with.
Everybody has heard this countless times, just go to the gym. But the gym can mean different things to different people. While some people enjoy hitting PRs in the gym on the squat rack, others enjoy walks outside or stretching. Moving your body is personal and up to you to see how it feels. No matter the type, exercising has direct links to reducing anxiety and boosting mood.
As an avid weightlifter, I started feeling like the long intense gym sessions were putting too much strain on my body. Recently, I added running to my fitness routine. A little at first, and then more and more. The key is to keep it enjoyable. As soon as it becomes more of a chore than a fun activity, take a break and reflect. Moving your body also pushes out endorphins, that feel-good hormone that relaxes the body.
Putting your body through motion, allows your mind to calm and stay in the present moment. The feeling of satisfaction at the end always helps as well.
Being on your phone all day can increase your anxiety due to the anticipation of texts, emails, and notifications. Recently I have been working to fit reading into my daily schedule. Reading calms the mind. Whether it’s nonfiction self-help or an adventure fantasy, the mind stays in the present moment.
Some of the best ways to build a reading habit are to keep a book in your field of vision when you wake up, instead of your phone. With a fresh slate for the brain in the morning, reading will feel more rewarding and engaging, than trying to read after a long busy, overstimulating day.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself to read for 10 minutes and then see how I feel. The library is also a resource that I only recently started using again. It’s FREE books, so many stories, and things to learn, just do it!
There is a saying that one can not be anxious and grateful at the same time. I had a big presentation in Korean at college and my heart could not stop racing as I walked to class. The overwhelm was typical anxiety. However, I chose to switch my mindset and see all the good in the situation. I have the opportunity to learn a new language and share my findings with a group of like-minded peers. I am walking on a beautiful campus after I just ate a healthy and delicious breakfast. I am breathing and my legs work to help me walk there. I am healthy, I am safe. I am here now.
This exact mindset shift helped me transform my anxiety into excitement, a closely related emotion. This tactic is helpful for any type of situation, you can always find the good.
Giving back to others and taking yourself out of your mind is a great way to ground yourself. Learn how to find joy in
being happy for others here.
A lot of my anxiety comes from the unknown or lack of control. I am not saying to divulge this fear altogether, but there are strategies to work your environment to your advantage.
Writing down a schedule the night before can give your brain peace of mind and stay present in whatever you are doing. Optimize your schedule for your needs in particular. For example, I need to have exact time blocks to plan around so I feel calm, however, others may need more flexibility and opt for a fluid schedule with lots of choices.
The key here is trial and error and see what aligns with your mind and heart.
Life has so many aspects to it. You want to be the healthiest you can be, but also experience those once-in-lifetime moments and be present.
The key is learning when to shut off certain parts of your brain in the right situation. I am trying to eat healthy like most, but if I am out on a Friday celebrating a birthday, I will not turn down a glass of Prosecco and a piece of cake.
Burnout is real on both sides. Either you fall into short-term temptation too much, and you are way too strict with yourself and forget to enjoy life.
Reset Your Vagus Nerve
The Vagus Nerve controls subconscious bodily functions like breathing, digestion, and heart rate. Stimulating this nerve will calm your body. Some ways to stimulate your Vagus Nerve are yoga, deep breathing, and cold showers. As much as I am trying to keep my anxiety in check, I am still not fully on board with the cold showers tactic.
Some strategies have you place your hands behind your head when you meditate or sleep to activate your vagus nerve, resulting in a higher state of relaxation in the body. In general, it is always good to take slow, deep breaths to calm the body.
Make A decision
Indecisiveness can lead to heightened anxiety, due to the overwhelm of having to choose. Will you make a mistake? This pressure put on decisions is one of the reasons why too much unstructured time can cause me to get in my head.
In this situation, it is helpful to pick something and just take action. Whether that choice is the “right” choice is a lot less important than the mind will tell you. Making mistakes is what helps you grow, and the only way to do so is to take action and see what happens.
Sleep has been one of the biggest areas of my life that I have worked to improve. Often going underlooked, sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle. From a cognitive stance, sleep is essential for your brain to rest and stabilize your mood. A lack of sleep can lead to an increase in irritability.
It is scientifically recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. It is important to keep in mind that many people spend time awake during their sleep cycle, so try to overestimate how much sleep you want a night.
Building a consistent sleep routine is one of the most important aspects of having a healthy circadian rhythm. Decreasing blue light before bed, and getting direct sunlight in the morning, are great ways to facilitate rewarding sleep.
Often time anxiety comes from being stuck in the past or the future. Ruminating about the past is a very common habit of someone who experiences high anxiety. Whenever I find myself ruminating on a topic, I become aware of my thought patterns, take a deep breath, and then focus on the present moment to shift my attention.
People often ruminate over things that make them anxious, which in turn makes your body more anxious. Uncomfortable thoughts are easy to get stuck on, but remember you are the master of your mind.
Meditation is a great way to stay in the present moment. You have the choice of whether or not you identify with your thoughts. If they do not resonate with you, serve you, or speak to you, then you can let the thought flow away, like down a stream.
Lead with love
Usually, when I am in a state of high anxiety, I am looking at things closely. Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, refreshes your point of view. Recently I had this revelation that everything leads back to love. Think about it, you can be extremely stressed about an exam, your job, or running late, but what happens when something, someone, or anything you love is at stake? Nothing else matters.
In times of anxiety, it can be very helpful to ground yourself in the bigger picture and ask yourself “How can I lead with love here?” You can be running late to an important job meeting, take a few deep breaths, and treat yourself with love and kindness. So in the grand scheme of things, this situation doesn’t matter as much as your brain is convincing you.
Anxiety comes in several forms and can manifest in different ways. Finding natural ways to calm anxiety is a personal journey that no one on the internet can magically solve. I hope hearing about these strategies that I use can help you reflect on your own. And remember, take a deep breath, find the good, and lead with love.