We all know that anxiety and worry hit the best of us; And for those of you who are anxiety-prone, this can have a detrimental effect on the way you live your life.
Being the super go-getter, I tend to have high expectations of myself, which manifest into self-criticism and eventually anxiety. Over the years, I’ve tried and tested many different ways to stay calm and grounded. The 9 methods below are the most effective ones yet.
Try them and let me know what worked for you!
2-minute calming breath
This can be done anywhere, as long as you have a quiet spot without distractions for the next 2 minutes.
Stand or sit, try to feel your body grounded either on your sit bones (if sitting) or on your feet (standing).
Keeping your gaze soft ahead of you, take a deep inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. If you are really stressed or anxious, you may even give a big sigh on the exhale, and feel yourself letting go of all tension.
Do this a few more times until you feel more calm and relaxed, then close your eyes. Breathe normally, observing the rising and falling of your chest and abdomen with each breath.
We’ll now proceed with a breathing technique called “Box Breathing”
- Breathe in for 4 counts slowly, feeling the air entering your lungs
- Hold your breath for 4 counts
- Slowly exhale through your nose for 4 counts
- Hold your breath for 4 counts again
- Then repeat steps 1-4 until you feel calmer and re-centered.
10 minute tension-relieving stretches you can do anywhere
One of the best ways to relieve tension and anxiety is just to stretch it out. Below are some of the simple calming stretches you can do anywhere at any time.
Simple neck stretch
This stretch is a deep one to relieve tension in the sides of your neck
- Sit or stand tall, keeping your spine upright
- Place your right hand on your head, fingers point to the left
- Pull your head gently to the right side until you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck
- Deepen the stretch by pulling down your left shoulder, maybe even walking the left hand to the side
- Hold for 30 seconds and return back to center
- Repeat the same stretch on the left side
- Do this 3-5 times or until you feel tension leaving your neck
Chest expansion stretch
This is a great one for desk workers who need a quick chest release, especially if you have been hunched over at your laptop for long periods of time.
It promotes good posture and increases oxygen circulation around your chest to relieve tension.
- Come into a seated or standing position, simply clasp your hands together behind your back.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, feel your chest expanding
- Using your arms as leverage, pull your shoulders further back and feel the stretch go deeper
- Take care not to arch the lower back but simply expand the upper torso and chest
- Hold for as long as you need
Rag doll pose
This is a gentler version of standing forward fold that provides similar release and relaxation to the body.
- Stand tall with feet hips-width apart, feel your head reaching up to the sky
- Bend your knees
- With an exhale, start to fold from your hips to bring your stomach to rest on your thighs
- Hold opposite elbows, and relax your head, shoulders, neck and whole upper body downwards
- Shift your weight to the balls of your feet and lift your kneecaps up
- Feel free to straighten your legs if it feels good, or sway your body from side to side to relieve tension
- Hold for as long as you need to
This twist is a great way to relieve lower back pain.
- Sit on a chair with your spine upright and both feet flat on the floo
- Use your right hand to reach behind you for the back of the chair
- Gently rotate your torso to the right, keeping your back as elongated as possible and hips facing forward. Only twist from your mid-body
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat the twist on the left side
This is another one of my favorite stretches, helping to ease the side body which tends to hold a lot of tension.
- Come into a sitting or standing position, bring your hands straight overhead
- Interlock your fingers and rotate the hands so that the palms face the ceiling
- Inhale to stretch up, as though you are trying to reach the sky
- Exhale and lean over to the right, feeling a good stretch all the way down the left side
- Hold for 10-30 seconds before switching sides
Turn off all digital devices and just spend quiet time with yourself
A lot of times our anxieties come from the incessant notifications and distractions from our digital devices. So the best way to really step away from it all is to log out or switch off all devices, just for a good few moments.
This includes turning off the laptop, phone, alarm, smartwatch, TV, tablet. Then come to a quiet place where you can really just spend time with yourself and take a chill pill.
For the yogis out there, this is a good time to do Shavasana or meditate.
Whatever it is, simply take at least 10 minutes away from distracting devices and notice your heart rate and anxiety levels drop.
Play calming music
Sometimes our anxiety can be caused by the types of music we are playing in the background. If you’re looking to calm down and re-center, then choose slow and soft music. My personal favorites would be the yoga mantras, meditation music, soundscapes. These are all easily available on free apps such as Insight Timer or Spotify.
Get out of the house and walk without a destination in mind
Especially in this day and age when we’re spending so much time at our desk working in a small room for hours on end, it will do both your physical and mental health good by simply spending time outside the house.
One of the best ways to feel more centered is to just walk.
I like doing evening walks to alleviate anxiety. Usually, this means taking off in-home clothes, bringing a purse and my phone along, and just walking. And by that, I mean walk anywhere and everywhere, but without a destination in mind.
As you walk, observe the sounds and scents around you. Observe the people you come across (yes, people-watching is a very soothing hobby). Maybe you’ll even want to look up to the sky and watch the clouds go by, or the sun setting.
As you keep your focus on your environment, you’ll notice your heart rate slowing down, your breathing rate regulating, and your stress levels dropping.
Have a warm cup of herbal tea
Whenever I feel the jitters or anxiety, drinking something warm always helps. Instead of black tea or coffee, which contain caffeine and could worsen anxiety symptoms, I tend to reach out for non-caffeinated herbal teas.
My favorite herbal teas are:
- Camomile: One of the most well-known teas for inducing calm. This is also a great choice if you tend to suffer from stomach upset due to anxiety or stress.
- Lavender: Yes! Lavender can be drunk in tea form – the smell alone is enough to make me re-ground myself and relax from any anxiety.
- Valerian: A great one for people who suffer from insomnia or bad sleep quality
- Lemon balm: Widely used for people who suffer from sleeplessness, anxiety or depression. My go-to tea in the evenings after a long day at work.
Do something creative
Even if you do not think you are creative, you’ll benefit from having a (or multiple) creative outlet(s). In fact, art therapy – the application of the visual arts in a therapeutic way – is beneficial in helping people manage behaviors, slow down, reduce stress and anxiety and release pent-up emotions.
You don’t need to go to a professional for art therapy, nor do you need to be an artist. My top 3 favorite go-to creative outlets are:
There has been a renewed interest in adult coloring books as a way to relieve stress. My completed works do not follow any rules – I use different clashing colors on the same page (artists will probably hate me).
You can do the same. All you need is a set of color pencils and your chosen coloring book, and you are good to go.
I used to write long journal entries and pour out my soul in words. But I never read my journals and they tend to go into the bin after a few years.
These days, however, I started mixing the concept of a scrapbook and journaling, penning my thoughts in short verses while decorating each page with stickers, quotes, stamps, and more. The journal is filled with my thoughts as much as it is positive affirmations.
It’s really fun, it looks good, and I always feel much better and calmer after writing / pasting positive thoughts on it.
Buy a cheap canvas and some basic acrylic paint, grab a picture you’ll like to paint for inspiration, and get cracking.
Some of my paintings do not even resemble the picture I used. I change the colors, the texture, the look and feel, and the vibe, by painting the way I want it.
And this is the beauty of painting for art therapy, you just do what you want. The world tells you the sky is blue – but your sky can be pink or yellow in your painting.
Try it out!
Smell calming scents
Last but not least, if you ever feel anxious and need a quick remedy, try reaching out for calming scents. You can either use essential oils or press some dried flowers into bookmarks and keep them near you for easy reach.
My favorite scents tend to be lemon, orange, lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot. I usually only use 100% organic oils from reputable brands and use an aromatherapy diffuser when at home. But otherwise, I like carrying these oils in a 10ml rollerball bottle (dilute 10 drops of essential oil with a carrier oil such as sweet almond) and rub them on my temples whenever stressed.
The Bottom Line
Stress and anxiety hit us all, but some tend to be more prone to them than others. These methods are my personal go-to, and they may or may not work as effectively for everyone.
However, if you feel like you need to actively manage your stress, why not try some of the above methods and let me know how that has worked for you.
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