It’s not uncommon to have anxiety. In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, it’s the most prevalent mental illness in the United States.
About 40 million adults — 18% of the general population — deal with an anxiety disorder. It’s not an even split between the sexes, either: Women are more likely to suffer from many of the major anxiety-related conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
There’s a silver lining to the prevalence of anxiety, though. Because so many women have it — and have learned how to live with it — you can find many tips and tricks for reducing the mental and physical tension you feel. Here are five things to try to feel better.
1. Learn Deep-Breathing Techniques
It might seem like a directive that’s too good to be true: All you need to do is breathe. However, it turns out that deep breaths can help fizzle the anxiety you feel. As you focus on inhaling and exhaling, you center yourself in the present moment and ditch the what-if thoughts that can cause stress to run wild.
There are plenty of breathing techniques for you to try. For example, there’s alternate-nostril breathing. You’ll press different sides of your nose as you breathe in and out slowly and with purpose. According to The American Institute of Stress, belly breathing — watching your stomach rise and fall as you inhale and exhale — has been shown to reduce anxiety.
2. Find Your Calm
Another way to overcome your anxiety is to meditate. You’ve probably heard the one before, too. It’s a common suggestion because it works. Meditation can lower the amount of stress hormones in your body in just four 20-minute sessions.
Not everyone can focus throughout a meditation session that long. You can find other activities that recenter you and help ground you in the present moment, too. For some, it’s a walk through nature, while others wind down with an audiobook. Whatever enables you to calm down and focus on the here and now will do the trick.
3. Plan for the Future
So much anxiety comes from uncertainty about the future. Therefore, it makes sense to combat the rising tension by planning for what’s ahead and giving yourself peace of mind.
Pinpoint what it is that’s causing your anxiety and go from there. Let’s say you worry about what might happen to your family if you were to die and think you can’t get a life insurance policy because of your condition. Shop around for the best options, and be honest with insurers about your depression. You’d know that your children and partner would be taken care of, even in your absence.
Of course, your anxiety might be about your job, buying a home or having children. Whatever it is, come up with a plan to achieve your goals. You’ll feel a whole lot less anxious if you outline a course of action.
4. Eat Well
It could be that your diet amplifies your feelings of anxiety. Some people have seen huge changes in their stress levels by exchanging processed foods or high-sugar fare for a more balanced diet. It makes sense: Spikes of energy followed by crashing lows would only add to your feeling of uneasiness.
Focus on a nourishing diet of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Research has also linked probiotics to improvements in anxiety – make yogurt and fermented foods part of your diet, too.
5. Invest in a Journal
Anxiety often sends thoughts racing through your mind. They have less power if you let them out, though.
One way to do so is to get in the habit of journaling. In the morning or just before bed, grab a notebook and write down your stream of consciousness. Remove all your anxiety-inducing thoughts from your brain and put them onto paper. Those who journal swear by it as a mental health-improving exercise.
Once you’ve done that, turn to a new page and write a list of the things you’re grateful for on that day. Ending on a positive note will help you feel that way: Studies have shown that gratitude journals boost a person’s sense of well-being.
Finish your journal entry with a note in the present tense of how you’re feeling. Writing down something like “I know things will be OK” or “I am in control” will really help you feel that way once you close your book for the day.
Take Care of Yourself
As we said before, if you have anxiety, you’re not alone. Women everywhere suffer from the same daunting feelings, and many have found peace by trying one, a few or all of the above techniques.
Try what speaks to you and see how they make you feel. Chances are, they’ll help extinguish some of that lingering tension and help you get back to your old self again.
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