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Published on October 31, 2018

How to Help Anxiety When Life Is Stressing You Out

How to Help Anxiety When Life Is Stressing You Out

Feeling stressed or anxious? Then you’re not alone. In the UK, according to a new survey from the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.[1] In the US, that figure is slightly higher with 79% of Amercians who feel stress sometimes or frequently during their day.[2]

The terms ‘Stress’ and ‘Stress Management’ and ‘Stress Relief’ now receive up to 1million monthly searches on google. The most common causes of stress involve work pressure, lack of time, financial stress, children, health, relationships, and political climate.

Stress will make you feel anxious, it also causes you a number of physical health problems.

Given the potential impacts of prolonged stress, learning ways of managing, reducing, and preventing stress can be important tools for mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Here are 16 actions you can take to help anxiety caused by your stressful life:

1. Spend More Time Gardening

Researchers have shown that spending time in your garden will boost your mood and lower your stress and anxiety.[3] By spending half an hour a week tending to plants or vegetables in your garden can reduce feelings of tension and fatigue, leaving people less prone to anger and depression.

When you’re feeling stressed and looking for something to get you out of bed in the morning, head to your garden and spend some time tending to your plants.

If you don’t have an outside garden think about creating a mini herb garden for your kitchen or balcony.

2. Take up Yoga

Yoga is great for improving flexibility and strengthening our core. But it is also fantastic for inducing feelings of calm and improving your heart health, if you do it regularly. By spending 15 minutes a day, you could reduce your blood pressure by as much as 10%.

In a recent study by Canadian researchers, they found that, among people being treated for high blood pressure, those who spent 15 minutes five time a week in quiet relaxation, saw no improvement to their condition.[4] However, those who stretched for the same time experienced a 5% drop in blood pressure, and those who practiced deep breathing saw a 7% drop.

3. Celebrate Small Wins

When we pursue our goals and view our daily successes, we have two options:

  • Look at how far you’ve come, what you’ve achieved and celebrate success every day (Growth Mindset)
  • Look at how far away you are from the goals you have in life and feel more anxious and stressed because you haven’t achieved what you want (Gap Mindset)

With the Growth Mindset, you will always be making progress, your confidence and capabilities will grow every day.

Rather than worrying about doing everything perfectly and comparing yourself to others, a major source of stress and anxiety, you are focused on staying on the path and daily growth.

Try this:

At the end of every day, write down 3 things that you achieved that day. It could be big or small. The point is that you made progress, even if it was just a little step.

4. Take up Meditation

Meditation can improve physical health, boost the immune systems and increase our ability to cope with stress.

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Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says mindfulness meditation is perfect for reducing anxiety both short- and long-term:[5]

“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power … You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that–a thought, and not a part of my core self.'”

Meditation can help improve our attention and concentration, improve our self-control and give us greater overall psychological well-being.

By meditating for just 10-15 minutes per day, it can help reduce stress hormone levels, increasing serotonin, and strengthening your ability to let go of thoughts that don’t serve you.

You can download a meditation app such as Headspace to help you, work with a meditation partner or just give it a go, and see how it helps you.

5. Just Breathe

A powerful way to stay centered and to counteract the physical effects of anxiety and stress is to focus on your breathing.

If your breathing becomes shallow and chest-centered, then breathing deeply or “belly breathing’ can help by lowering cortisol and signalling to your nervous system to rest.

Learn these 5 breathing exercises for anxiety to calm anxiety quickly.

6. Exercise Regularly

Maintaining a regular exercise plan can provide relief for many of the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Exercise can enhance our mood, increase energy levels, give us goals to focus on, improve motivation, challenge us and improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise allows our muscles to move, it encourages blood flow and gets us breathing a lot deeper.

Try any racket sport, going to the gym, HIIT training, boxing or more mind-body activities such as tai-chi or Pilates.

The point is to get your body moving and find an exercise activity that works for you. This may be doing something by yourself, in a room of people or part of a team. Pick something that fits you.

7. Detach Yourself from Work

Do you feel overcommitted at work? Do you struggle to switch off from work when you get home?

If you feel overwhelmed with time pressures at work and struggle to switch off when you get home, you are more likely to additional stress and anxiety.

It is essential to unplug daily and create healthy boundaries upon yourself that separate your work and home life.

Detaching yourself from work can be hard if your jobs are highly stressful, demanding and all consuming. But to ensure you are productive at work and fully present when you are at home, it’s crucial. It can help create less work fatigue and procrastination, build better work-life balance and improve mental health.

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If you don’t detach from work, it’s much easier for you to be more distracted, burned-out and increase feelings of stress. Your sleep, happiness and general sense of wellbeing will also be affected.

8. Disconnect from Technology

When you make yourself available to everyone 24/7, you can expose yourself to numerous stressors.

Forcing yourself to take a break from technology can help. This includes taking a break from your phone and taking a break from email.

Technology enables constant communication and often the expectation that you are always available.

It is difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email or message can change your train of thought and get you thinking about work.

Constant notifications on your phone also don’t help. We take a look at what our friends and network are doing, often, because we don’t want to miss out. That fear of missing out can cause anxiety – what have I missed? It also creates a lot of stress when we start comparing our lives to those of others.

Create your own path and take a break from the technology.

9. Practice Daily Intentions

The art of practicing daily intentions can be a powerful way of managing and reducing stress. It can be as simple as stating what you want to happen that day or writing down at the start of each day what you feel grateful for.

I write down 3 things I’m grateful for as well as my weekly and 90 day goals. I share these with others to gather support and stay positive.

Gratitude brings together positive emotions like joy, contentment and hope and gives your mind a positive boost.

10. Declutter Your Home and Work Space

Excessive clutter can be a symptom and cause of stress and anxiety.

Your home and work environment can often be an external representation of what’s happening internally. It can overload your sense and your mind.

If something is cluttered, it’s very difficult to focus and it can feel like there are a million things to do, scattering your thoughts.

Clutter can distract, weigh you down and can create stress in your life. This clutter can also include the relationships that take up lots of time and energy, don’t really go anywhere and cause you more stress than joy.

So, start small and focus on different areas at a time. When I started decluttering, my first focus was my office and then I moved into my home.

Although it might feel worse before it gets better, committing to and taking small steps can pay big dividends.

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11. Find Someone to Talk To

When there are lots of stresses and anxieties in your life, one of the best things you can do is reach out and talk with someone.

When you share your concerns or feelings with someone, it can help relieve some of the stress or anxiety you feel.

It starts with choosing someone you can trust, someone who gets you and can validate you.

So, call a trusted friend, family member, colleague or mentor and just talk.

You can also create a group of people going through similar feelings of stress or anxiety. Just like with a Mastermind group for business owners comes together to collaborate, learn and support each other, explore creating a similar group.

12. Read More

When was the last time you sat alone with a good book?

Reading is one of those activities that we do on our own and can help us escape from the daily stresses of life.

This could be a book to help you increase your wisdom, or learn something new, or a piece of fiction to transport you away from daily anxieties and stresses.

In addition to the learning benefits, reading also improves the connectivity between our brain cells, lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

13. Start Walking More

Have you ever taken a walk to clear your mind? Walking is something you should be doing every day. It boosts your mental and physical health and there are numerous studies out there that advises walking to remove stress and anxiety.

Walking also helps you think more clearly. During the day, you are inundated with information and it can be difficult to just get some time away to process our thoughts. Walking helps.

Some of my best ideas, for example, come from taking a simple 15-20-minute walk and letting my mind process everything that’s going on.

To amp up the benefits of walking, try visiting a forest or some woods and taking a nice long stroll through nature. This surrounding can calm the mind.

At the end of your walk, you could find somewhere with an inspiring view and just sit quietly for a few minutes. This gives you a real sense of perspective and can create a sense of awe, creating higher levels of oxytocin.

14. Start Journaling

Writing down positive emotions and thoughts can help to reduce stress and anxiety. This is one of the simplest techniques you can use for stress management, as you can assign a small amount of time to it, and it is hugely enjoyable.

Journaling can help you work through your anxious feelings as well as highlight the positive things that are happening in your life.

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By spending just 5 minutes a day journaling, you can examine both anxious and positive thoughts. Write down how you’re feeling, and explore how you can change your mind-set around the things that are causing you to be stressed.

Journaling is also beneficial simply by giving you somewhere to get all of the thoughts from your mind down onto paper. A space to analyze, a place to ask questions and a place to empower.

Another good use for your journal is to express gratitude for what you have. Every day, write down three things you are grateful for. This could be a person, something that happened to you, your environment, anything.

The point is to focus on appreciation. Try doing this for 7 days to see if it creates more positive feelings.

15. Take up Knitting

This may seem a bit left field but stay with me. Knitting is actually really beneficial for a healthy mind and body. Taking up knitting as a hobby can reduce depression and anxiety, as well as slow down the onset of dementia.

According to Knit for Peace, a network of 15,000 knitters in the UK,[6]

“There is an enormous amount of research showing that knitting has physical and mental health benefits, that slows the onset of dementia, combats depression and distracts from chronic pain.”

A 2007 study from Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute, found that knitting lowers heart rate, by an average of 11 beats per minute and creates an “enhanced state of calm” similar to yoga.[7]

16. Get More Sleep

I’ve written before about the Benefits of Sleep and The Importance of Sleep Cycles on Productivity and Health. If you’re experiencing stress in your life, chances are that you might be struggling to fall or stay asleep at night.

Your anxious worry about life and its problems may keep your brain from settling down, and the disruption of sleep is likely to keep you feeling more on edge the next day.

Getting enough sleep and mood are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can cause irritability and stress.

Getting the right amount of sleep (7-8 hours) can enhance well-being and set you up for a purposeful, productive day.

The quality of our sleep directly affects the quality of our daily life and can affect mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, and physical vitality.

Start focusing on getting a better night’s sleep.

The Bottom Line

These 16 tips can help you reduce anxiety and stress. Some will work better than others, whilst others can be incorporated together into your daily life.

Try them. See which ones make a real difference in your business and life. If they work, share the knowledge with someone in a similar position.

Featured photo credit: Claudia via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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