Anxiety and stress are part of our everyday life, as everyone knows. As a society and especially in large metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., the level of stress can feel palpable – it’s all around us – in the traffic, the rushed energy of people in line at Starbucks, for example, and the conversations that parents have about how “busy” they are with juggling work, children’s activities and household maintenance and chores. It can often feel overwhelming and hard to escape. Having worked for over 20 years in the area as a therapist supporting children, adolescents and adults, the increase of stress has been evident in the therapy room, as well.
So what can someone do who wants to start to feel more in control of their overwhelmed feelings and levels of stress? Where does one begin? Here are some ideas that might help:
- Begin a simple meditation practice
Quieting the mind can bring you back in contact with your true self. This can help you interact with the world with more compassion and gratitude. Taking time to pause also fosters greater emotional stability. Meditation creates space in the mind for you to stop and look at the big picture; situations that you once perceived as difficult seem a little less challenging. As well, it can quiet your beating heart, create deeper breaths and allow for a connection to the moment rather than getting lost in the “to-do’s” and worries of life.
2. Start To Exercise – even a 15 minute walk can help.
People who exercise have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Consistent exercise creates routine, which can lessen anxiety. Exercise gives people the chance to release built up emotions and muscle tension, as well. Anxiety can manifests in the body and cause greater muscle tension. Yoga is a great stress reducer and provides muscle strengthening and stretching, as well.
“Everything in moderation” is a great motto for this topic. Facebook, twitter, and Instagram can be a great way to connect and stay in touch with family and friends, but research shows that too much social media can be detrimental. Social media can evoke negative emotions related to comparison and judgment of others. When people begin to compare, they often feel worse about their own situation and can lead to negative feelings, lower self-esteem and getting stuck in obsessive thinking. Create times in the day when you commit to not engaging in any social media or even surfing the net.
4. Eliminate caffeine.
Caffeine has some benefits, but for those who are prone to anxiety it is best to stay away (or switch to decafe!). Coffee can make you feel anxious in situations that would typically not cause anxiety. Caffeine also triggers your body’s fight or flight response and can cause insomnia. A regular sleep cycle is a vital for healthy living and to feel ready and able to manage daily stress.
5. Get to the root of your feelings
One of the most effective ways to treat anxiety is to figure out what is causing it.
It is helpful to look within and explore the thoughts and emotions that bring up the anxious feelings. Talking with a family member or close friend about your worries and anxiety can help you feel like you aren’t alone and can provide you with some support and guidance. As well, seeing a professional therapist can give you a safe, neutral place to explore your feelings, their underlying cause and to learn about stress management techniques to help.
Stress will always be a part of ones life but learning ways to understand and manage will help you feel less overwhelmed and put you in charge of your own state of mind and heart.