You have deadline pressures at work. Or your kid is having problems at school. Or a health concern is nagging at you. Suddenly, anxiety has taken over your life. “Anxious thoughts activate the limbic system — the fear center in our brain — and it’s on a hair trigger,” says psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD.
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How does anxiety build up?
Anxious thoughts chase each other like a dog chasing its tail.
“Imagine a guy who thinks, ‘What if my hair is thinning?’” suggests Dr. Bea. “That creates anxious energy. He feels his head, checks in the mirror and asks his wife, who says, ‘You’ve got a nice head of hair.’
“That feels good for about 20 seconds, until he thinks, ‘She wasn’t really listening to me.’ Next thing you know, he’s online, searching for baldness cures. One of them looks good until he sees its side effects include ED and thinks, ‘That’s no good!’” Now he’s back to square one.
This is one small example of how trying to quell anxiety with reassuring thoughts, or to “fix” anxious thoughts with other thoughts, just doesn’t work.
It’s also exhausting. “Reassuring thoughts are like a short-acting drug; they wear off quickly,” says Dr. Bea.
What should you do if you’re anxious?
So what can you do if you notice yourself feeling anxious? Start by facing your anxiety, advises psychologist Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD. Then try these 9 ways to calm yourself:
- Think of yourself as a firefighter. Put out the flames of anxiety with some cool breaths. Breathe in and out, deeply and slowly. “When you slow down your breathing, you trick your body into thinking you’re relaxing or going to sleep,” she says.
- Cool down anxious thoughts. “Thoughts like, ‘I can’t stand this; this is awful!’ fuel the fire of anxiety,” says Dr. Albers. Instead, think about what you can and cannot change about the situation. Then take steps to change what you can, and work on accepting what you can’t.
- Get some perspective. Anxiety can stem from needless worry about a lot of things that aren’t important in the long run. “Consider how this will really impact you in five minutes, five months or five years,” she says.
- Soothe your system. Try some yoga stretches, or take a tennis ball and rub it under your foot or behind your back. “Find gentle ways to calm your body,” says Dr. Albers.
- Talk it out. Research proves that simply naming your feelings can help to calm you down. “This is easier to do when you share your feelings with others,” she notes.
- Don’t ignore. Anxiety is like a red flag, telling you that something needs attention. “Don’t ignore this sign — contact a professional to help you through it,” says Dr. Albers.
- Rule out other causes. Sometimes medical issues can mask themselves as anxiety or mimic its symptoms. “Don’t forget to get your checkup each year,” she says.
- Wait it out. “Sometimes, you just have to let anxiety come and go, like riding a wave,” says Dr. Albers. Remember that it will fade and that “This, too, shall pass.”
- Be mindful.Stay in the moment instead of jumping ahead. To bring yourself back to the present, try this 5 senses exercise. Hold your fist out, and extend one finger at a time as you name: 1 thing you can taste; 2 things you can smell; 3 things you can touch right now (your skin against the chair, a soft sweater); 4 things you can hear; and 5 things you can see in the immediate environment.
Adds Dr. Bea, “When you take in a sensory experience, your fear sensations fall away — the chemicals flow out of your body.”
What makes anxiety worse?
Avoid soothing your anxiety with things that can lead to more anxiety, advises Dr. Albers.
“For example, stress eating is like putting a Band-aid® on a gaping wound,” she says. “You want to deal with your anxiety directly.”
Dredging up bad experiences from the past or imagining scary scenarios in the future will just heighten your anxiety. When this happens, realize what you’re doing.
“Remind yourself that bad things happen relatively sparingly and that our brains are well-equipped to handle a crisis, if one occurs,” says Dr. Bea. “Be engaged in your real life, not in imagined moments.”
The best way to begin is to work on developing a new relationship with your thoughts.
“Thoughts are like breezes. They’re not good or bad, they just come and go,” he says. “You don’t have to react to them — ‘Oh, wow,’ works better than ‘Oh, no.’ Being grounded in the present moment, without judgment, is the place to be.”
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Better in-the-moment responses towards difficult family members.
Posted January 26, 2018 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
“Families are like fudge…mostly sweet with lots of nuts.”
After the holidays, I see a lot of people recovering from spending too much time with their families. Before the holidays, they mistakenly thought to themselves, “This year will be different; this year we’ll have a nice time together.” But then it’s never different. The time they spent with their families was like walking on hot coals; they couldn’t wait for it to be over. It’s like all their reasoning and maturity went away when faced with close-minded comments and overly opinionated uncles. Then, to top it all off, they get mad at themselves for letting these things bother them. Can you relate?
Feeling overly agitated, like you’re going to burst whenever you’re around family, isn’t a new phenomenon. However, there are ways to better prepare yourself any time you have an unwanted family reunion.
Dealing with stressful situations in the moment
So, your annoying aunt asks why you aren’t married yet, or your parents scream at you to help them with something before you’ve even had a chance to close the door. Going in with a clear mind and making a deal with yourself to take on any situation in a rational way is a good start, no matter how you’re greeted. But at the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that you have the right to naturally get upset by others’ unthoughtful actions. The crucial part is knowing that just because you’re upset doesn’t mean you have the right to act out from those emotions. In fact, it will probably only make the situation worse if you retaliate.
A good place to start is by taking a few deep breaths, trying to reduce your anxiety around the stressful situation by bringing in your rational mind. Breathe out, and disengage by remaining factual. If your parents are asking you to run off and help with something, tell them you’ll look into it after you close the door and are able to say hi to everyone, or maybe even after you eat. If your pushy aunt asks you why you’re still single, make a joke. If you’re too agitated, just say you’ll talk about it later. That will give you time to relax and think about how you want to deal with the situation if you want to talk about it at all.
Sometimes just acknowledging that you’re annoyed is enough to give you room to deal with the frustration and anger. If it’s not enough, practice a coping skill like deep breathing, or talk yourself down from the situation by telling yourself, “They don’t mean to be annoying,” or, “Things will calm down once I get settled.”
Develop a strong sense of self
When people fail to develop a strong self, their well-being and functioning usually depend on what others say or don’t say, instead of on what they personally think. Essentially, their sense of self-vanishes in the presence of others, especially in the presence of family. This happens because many people try to manage the anxiety of everyone in their family instead of their own. It would better serve them to look inside themselves and see how they’re managing and feeling, rather than being so concerned with others’ behaviors. When we lack a strong sense of self, we want to be and do what everyone in our family expects of us. Ignoring our own needs results in an experience of anxiety and discomfort whenever we’re surrounded by multiple family members at once.
Ask yourself, “What difference would it make if I held the belief that the people in my family can handle themselves?” Change happens when you shift the way you view a situation. Whenever an issue or argument arises in your family, do you get uncomfortable? Do you think you have to ease the situation and be the one to carry the conversation? Do you get uncomfortable when others get agitated? Then, when you can’t stand being with your family, do you believe the only solution is to distance yourself and ignore them? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re emotionally connected to others. This is normal, of course; however, there are ways you can better regulate your reactivity towards your family while staying emotionally connected to them.
By developing a sense of self, you build the ability to self-regulate and better manage your anxiety, which brings about changes that allow you to be less reactive to your family members; thus, your need for everything to go smoothly decreases, as do your expectations and feelings of distress.
Feeling less stressed around family is all about learning to manage your own part in your relationships with others, instead of trying to manage everyone else’s feelings. It means being part of your family while being able to control your own functioning at the same time. What a lot of us unknowingly do is adjust our internal functioning to help keep our family in harmony, which has adverse effects on how we feel about ourselves. By paying attention to your body, mind, and emotions when you’re interacting with your family, you become capable of balancing your co-occurring needs for togetherness and individuality.
Remember, you don’t have to always agree with your family.
Family is family; they can be a source of comfort or the main source of stress at times, but they’re still a big part of your life. We think that we should agree all the time and get along in order to be a nice, functional family. However, there’s no rule that says you have to get along with everyone in your family all the time. Being related doesn’t mean you’ll get along in every situation, share the same political views, or even enjoy each other’s company.
It’s a fantasy to assume that just because there’s a family event, you automatically have to become a picture-perfect family to enjoy it. You’re only responsible for yourself. So be kind and respectful, but don’t force yourself neglect your true views out of fear that someone else will have a different opinion. Be strong enough to excuse yourself if a conversation gets out of hand, and spend more time with your favorite cousins or siblings.
Remember, when a difficult family situation arises and anxiety is high, avoiding the issue and distancing from family isn’t particularly helpful. Work on being who you want to be, even when you’re around people who have different opinions or make annoying remarks; that includes responding in ways that are suitable for you and beneficial to your functioning and health.
Stress and anxiety are facts of life for most people. Research suggests that seven out of 10 adults in the United States feel stress or anxiety every day. Stress and anxiety affect a person’s quality of life and outlook on the future. For this reason, it is worthwhile to examine ways to reduce stress and relieve anxiety.
Exercise is the best tool you have when it comes to fighting stress. The idea may strike you as counterintuitive. When you exercise, you are putting stress on your body. How can increasing physical stress minimize mental stress?
Research shows that when a person exercises regularly, they are less likely to experience anxiety than those who do not exercise. For the exercise to be effective, it needs to be strenuous and done for at least 30 minutes. The idea is to get your heart rate up.
The reasons why strenuous exercise works include:
- Stress Hormones: The more you exercise, the lower your body’s stress hormone levels are. One of these stress hormones is cortisol. Strenuous exercise causes your body to release endorphins. Endorphins change your mood and serve as natural painkillers.
- Sleep: The more you exercise, the better you will sleep. If you can’t sleep well, you are going to be stressed and anxious.
- Improved Confidence: A significant cause of stress is people’s frustration with their physical appearance. Exercising has the fantastic side effect of helping you lose weight, increase muscle, and improve your overall appearance. When this happens, clothing fits better, and your mental well-being improves.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym and laboring under weights. Find something that you like, such as dancing, walking, or rock climbing.
2. Combat Stress with Supplements
Nutrient levels in your body affect how you feel. The healthier you are, the better you will be equipped mentally and physically to combat stress. Some supplements to consider include:
- Melatonin: Melatonin helps you sleep better. Getting sufficient sleep relieves stress. There is a strong link between insomnia and anxiety. If you are under stress, it isn’t easy to sleep well. If you don’t sleep well, you feel anxious and stressed.
Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally creates that controls your circadian rhythm. Your body increases its production of these hormones at night. During the day, the level of melatonin production decreases.
Melatonin supplements have been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes people to fall asleep. Taking melatonin does not inhibit your body from producing the hormone. It is not habit-forming.
- CBD Oil: CBD plus CBG oil for sale at several online vendors has been used by many dealing with inflammation and pain. According to anecdotal evidence, individuals who take this combination experience a reduction of pain in their joints. This gives them increased energy. Just being able to live with reduced pain is enough to help a person feel less anxiety and stress.
- Vitamin B: B complex vitamins typically have eight B vitamins. These vitamins control your metabolism and improve heart and brain health. Vitamin B has been linked to lowering levels of homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid are linked to increased stress and other stress-related conditions. Vitamin B is generally safe to take if given in proper doses.
3. Drink Less Caffeine
Most people feel like their day cannot start unless they have coffee, chocolate, or some energy drink. They feel that it gives them a boost to start the day.
Many people fail to realize that coffee and other caffeinated beverages can affect them for hours after being ingested. It can increase stress and anxiety. It is fair to note that a person’s reaction to caffeine varies based on their makeup.
4. Enjoy Time with Friends and Family
Humans are social creatures. Support from friends and family can help reduce anxiety and get people through stressful times in life.
Humans want to feel like they belong. A sense of belonging creates self-worth and can help a person make it through the most challenging times. Several studies show that spending time with children and with friends increases the release of oxytocin for women. That being said, both men and women benefit from having close friendships.
Stress and anxiety are part of modern life. However, by adjusting your diet, your activity level, and your association, and by using supplements, you can control stress and anxiety.
Sam Tetrault, BA in English
Published on: 3/29/2020
We all experience moments of stress from time to time. From experiencing the loss of a close loved one to daily work dress, these things are a normal part of life. When we experience stress, our mind feels like it’s in overdrive. Anxiety pushes us to the edge, and these thoughts can feel like they have a huge effect on our overall mental health.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed During a Tragedy
- What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Work or School
- What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Family
- What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Life
If you’ve ever been in a stressful situation, you know how frustrating it is. You also know how difficult it is to hear people tell you to “calm down” or “get over it.” If you’re in the presence of someone who is stressed, it’s important to help in a supportive way.
Even small acknowledgments of their feelings go a long way. Here are 16 helpful things to say to someone experiencing stress in one way or another.
Hint: sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all! Don’t underestimate the power of silence.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed During a Tragedy
Tragedy strikes often at unexpected times, leaving people struggling to pick up the pieces. It’s not always easy to sympathize during times like these, especially if you haven’t experienced a tragedy of your own. However, you should still support them through these messages.
1. I’m so sorry for your loss.
If you’re not very close to the individual, this is the best way to let them know you’re thinking of them. Not everyone knows how to console someone , but you can still say something helpful.
2. Is there anything I can do to help?
If you’re closer to the individual who experienced a tragedy, ask how you can help. They might not need you, but it’s still nice to know you’re willing and able. However, make sure you’re willing to follow through before you offer.
3. Do you need to talk about it?
While your loved one might not be willing or ready to talk about their particular tragedy, it never hurts to ask. Having an option to talk through your feelings and experience with someone you trust does wonder in times of need. Don’t be offended by their answer, just be prepared to listen if you need to.
4. I’m here for you during this difficult time.
Even if you can’t take away their pain, you can still be there for them while they’re facing a crisis. This is a kind way to say you’re sorry for their loss without going too in-depth into your own feelings.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Work or School
While work and school are a part of life, they’re also a source of anxiety and stress. It’s important to not minimize this stress, but to listen with empathy. This is the type of anxiety we can all relate to in some shape or form.
5. You are strong and capable
Sometimes we all need a reminder that we’re strong. A little bit of assurance goes a long way when someone feels burnt out and unwilling to continue. Even if it feels impossible, moving forward is possible.
6. Can you tell me the problem?
It’s not always easy to articulate how you feel if you’re overwhelmed with stress. Working through these feelings together is a great way to find the source of the problem, potentially finding a solution.
7. I understand why this is frustrating.
Many times, people just want to feel heard. They might just need to vent about their problems, and letting them know that you understand their feelings of frustration helps them feel less alone.
8. This all must be really hard for you.
Again, it’s all about sympathizing and lending a listening ear. This is a sign of genuine support, and it shows you’re paying attention to their words and feelings.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Family
Family troubles come in all shapes and sizes. They might have a disagreement with their partner or a complicated situation with their siblings. No matter the situation, diffuse their anxiety with some words of kindness.
9. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing your best.
Family issues can quickly grow out of control, and sometimes we can’t handle them on our own. Let your loved one know they’ve done the best they could, and that they don’t need to handle everything themselves.
10. Focus on your own progress, not perfection.
Family life isn’t perfect. Even if things don’t go according to plan, we can make the most of where we are in our journey by focusing on the smaller steps along the way.
11. You don’t have to answer for other people’s mistakes.
When things go wrong, how do we avoid placing blame on ourselves? Let your loved one know that they don’t have to be accountable for the choices of others.
12. Let’s think of a plan for what to do next.
It helps to have an idea of how we’ll move forward. A lot of our anxiety comes from not knowing what’s happening. Thinking creatively about how to make a positive change is a great way to help.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Stressed About Life
Life is a complicated experience, and things don’t always go according to plan. Whether you need to know what to say when someone has a sick family member , or you’ve run out of ways to say “how can I help.” try these powerful phrases.
13. I’ve got your back no matter what happens.
It’s easy to feel compelled to take action when something bad happens to a loved one. Instead, they likely just need a shoulder to cry on. Letting them know that you’re there for them even for the challenging days strengthens your connection.
14. This isn’t your fault.
One way to be supportive is to listen to what someone has to say and let them know they don’t have to shoulder the full burden of this anxiety. We don’t have to allow for greater fear when we can relieve them of this pain.
15. Do you want to talk about something else?
Sometimes people just need a distraction. Open the door to a lighter conversation by prompting if it’s time to think about something else. From there, engage your loved one in something more comforting.
Last but not least, sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing at all. At times, you just need to listen to your loved one about their concerns. Let them talk through their stress and worries. The act of talking to others is a stress-reliever in itself.
Finding the Right Words in a Stressful Situation
Stressful situations aren’t supposed to be easy. If you’re trying to help a loved one work through their own anxious feelings, you have an opportunity to say the right thing. These messages above are a kind, thoughtful way to respond without increasing their stress.
Nobody likes to be told to “stay calm” or “move on.” No matter how simple the situation seems from the outside, feelings are valid in their own way. Be mindful of your own response and be a strong listener. As long as you’re focusing on acknowledging their experience and feelings, you’re making a positive step in the right direction.
The occasional manic Monday is a fact of modern life. But if you’re under chronic stress—suffering a daily assault of stress hormones from a demanding job or a personal life in turmoil—symptoms may be subtler, says Stevan E. Hobfoll, PhD, chair of the department of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center. (Discover the ONE simple, natural solution that can help you reverse chronic inflammation and heal more than 45 diseases. Try The Whole Body Cure today!) If you experience any of the signs that follow, take some time out every day, he says, whether it’s to go for a walk or simply turn off your phone.
1. Stress Symptom: Weekend headaches
A sudden drop in stress can prompt migraines, says Todd Schwedt, MD, director of the Washington University Headache Center. (Here are 4 crazy things migraines increase your risk of.) Stick closely to your weekday sleeping and eating schedule to minimize other triggers.
Get headaches? Try these 3 natural cures:
2. Stress Symptom: Awful period cramps
The most stressed-out women are more than twice as likely to experience painful menstrual cramps as those who are less tense, a Harvard study found. Researchers blame a stress-induced imbalance of hormones. Hitting the gym can soothe cramps and stress, research shows, by decreasing sympathetic nervous system activity.
3. Stress Symptom: An achy mouth
A sore jaw can be a sign of teeth grinding, which usually occurs during sleep and can be worsened when you’re stressed out, says Matthew Messina, DDS, a consumer advisor to the American Dental Association. Ask your dentist about a nighttime mouth guard—up to 70% of people who use one reduce or stop grinding altogether.
4. Stress Symptom: Odd dreams
Dreams usually get progressively more positive as you sleep, so you wake up in a better mood than you were in when you went to bed, says Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, an emeritus professor of psychology at Rush University Medical Center. But when you’re stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting this process and allowing unpleasant imagery to recur all night. (Find out what else your dreams are trying to tell you.) Good sleep habits can help prevent this; aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, and avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
5. Stress Symptom: Bleeding gums
According to a Brazilian analysis of 14 past studies, stressed-out people have a higher risk of periodontal disease. Chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair the immune system and allow bacteria to invade the gums, say researchers. (Here are 7 weird things your teeth are trying to tell you.) If you’re working long hours and eating dinner at your desk, keep a toothbrush on hand. And “protect your mouth by exercising and sleeping more, which will help lower stress,” says Preston Miller, DDS, past president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
6. Stress Symptom: Out-of-nowhere acne
Stress increases the inflammation that leads to breakouts and adult acne, says Gil Yosipovitch, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University. Smooth your skin with a lotion containing skin-sloughing salicylic acid or bacteria-busting benzoyl peroxide, plus a noncomedogenic moisturizer so skin won’t get too dry. If your stressed-out skin doesn’t respond to treatment within a few weeks, see your doctor for more potent meds.
7. Stress Symptom: A sweet tooth
Don’t automatically blame your chocolate cravings on your lady hormones—stress is a more likely trigger. When University of Pennsylvania researchers surveyed pre- and postmenopausal women, they found only a small decrease in the prevalence of chocolate cravings after menopause—smaller than could be explained by just a hormonal link. (Satisfy that craving in a healthy way with these 10 not-so-guilty chocolate treats.) Study authors say it’s likely stress, or other factors that can trigger women’s hankering for chocolate.
8. Stress Symptom: Itchy skin
A Japanese study of more than 2,000 people found that those with chronic itch (known as pruritis) were twice as likely to be stressed out as those without the condition. Although an annoying itch problem can certainly cause stress, experts say it’s likely that feeling anxious or tense also aggravates underlying conditions like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. “The stress response activates nerve fibers, causing an itchy sensation,” explains Yosipovitch.
9. Stress Symptom: Worse-than-usual allergies
In a 2008 experiment, researchers from Ohio State University College of Medicine found that allergy sufferers had more symptoms after they took an anxiety-inducing test, compared with when they performed a task that did not make them tense. Stress hormones may stimulate the production of IgE, a blood protein that causes allergic reactions, says study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD.
10. Stress Symptom: Bellyaches
Anxiety and stress can cause stomachaches, along with headaches, backaches, and insomnia. One study of 1,953 men and women found that those experiencing the highest levels of stress were more than three times as likely to have abdominal pain as their more-relaxed counterparts. The exact connection is still unclear, but one theory holds that the intestines and the brain share nerve pathways; when the mind reacts to stress, the intestines pick up the same signal. (Try one of these 2-minute stress solutions). Because of this link, learning to manage stress with the help of a clinical psychologist, meditation, or even exercise can usually help relieve tummy trouble too. However, if you have frequent bellyaches, see your doc to rule out food allergies, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or an ulcer.
Keep Outside in Mind for Less Stress
Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it – forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature.
Have you been feeling down lately? A little sluggish, stressed out, or maybe wondering, “What’s life all about?”
Here’s another question: How much time have you spent in nature lately?
The answer to these two questions might be more closely related than you’d think.
The modern way we live has changed radically from life in the savanna, but our brains have mostly stayed the same. We still have a deep connection with nature, and research shows that if we don’t nourish that bond despite our technological advancements, we may suffer in many ways. 1
If you’re able to, get back to nature to energize your mind and body.
Depressed: If you’re feeling blue, try going outside to green, natural spaces. A stroll in the woods has been shown to help combat depression, and even just the view of the forest from a hospital room helps patients who are feeling down. 2 Head for the hills if you need a boost to your mood.
Stressed: Nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves instead of frazzling them. 3
Anxious: You probably know that exercise is good for your state of mind. But did you know that working out in nature helps to reduce anxiety, 4 among other benefits, even more than going to an indoor gym? 5 Consider hitting some trails to get the best mental bang for your buck.
Self-Involved: If you dwell on your problems and just can’t stop, a walk through a meadow might put the brakes on the thought train circling through your head. Research shows that a 90-minute walk in nature lowers activity in the part of the brain linked to negative rumination. 6
Fatigued: Are you constantly multitasking at work as you switch between customers and phone calls, or click from spreadsheets to presentations? Even at home, you might face a combination of kids, chores and devices vying for your attention. Your prefrontal cortex can only take so much distraction before it needs a recharge. Luckily, time in nature has been shown to restore mental abilities like short term memory and processing 3D images based on drawings. 7
Uninspired: Changing the scenery is a great way to get the creative juices flowing, and nature offers stimuli that you won’t find while staring at a screen. In one example, spending four days in nature improved problem-solving skills by 50%. If you haven’t found a way to tackle that next big project at work, or an obstacle that’s impeding your personal goals, try noodling on it in the great outdoors. 7
Antisocial: Time in nature can help with your personal relationships, too. Natural beauty results in more prosocial behaviors, like generosity and empathy. 8
Disconnected: One of the most basic human needs is to feel that you belong and you’re part of a larger tribe. But studies show that this concept goes beyond human relationships alone. Time in nature results in a sense of belonging to the wider world that is vital for mental health. 9
Angsty: At times, you might feel lost, and begin to wonder what life is all about. A dose of awe might remind you just how wondrous the world is. Nature provides trees that were hundreds of years old before you were even born, towering mountains that touch the clouds and a sky full of uncountable stars. When it comes to awe-inspiring awesomeness, nature leaves our jaws dropping and spines tingling, and rekindles the realization that we’re a tiny part of an incredible universe. What’s more powerful than that?
Consider seeing a mental health professional if your symptoms are serious, but if you’re feeling a tinge of any of the blues listed above, try something like:
- Add a daily walk on a local hiking trail to your regimen.
- Go on a bike ride around your neighborhood.
1 Capaldi C, Dopko RL, Zelenski J. The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00976.
2 Morita E, Fukuda S, Nagano J, et al. Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction. Public Health. 2007;121:54–63. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2006.05.024.
3 Pearson DG, Craig T. The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:1178. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178.
4 Mackay J, James G&N. The effect of “green exercise” on state anxiety and the role of exercise duration, intensity, and greenness: A quasi-experimental study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 2010;11:238-245. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2010.01.002.
5 Thompson Coon J,Boddy K, Stein K, et al. Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science & Technology. 2011(45);5:1761-1772. DOI: 10.1021/es102947t
6 Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Hahn KS, et al. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015(112);28:8567-8572. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112.
7 Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P. Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. de Fockert J, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(12):e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474.
8 Zhang JW, Piff PK, Iyer R, et al. An occasion for unselfing: Beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2014;37:61-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.11.008
9 Mayer F, Frantz C, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Dolliver K. Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature. 2009;41:607-643. Doi: 10.1177/0013916508319745
10 Joye Y, Bolderdijk JW. An exploratory study into the effects of extraordinary nature on emotions, mood, and prosociality. Frontiers in Psychology. 2014;5:1577. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01577.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
When you’re dating, anxiety is the ultimate third wheel: You overanalyze everything you say on dates ― that is, the ones you actually go on and don’t cancel at the last minute.
It doesn’t necessarily get easier when you’ve gotten past the dating phase and are ready to get serious: You want to commit, but worry that your anxiety might sabotage an otherwise great relationship.
It doesn’t have to, though. Below, therapists share six ways to keep your anxiety in check during the beginning of a relationship and as it progresses.
1. Practice vulnerability in stages.
True intimacy is letting someone in and giving them access to parts of yourself that you hide away from the rest of the world. When you have anxiety, though, you might worry that exposing the messy, real, complicated side of yourself might make your S.O. like you less.
Don’t fall prey to that kind of thinking: If this person loves you, they’ll love all sides of you.
“Plus, you don’t have to share your deepest, darkest feelings all at once,” said psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld. “Experiment with small ‘exposures,’ exercises where you try out being vulnerable with your partner and, as your confidence builds, work toward increased vulnerability over time. Fears associated with vulnerability should lessen with increased exposure.”
2. Clearly communicate your expectations.
Anyone who has anxiety has gotten stuck in thought loops: Those unwanted, repetitive thoughts you can’t seem to escape even if you know they’re silly. That kind of thinking is particularly damaging in relationships. For example, maybe your girlfriend doesn’t call you after work a few nights in a row like she usually does. Stuck in a thought loop, you figure she’s bored with you when the truth is that she’s on a project deadline.
You don’t want to constantly ask your partner for reassurance, but when something is continually bothering you, talk about it. Say, “I know you’re busy, but I really look forward to your calls in the evening. When I don’t hear from you, my mind gets stuck in a story that you’re sick of me.”
“The person with the anxious mind ruminates,” said Jenny Yip, a psychologist based in Los Angeles. “Most people with anxiety will ruminate and imagine the worst possible thing happening. Rather than dooming your relationship, clarify and communicate what your expectations are from the start so that your mind doesn’t have to ruminate to the worst possible places.”
3. Separate your “anxious self” from your “true self.”
Him: will you marry me?
Me: are you mad at me?
A wise man on Twitter once said, “Anxiety is literally just conspiracy theories about yourself.” Don’t let that negative self-talk sabotage your relationships. Instead of listening to your anxious inner voice, listen to your true voice, said Jennifer Rollin, a psychotherapist in North Potomac, Maryland.
“Your ‘anxious self’ may tell you things like, ‘If you open up to him about your anxiety and going to therapy, he will leave or think you are unstable,‘” she said. “That’s because you have anxiety, your mind often comes up with a variety of scenarios that often are not true. It can be helpful to practice speaking back from your ‘true self.’”
If your true self is speaking, it will probably say something far more comforting, like: “Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means you’re taking proactive steps to becoming the best version of yourself.”
“And worst-case scenario, if he does think it makes you crazy, it says a lot about him and nothing about you,” Rollin said. “You deserve to be with someone who doesn’t judge you.”
4. Accept that you can’t control everything your partner does.
Part of managing your anxiety involves letting go of the need to control things that are utterly out of your hands ― including some of your partner’s more annoying habits. It may annoy you that you lose half of your Sundays with him to the boys every football season, but take it in stride: You can’t allow your anxiety to threaten your S.O’s autonomy in the relationship.
“For those who are anxious, it’s often common to want to control the situation, but you can’t always have it that way,” Yip said. “You can communicate your wishes, but it doesn’t mean that you have a bad partner if your wishes aren’t met exactly how you imagined. You have to celebrate your partner’s individuality – you aren’t joined at the hip, after all.”
5. Talk about your anxiety and how you tend to express it.
second base is having an anxiety attack in front of your boyfriend for the first time
Your anxiety isn’t something you have to combat on your own. Open up to your partner about how your anxiety tends to play out ― maybe you get flushed skin and sweat because of your social anxiety, for instance.
While it’s up to you to learn the best ways to self-soothe, take comfort in knowing that your partner can be an ally who can help you maintain some calm in stressful moments.
“Sometimes, anxiety festers when we’re trying to cover it up, afraid of how others will respond,” Rosenfeld said. “Explain your anxiety to your partner; it will alleviate the additional stress of trying to hide your symptoms. Being honest and upfront about any anxiety or insecurities can sometimes help defuse these situations.”
6. Create some rules of engagement for arguments.
All couples argue, but disagreements and their aftermath can be particularly stressful for people with anxiety, Yip said.
“Let’s say you get into a fight and your partner walks away. That’s annoying for most people, but a person with an anxious mind has a very hard time with the uncertainty of walking away,” she said.
To that end, create some guidelines for arguing that help offset your anxiety. Maybe you have a rule that either of you can table a heated discussion, but only if you return to the conversation within 24 hours.
“As a couple, decide together what your rules are in advance, so that there’s structure and a plan,” Yip said. “This will help those with anxiety know that there’s a next step.”
For more advice on how to manage your anxiety, head here.
If you deal with anxiety on a regular basis, medication doesn’t have to be your only treatment.
To calm your mind and cut stress, try working these self-care tips into your daily routine:
Move your body. Exercise is an important part of physical — and mental — health. It can ease your feelings of anxiety and boost your sense of well-being. Shoot for three to five 30-minute workout sessions a week. Be sure to choose exercises you enjoy so you look forward to them.
Pay attention to sleep. Both quality and quantity are important for good sleep. Doctors recommend an average of 8 hours of shut-eye a night. If anxiety is making it hard for you to fall asleep, create a routine to help you catch your ZZZs:
- Leave screens behind before you hit the hay.
- Try to stick to a schedule.
- Be sure your bed is comfy.
- Keep your room’s temperature on the cool side.
Ease up on caffeine and alcohol. Both caffeine, which is an “upper,” and alcohol, which is a “downer,” can make anxiety kick into overdrive. Cut back or avoid them if you can. Remember, coffee and soda aren’t the only things with caffeine. It can also pop up in:
- Diet pills
- Some headache medicines
Schedule your worry time. It may sound backward to plan to worry, but doctors actually recommend that you pick a time to think about your fears on purpose. Take 30 minutes to identify what’s bothering you and what you can do about it. Have your “worry session” at the same time every day. Don’t dwell on “what-ifs.” Focus on what actually makes you anxious.
Breathe deep. It sends a message to your brain that you’re OK. That helps your mind and body relax. To get the most out of it, lie down on a flat surface and put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow breath in. Make sure it fills your belly enough that you can feel it rise slightly. Hold it for a second, then slowly let it out.
Be the boss of your thoughts. Try to turn any negative thoughts into positive ones. Picture yourself facing your fears head-on. The more you do this in your mind, the easier it will be to deal with it when it happens.
Tame tense muscles. Relax them with this simple exercise: Choose a muscle group, tighten it for a few seconds, then let go. Focus on one section at a time and work through your whole body. This is sometimes called progressive muscle relaxation.
Help out in your community. Spend time doing good things for others. It can help you get out of your head. Volunteer or do other work in your community. Not only will it feel good to give back, you’ll make connections that can be a support system for you, too.
Look for triggers. Think of times and places where you notice yourself feeling most anxious. Write them down, if you need to. Look for patterns and work on ways you can either avoid or confront the feelings of panic and worry. If you know the causes of your anxiety, that can help you put your worries into perspective. Next time, you’ll be better prepared when it affects you.
Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Anxiety involves feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension. Anxiety is typically experienced on cognitive, emotional, and physical levels. For instance, when feeling anxious a person may have negative or disturbing thoughts.
On an emotional level, one may feel scared or out-of-control. It is also common to experience severe anxiety through somatic sensations, such as sweating, trembling, or shortness of breath.
These symptoms are common for people who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. People with panic disorder are typically familiar with the struggle of managing feelings of anxiety. It can feel as if the anxiety is taking over or completely out of one’s control.
Does anxiety have an overwhelming pull in your life? Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to manage your anxiety. Listed below are 4 tips to help you cope with your feelings of anxiety.
Stop and Breathe
When anxiety flares, take a time out and think about what it is that is making you so nervous. Anxiety is typically experienced as worrying about a future or past event.
For example, you may be worried that something bad is going to happen in the future. Perhaps you continually feel upset over an event that has already occurred. Regardless of what you are worried about, a big part of the problem is that you are not being mindful of the present moment.
Anxiety loses its grip when you clear your mind of worry and bring your awareness back to the present.
The next time your anxiety starts to take you out of the present, regain control by sitting down and taking a few deep breaths. Simply stopping and breathing can help restore a sense of personal balance and bring you back to the present moment. However, if you have the time, try taking this activity a little further and experiment with a breathing exercise and mantra.
Practice this simple breathing technique:
- Begin by getting into a comfortable seated position.
- Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose. Follow this inhalation with a deep exhalation.
- Continue to breathe deeply and fully, in and out of your nose. Allow your breath to be a guide to the present.
- Use the mantra, “Be Present” as you breathe. With each breath in, think to yourself “be” and with each breath out, focus on the word “present.”
Breathing exercises are powerful relaxation techniques that can help ease your body and mind of anxiety while turning your attention towards the present.
Figure Out What’s Bothering You
The physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as trembling, chest pain, and rapid heartbeat, are usually more apparent than understanding just what is making you anxious. However, in order to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to figure out what’s bothering you. To get to the bottom of your anxiety, put some time aside to exploring your thoughts and feelings.
Writing in a journal can be a great way to get in touch with your sources of anxiety. If anxious feelings seem to be keeping you up at night, try keeping a journal or notepad next to your bed. Write down all of the things that are bothering you. Talking with a friend can be another way to discover and understand your anxious feelings.
Make it a habit to regularly uncover and express your feelings of anxiety.
Focus On What You Can Change
Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that haven’t even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones.
Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.
Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one’s safety, spend time with them, or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.
At times, your anxiety may actually be caused by a real circumstance in your life. Perhaps you’re in a situation where it is realistic to be worried about losing your job due to high company layoffs or talks of downsizing.
When anxiety is identified as being caused by a current problem, then taking action may be the answer to reducing your anxiety. For example, you may need to start job searching or scheduling interviews after work.
By being more proactive, you can feel like you have a bit more control over your situation.
Focus on Something Less Anxiety-Provoking
At times, it may be most helpful to simply redirect yourself to focus on something other than your anxiety. You may want to reach out to others, do some work around your home, or engage in an enjoyable activity or hobby. Here are a few ideas of things you can do to thwart off anxiety:
- Do some chores or organizing around the house.
- Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing, painting, or writing.
- Go for a walk or engage in some other form of physical exercise.
- Listen to music.
- Pray or meditate.
- Read a good book or watch a funny movie.
Most people are familiar with experiencing some anxiety from time-to-time. However, chronic anxiety can be a sign of a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
When anxiety affects one’s relationships, work performance, and other areas of life, there is potential that these anxious feelings are actually an indication of mental health illness.
If you are experiencing anxiety and panic symptoms, talk with your doctor or other professionals who treat panic disorder. They will be able to address any concerns you have, provide information on diagnosis, and discuss your treatment options.
Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast
Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares a strategy to help you cope with anxiety.