9 surprising ways to reduce anxiety

Many people struggle with anxiety day in and day out. But you don't have to live with it. Here are some surprising tips for immediate relief from anxiety.

Photos: ING Image
Photos: ING Image
04 Nov 2015

Photos: ING Image

Many people struggle with anxiety day in and day out. You might even think that’s just the way you are. An anxious person. And you might have learned to live with it.  But there are ways to ease the panic and stress. Try these surprising tips for immediate relief from anxiety.

1. Bring out the crayons and start colouring.
1. Bring out the crayons and start colouring.
04 Nov 2015

1. Bring out the crayons and start colouring.

Time to channel your inner kid. Studies show that colouring has a calming, meditative effect as it occupies our attention and hands with a repetitive motion, leaving less room for anxious thoughts. Plus, it’s a low-key, undemanding way to exercise creativity. All the more reason why adult colouring books are on the rise, including bestsellers like Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Blue Star Coloring and The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book by Johanna Basford. You could also start by finding free printable mandalas online. Five minutes in and you’ll forget about those pesky worries.

2. Karaoke like no one’s watching.
2. Karaoke like no one’s watching.
04 Nov 2015

2. Karaoke like no one’s watching.

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras wrote about music’s power to restore health. That was in the sixth century, and since then music has been shown to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, while activating specific brain functions that motivate positive emotional states. Its therapeutic uses even cover pain relief and intensive care. Singing has similar de-stressing effects. Diminish anxiety by joining a choir, singing in the shower or heading to karaoke night. Belt it out and “Shake It Off.” 

3. Watch cat or baby videos.
3. Watch cat or baby videos.
04 Nov 2015

3. Watch cat or baby videos.

Ever wonder why cute animal and baby videos are so popular? From classics like “Charlie Bit My Finger” to cats dancing to “Uptown Funk,” funny videos provide instant comic relief. Humor is an age-old strategy for banishing tension and soothing your stress response. With every YouTube video that makes you laugh, endorphins are released, your oxygen intake increases, and your muscles relax. Think of laughter as a free feel-good medicine.

4. Do imagine the worst.
4. Do imagine the worst.
04 Nov 2015

4. Do imagine the worst.

If you can’t stop worrying about something, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen. Write it down. The trick is to then ask the follow-up question, “How will I manage if that happens?” This isn’t the same as freaking yourself out and blowing things out of proportion. This two-question method helps you cope with the situation in a constructive way. Identifying and preparing to deal with your fears can calm you down and give you a sense of control when distractions don’t work.

5. Take care of the small stuff.
5. Take care of the small stuff.
04 Nov 2015

5. Take care of the small stuff.

We’re often told not to sweat the small stuff. But when you go a whole month neglecting miscellaneous tasks like buying floss or zip-lock bags, it could clutter your mental space. Don’t put it off too long just because it’s not high priority. When you’re already a ball of nerves, having a trail of unfulfilled 5-minute jobs loitering on your to-do list could make you even more irritable. Just ask anyone who’s had food stuck in their teeth with no floss on hand.

6. Wake up earlier.
6. Wake up earlier.
04 Nov 2015

6. Wake up earlier.

Not a morning person? We’re with you there. But a common cause of anxiety is feeling strapped for time. A solution is to create more time (in a sense) by waking up earlier. Use that opportunity to prep for the day and take care of those 5-minute miscellaneous tasks we mentioned. If you’re a stay-at-home-parent, waking up earlier gives you the much deserved “me” time you’ve been craving before the rest of the house wakes up. No matter how crazy the rest of your day is, the extra hours of peace in the morning will help you feel less harried. Just make sure you’re clocking in enough hours of sleep.

7. Eat more fish
7. Eat more fish
04 Nov 2015

7. Eat more fish

If your anxiety is making you moody and depressed, consider adding more fish to your diet. Salmon and mackerel are great sources of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil that boosts serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. DHA is essential for better focus and mood stability.

8. Chomp on celery.
8. Chomp on celery.
04 Nov 2015

8. Chomp on celery.

Stress eating is real. Deadlines and grueling confrontations could have you reaching for a bag of chips or any crunchy food to smash between your teeth. Chewy snacks like chocolate bars are another popular choice when people feel anxious. Truth is, chewing really does help calm us down by reducing cortisol levels.

Substitute unhealthy foods for celery sticks. Admittedly, it’s not the most mouthwatering option when cookies are at the ready, but it’s more effective at minimizing stress. Celery has been a natural remedy for anxiety since ancient times, and munching on it can even lower blood pressure, thanks to the chemicals apigenin and phthalide.

9. Grab a salad bowl.
9. Grab a salad bowl.
04 Nov 2015

9. Grab a salad bowl.

Lettuce, traditionally used as a mild sedative to treat insomnia, contains a substance that relaxes your body and nerves. All too often, salads are relegated to the sad category of “beach bod diet foods.” But when fancied up with yummy toppings like avocado, chickpeas, grilled chicken and feta cheese, salads are super satisfying and stress-busting. 

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