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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

7 Self-Soothing Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief

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7 Self-Soothing Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief

When you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you can have a difficult time functioning or feeling anything else. Some are able to put a mask on, show to the world that they are fine when they are in overdrive. However, masks are only temporarily effective. Finding self soothing techniques is much more useful.

We tend to burn out if stress and anxiety are left ignored. We tend to feel the weight of the world and think that if we ask for help, we are a burden. The truth is that we deserve care, respect and help if we have taken on too much. We owe it to ourselves to take a break now and then and allow for some self care. Furthermore, we need to know we are worth offering comfort to ourselves in the midst of chaos.

It’s imperative to work on going from being a worrier to a warrior of inner peace.

What Causes Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are symptoms of greater issues. This could be a time management issue, poor prioritization, mental health issues, lack of self care, or having no purpose behind what you’re trying to do.

Ultimately, anyone can experience stress or anxiety, but they don’t have to run your life. You can regain control and find your way back yourself and your life.

“Keep coming home to yourself.” – Aundi Kolber, therapist and author of Try Softer

We may become distracted, but we can always come back to ourselves. The true root of stress is that we have separated ourselves from who we are really meant to be. We try to be productive and forget to be purposeful.

Anxiety is ignited from a lack of self care and self love. Neglect of self is a contributor to how we can lose ourselves and find ourselves feeling stressed and anxious. The good news is that we can get it back.

Here are 7 self soothing techniques to help you find your way back to peace.

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1. Yoga

Yoga is a great way to stretch and tone muscle and find some calm. Many find it meditative and helpful towards stress relief. A recent study[1] found that “practicing Hatha yoga had a promising effect on anxiety. Yoga was also most beneficial in people who had the highest levels of anxiety at the start of the studies.” There are many more studies like this. Try it today.

Try these 8 poses for inner peace and stress relief[2]:

  • Sukhasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Sasangasana
  • Vajrasana with Garudasana arms
  • Side Stretch
  • Halasana
  • Savasana

If you don’t know what these poses are, you can see examples and a description through a simple Google search. Furthermore, you don’t have to be a practicing yogi to be able to do them. You can use yoga whether you’re a beginner or an expert to relax your body and your soul.

For more intense yoga, there are many YouTube videos you can try. Explore the internet or take a class. The point is that you can start simple and progress each day. You can challenge and condition yourself at your own pace.

Stress and anxiety will be unable to reach you as you focus on your yoga poses and stretches. Yoga can uplift you, improving overall emotional and physical wellbeing.

2. Stress Diary/Anxiety Log

Stress diaries are how we can pinpoint problems and come up with solutions for them. What is breaking you could lead to better breakthroughs if you record your stress daily. What triggers them? Keep a log. There are many benefits of a stress diary[3], but most importantly, it can help you discover the sources of your stress so you can tackle them directly.

Record the date and time, the stressor, rate the level of stress you are experiencing or how happy you are now, how effectively you are working now, the cause of the stressor, symptoms, and how well you handled the event.

Do this as often as stress comes up or reflect on past stressful experiences. This will lead you to better understand how you cope and how you could do better in the future. It pushes you to analyze the core of what’s going on. What really matters do you? Do you feel in or out of control? Why or why not?

This practice can be done using online tools[4], or you can adapt the log to suit your own style.

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You can also use this idea for an anxiety log. If you are having trouble with anxiety, note the triggers, how long it lasts, how you feel now, and how you handled it (much like you would for the stress diary). If they are one and the same — causing you both stress and anxiety — use one form to analyze the stressor.

The key is to continue using a stress diary or anxiety log so you can figure out what’s wrong and find any solutions. Brainstorming solutions is something you can do as a result of this activity. You can learn better ways to solve problems simply through simple self-reflection, followed by self soothing.

3. Mindfulness

Recent research[5] has found that mindfulness “has many positive benefits, including lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, and protecting against depression and anxiety.”

So, how does one become mindful?

Focus first on your breath.

Then, allow your thoughts to come and go. Just observe the thoughts; do not judge them or yourself for having them. The emotion is not your identity. Overidentifying with them can be harmful. Instead, try to be mindful.

You can do this at anytime, and it can become a way of life. Becoming present helps you to look at your priorities, which in turn helps you to reduce unnecessary stressors in your life. It can be a meditation practice or something you do during any activity. Ultimately, it helps to calm you.

When we become upset, we become our emotions rather than separating our emotions from ourselves. We don’t have to act on each feeling. It’s about getting back into control and a calm mindset.

4. Diaphragmatic Breathing

One proven way to reduce stress is through diaphragmatic breathing.[6] This type of breathing involves using your diaphragm and breathing so that your belly expands and falls with the breath. Generally, we tend to breathe using our chest and shoulders, which causes shallow breathing and ultimately contributes to stress.

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To practice this type of breathing, get comfortable. Put your hand on you chest and your other hand on your belly. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you exhale, it should fall.

Take a moment to do this. You can even close your eyes if you like. Just focus on the breath and your belly rising and falling.

If you catch yourself having an anxiety or panic attack, this is also a great way to help you refocus your breathing until you are better. When you focus only on your breath, you start to feel safe. You can use that to better your situation or yourself. Just breathe.

5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique involves tensing a specific muscle group and then releasing it. Research[7] suggests that it can be “used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain.”

This can be done starting from one end of the body and working your way through the entire body. For example, a common thing we do is clench our jaws. Unclench your jaw. Relax the muscles in your temples and forehead. Continue down to your neck and shoulders. Focus on nothing else. When you get to your toes, you will have relaxed the body completely. This is a great way to help yourself relax, and it’s easy to do.

You can make it a habit of doing it before you fall asleep each night, or when you want to be meditative and calm. It’s a great way to also realize the body is carrying your tension. All your stress and anxiety is found in your body, and you are releasing the stress when you release the muscle tension.

6. Guided Visualization

Guided visualization is a sort of meditation that involves imagining something that helps calm you. This technique has been shown to lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.[8]

There are two common visualization exercises you can try:

Containment Exercise

Visualize a container. Make it look however you want, and give it a name. Then, visualize your negative thoughts, emotions, and worries being sealed within that container and only you have the lock.

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What would you like to do with this container? It contains all your stresses and anxieties. You can dump it into the ocean. You can bury it. You can throw it away. You can safeguard it. You can put it in a safe.

The visualization that you do is up to you with this container. As long as you start to feel the negative thoughts and feelings go into the container, you start to experience stress and anxiety relief.

Happy Place

Visualize your safe space or happy place, a place you can go to anytime. Visualize the details, invoking your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, or even taste? Focus on these details for a bit, playing around with them in your mind. What do you call this place? Give it a name. You can visit it or change it every time you do this guided visualization.

If you want to do more guided visualizations, there are free ones online, you could take a class or practice with a mental health professional or while in a meditation.

They key is to get away from the stressors and things causing you anxiety in your mind. You regain clarity. You remove yourself so you can have control of what you think and feel and finally feel some relief.

7. Ask for Help

If you are feeling stressed and full of anxiety and have tried everything, it may be time to reach out for professional health. You may not be in control, and that’s okay. You just have to get back into control. A mental health professional may be able to target why you are stressed and anxious better than you can on your own.

You are not alone. You are worth it. And if you think otherwise, your mind is tricking you. You can train it to alleviate stress and anxiety, but you may need some help, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Final Thoughts

When you think you are at your wit’s end, there is a way to give yourself a break and a breather. It includes any one of the techniques presented above.

There’s always a way through something, even if it’s stressful or anxiety inducing. You won’t overcome it in one day or one sitting, but if you create a daily practice of cultivating inner peace, you will find it to be worth it. It’s about creating a better lifestyle so you can create a better life.

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Having stress and anxiety doesn’t make you weak. In fact, if you admit you need help, that makes you strong. You can figure out the source through these exercises or with help from a professional. Ultimately, peace will be waiting for you on the other side.

More Tips on Combating Stress and Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

5 Simple Steps to Cultivate a Positive Mental Attitude 10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self 14 Personal Goals for a Better You Next Year 7 Self-Soothing Techniques for Stress and Anxiety Relief 5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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