I’m a firm believer that we can’t reduce anxiety by thinking ourselves out of it. Instead, we have to take action.
Anxiety cripples us as we ruminate on debilitating thoughts. We simply have to find a way to break this pattern. By adding a number of small but-useful practices, I believe we can build an anti-anxiety lifestyle. The following list is 12 suggestions for things you can do right now to reduce anxiety.
1) Go and smash it at the gym
If you want to reduce anxiety and you don’t work out at the gym on a regular basis, you’re missing a huge trick.
If you don’t think you’re a gym person or you don’t like gyms, I’m begging you to try and deal with it.
“But the music is loud and it sucks, and it’s full of big sweaty men.”
I know. Wear some earphones. Avoid the free-weight area where the lifters are. Read online in advance about how to operate the equipment so you don’t feel like a newbie. It all helps.
And I’m telling you, the endorphins you’ll have coursing through your veins at the end of the session will be worth it. You’ll feel lighter, less anxious and you’ll sleep better.
The more you do it and your body improves, the better you’ll feel about yourself too.
If you can’t make it to a gym, there are loads of bodyweight exercises you can do at home, even without any equipment.
2) Go for a walk or a run
One of the problems with anxiety is the way our mind gets locked in a groove and ruminates over and over. It’s helpful and important to try and break this cycle.
One of the easiest and most accessible things you can do to reduce anxiety is to simply step outside. Whatever you’re doing now, you can probably take a few minutes or longer to get outside for a walk or run.
3) Take a supplement like magnesium glycinate or l-theanine
Supplements certainly aren’t the whole answer, but the right ones can play a very useful role as part of your anti-anxiety toolkit.
Some of my favourite supplements to reduce anxiety include magnesium, a B-Complex vitamin, ashwagandha and l-theanine.
You could introduce one at a time so you can observe the effects more accurately. Or you can do what I’ve done in the past and try a stack.
4) Spend 30 minutes journaling
When you’re anxious, thoughts take over your mind.
They run and run. They overwhelm. Like a ball inside a box, they bounce around and can’t escape.
Grab a pen and paper or open your laptop and start writing. Don’t worry about the structure or the quality. Just write.
What’s on your mind? What are you worried about? Who is making your life a misery right now? What do you wish was different? What do you hate about living in this moment?
Don’t filter. Don’t hold back. This is for you and no one else. Get it all out.
Do this regularly. You might be surprised how much it helps you to reduce anxiety.
5) Meditate for however many minutes you can spare
Regular meditation practice is one of the cornerstones of an anti-anxiety lifestyle. My recommendation is that you try and make this one of the things you just do every day without thinking.
The length of time you spend is up to you. Certainly the more you can do the better. But anything is better than nothing.
If you want to reduce anxiety, I recommend using a meditation app with guided meditations. Listening to good instructions can be reassuring. Not only that but they can really help you understand your mind, and how to better deal with it.
My personal favourite meditation app is ‘Waking Up’ by Sam Harris. You can try a free month of the app here (not an affiliate link).
I meditate soon after I wake up. I find if I leave it until later it might not happen, so I get it in early. It also sets the day up well.
6) Lie in a floatation tank for an hour
Floatation tank therapy must be one of the most underrated tools to reduce anxiety around. I strongly advise you to look up and visit your local floatation tank centre as soon as possible.
Spending time in a floatation tank will slow your mind down. Do it on a regular basis to get the most benefit, especially as it can take a couple of goes to get used to it and reap the full rewards.
Floatation tanks provide an environment in which to let it all go like nothing else. Yes, it might sound a bit weird, but I urge you to embrace it or at least give it a go.
It might seem a bit pricey, but most floatation centres offer very good introductory prices and have big discounts if you buy packs of 10, for example.
In any case, I find these so therapeutic I think they are well worth the money. I wish more people knew just how helpful floatation therapy can be.
7) Call or meet with friends
A lot of the time when we’re anxious we’re stuck inside our heads. Thinking and overthinking, thoughts on a spin-cycle. Talking to a friend helps us to get out of our heads and interrupts or lessens the intensity of the pattern.
It’s easy to feel cut off from the world around you when you’re anxious. We feel isolated and alone. Our thoughts are all-consuming and our intense subject experience of that moment seems like it’s all there is.
But we’re not alone.
Reaching out to someone at that moment for support is a great idea. You don’t even have to explain that you’re anxious.
Just connect. Talk. It will help.
Even better, meet up with friends. The physical presence of other friendly humans to interact with is invaluable. I’ve often experienced relief from just spending half an hour in the company of a trusted friend.
It doesn’t fix any problems, but it reminds you you’re not alone. The physical presence of people we trust is soothing. Maybe they’ll even make you laugh.
8) Listen to binaural beats or a brainwave entrainment audio track
Listen to a what?! This is another highly-underrated hack. Binaural beats and brainwave entrainment audio use sound technology to induce beneficial states of mind.
Sounds weird? I’ve been using this technology for years to deepen my meditations and enhance my relaxation practices.
When my mind is racing I sometimes try to lie down and relax to calm my nervous system. I typically find this difficult, but the addition of sound technology greatly helps.
A good place to start is these free tracks here (not an affiliate link).
Meditation audio technology has been a very useful tool for me. After years I still use it daily and highly recommend it.
9) Spend a few minutes doing pranayama breathing exercises
Along with resistance training and meditation, pranayama breathing exercises are part of my essential toolkit to reduce anxiety.
Before knocking it because it sounds a little too spiritual, spend a few minutes learning how to do ‘samma vriti’ and notice how feelings of well-being slowly start to emerge.
Here’s a quick primer – it really is this simple.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes
- Breathe in for a duration of four seconds
- Hold your breath for four seconds
- Breathe out for a duration of four seconds
- Hold your breath for four seconds
- As you proceed you may lengthen the intervals gradually, if you wish. Just make sure they all remain the same length and do not induce discomfort.
You can do this right now and feel some benefits straight away. It’s eye-opening to observe how we can affect our own physiology in this way.
Start incorporating this powerful practice into your daily routine. The longer you can do it the better.
Personally, I start each day with 25 minutes of this breathing technique and I find it extremely useful.
I then follow it up with a short guided meditation on my favourite meditation app and find I’m already right in the zone as a result of the breathing practice.
10) Make a list of all the things you need to do in order of priority
This is a very simple but useful technique because it helps to get the things that are on your mind, out of it. This can really help us to reduce anxiety.
Anxiety can often take the form of ruminating over all the things we need to do, and all the things that could go wrong when we do them or don’t do them properly.
Writing them all down on a list serves two functions:
1) It eases any anxiety you might have about forgetting to do things you need to do.
2) It gives you an opportunity to list all the things you need to do to do them right. This is particularly effective for work-related anxiety but can be applied to other types of anxiety too.
If you have trouble getting off to sleep, making a list like this can be a good thing to do towards the end of the day. Hopefully, you’ll find it helps you to go to sleep without worrying about what you need to remember the following day.
11) Do the thing you’ve been putting off doing for the last few weeks
I’m sure all of us have at least one thing we keep meaning to do but put off doing. Maybe the thought of it causes anxiety so we keep procrastinating. Maybe it involves an unenjoyable task.
Whatever the reason, these things can occupy our mental space and detract from our sense of well-being. Getting the thing done will provide a sense of satisfaction, ease your mind and reduce anxiety.
Being on top of our obligations and the things we need to do plays a part in our anti-anxiety toolkit. It contributes to cultivating a sense of space. If it’s an important task you’ve been delaying it will be extra satisfying to move it off your plate.
Make a list now of all the things you need to do and start chipping away at it.
12) Take a yoga class either locally or online
Yoga is not just for hippies and it’s certainly not just for women either. It’s a fantastic activity for relieving stress and if you’re not incorporating it into your life you’re really missing a trick.
Yoga is great for us for many reasons – stretching our muscles is relaxing and breathing exercises that can reduce anxiety are often incorporated into yoga classes.