There is no question about it: We are living in very intense times. Though a certain amount of anxiety can help keep us on our toes, how can we manage and reduce our stress so that it doesn’t become overwhelming? Here are 10 stress-busters to help you cope with anxiety:
1. Eat a healthy diet. Feeding your body the right foods is essential for managing stress. Be sure to follow a healthy eating plan. During stressful situations, people have a tendency to skip meals. Try to avoid this if possible.
When you are already feeling nervous energy coursing through those veins, you want to keep an eye on your caffeine intake. If you keep drinking coffee all day long, it is bound to put you on edge. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee, so it might be a better alternative. Also, instead of resorting to sugary sodas, have a glass of water. Your nerves will thank you.
Another way to keep calm is to pack plenty of healthy snacks. Processed foods and sugary candy bars will make you feel strung out. Fresh fruits and vegetables will make you feel much better.
2. Get plenty of exercise. Try to fit exercise into your schedule at least three to four times a week for at least 30 to 45 minutes each session. Not only will it keep you in shape, but working out is a great way to blow off steam.
3. Get plenty of rest. Listen to your mother and “get a good night’s sleep.” A proper amount of rest will make it easier to cope with whatever challenges life throws your way tomorrow. Most people need at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to function at their best.
Unfortunately, anxiety is one of the leading causes of insomnia. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, try using relaxing music to reclaim your precious sleep. Get yourself into a regular sleep pattern by going to bed at the same time every night. Schedule your bedtime as you would an important appointment, and try to stick to it.
4. Organize your time. Are you always trying to get “organized?” Do you frequently find yourself staying up all night on April 14 to finish your tax return? Well, that situation is very stressful, but it is also avoidable. Planning, scheduling and organizing your time may seem more stressful at first, but it will make your life much easier to manage in the long run.
5. Take a deep breath. Breath in, breathe out. As simple as it sounds, using deep breathing can be one of your greatest weapons against stress. Step away from the stressful situation. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and quietly for a few minutes. Just a few minutes of deep breathing is a great way to decompress. As little as three to five minutes of this exercise can make a tremendous difference.
6. Meditate. Though it is foreign to many of us in the West, meditation has been scientifically proven as an effective way to reduce anxiety. If you are new to meditation, you may want to work with a group. Many gyms, churches and civic centers offer meditation classes. If you can’t find a meditation course in your area, there are plenty of guided meditations on DVD and CD.
7. Develop a support network. As the popular song says, “We all need somebody to lean on.” Don’t try to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Ask for help from your friends and relatives — that’s what they are there for. And, if you are looking to build your support network, why not join a support group? It is a great way to make new friends and meet people facing the same difficulties.
8. Take time for yourself. Be sure to schedule time for fun. It is always easier to cope with stress when you have something to look forward to.
9. Keep your sense of humor. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Keeping a sense of humor about things and not taking yourself too seriously is one of the most effective coping strategies available. Remember that wherever there is laughter, there is hope.
10. Seek professional help. Sometimes all of these strategies may not be enough. If you have been suffering from panic attacks or experiencing high levels of anxiety that just won’t go away, seeking professional help may be the best option. Remember, there is nothing to be ashamed about. It takes a strong person to admit that they need help. A professional will help you explore your options for making your life manageable again.
Jody K Young