Top ways to combat anxiety (Tested and Tried)
Published Fri Oct 9 2020•7:25 EDT
Key Points
  • Meditation and exercising help in controlling the amygdala, the part of the brain which controls fear and stress among other primitive feelings.
  • Physical contact helps release the oxytocin hormone which produces happiness and feeling of intimacy which helps reduce stress levels.
  • Being responsible for pets and making a schedule creates a feeling of being in control which helps to focus and control anxiety.
  • Staying hydrated and eating and sleeping on time helps in managing anxiety.
  • Bibliotherapy and one on one therapy show almost the same effects. 

Anyone who has anxiety knows just how bad anything can get. From small choices and tasks like what to order at a restaurant to making life-changing decisions like what college or major to choose can fill the mind with endless questions and fears mostly of doing something (anything) wrong and being embarrassed.

So here we have compiled for you the top ten ways to manage living with anxiety.

  1. Meditation: It has been scientifically proven that meditation helps in dealing with anxiety. Meditating for 8-10 minutes once a day for about 8 weeks has been proven to help with anxiety and depression since it reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for primitive emotions like fear, anger, anxiety, etc. In a study conducted at Stanford University. Meditations help with raising awareness of the thoughts causing anxiety and how to relieve them. In a study conducted at George Town University Medical center, it was proved that mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation reduced stress-related hormones and cell signaling proteins. Taking deep breaths helps to get more oxygen in the body which creates a feeling of relaxation. 
  2. Regular sleep and eating schedule: A regular sleeping schedule makes sure that your body and mind get the time they need to recuperate and helps prevent the mind from getting overloaded. A regulated eating and sleeping lifestyle makes you feel that you’re in control of your life. A rested mind is less likely to be overwhelmed as easily as a tired and sleep-deprived one. Stock up on those fruits to keep up with the vitamins your body needs to energize and prevents you from feeling sluggish and irritable. In a study with more than 100 participants divided into two groups, Group A in which people had consistent eating and sleeping schedules were 70% more successful in dealing with various everyday stressful conditions than group B in which people had irregular sleeping and eating schedules. According to researchers at UC Berkeley, only one night of sleep deprivation can increase a person’s anxiety by 30%.
  3. Practice conversations: A lot of people have a problem with conversing with strangers and authoritative figures which gives them anxiety especially when dealing with someone unpleasant. It is essential for people with social anxiety to practice their conversation skills with someone they trust or even with a mirror. Practicing conversations can help the person feel in control. Practicing with someone can help you anticipate the reactions of people to the things you say. You can practice the same conversation with different people if that helps you. Practicing small talk and conversations with strangers can also help in increasing confidence in yourself. 
  4. Reading: Bibliotherapy, therapy by reading, has been proved to reduce stress in a subject by almost 68% as shown in a study conducted by the University of Sussex. In another study when compared with standard psychotherapy sessions with self-book reading the results were very similar and there was practically no difference in the 3 months following up to the session. Reading has been proven to help manage anxiety especially when many books have a way of subtly influencing their readers for a short amount of time if read from the point of view of the protagonist which makes the brain associate the real world with the world of the book for a short amount of time allowing the reader to escape his current problems.
  5. Observing others: Observing others especially the way that they handle social situations can help to deal with similar situations in the future for people with social anxiety. 
  6. Being open to suggestions: Instead of taking any type of criticism as a negative thing, taking it as a suggestion for improvement may help with wallowing in self-pity and self-hatred or imagining a thousand different ways you could have dealt with this situation that might have gone better. Try to take things positively as most of the time those things are not meant as negative criticism. In most cases, people with anxiety tend to interpret most things negatively which accumulate to overwhelm them.
  7. Distracting yourself: Distracting yourself when things get too much is very important. At times when things get too much, playing an easy and distracting game, listening to soothing music, watching a comedy show goes a long way.  Taking a little me time from life is just as important as giving time to others and to your job and other responsibilities because as much as there are other responsibilities, the first and foremost responsibility you have is to take care of your mental and physical health. Studies show that people with regular work and rest schedules are almost 60% less likely to panic under stressful conditions.
  8. Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises are a gift from heaven when anxiety strikes. Taking in deep breaths that fill your belly and lift your diaphragm instead of shallow quick breaths that only lift your shoulders help you in calming down and gives you a sense of control over yourself when you feel anxiety filling you up. Counting the breaths as you take them helps to stay focused on them. Studies show that taking deep breaths can alleviate symptoms of panic attacks, reduce the impact of a panic attack, help prevent anxiety, and overcome it. In a study at Harvard university, it was proven that breathing exercises help to cope with anxiety in milder cases and even help in getting panic attacks under control.
  9. Exercising: It has been proven in many studies around the world that exercising helps in allaying anxiety and depression. Being active releases anti-anxiety neurochemicals like serotonin, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors), GABA (gamma immune butyric acid), and dopamine. Also being regular in your workouts, again, gives a sense of control over your life and has many benefits such as making you look and feel healthier. Exercising activates the frontal lobe of the brain which is majorly responsible for executive functions like making decisions and thinking. It also helps control the amygdala which is responsible for activating the stress response to imagined or real threats to our wellbeing. Exercising also helps warm up and relax the muscles which tense up in response to stress. It also uses up excess cortisol, the stress-related hormone, bringing it to a normal lever which helps in decreasing stress.
  10. Have a strong support group: Almost every therapist across the globe has stressed that having strong support from family, friends, lovers, etc. is important for someone suffering from anxiety. Have someone or more than one person who you can call anytime when things get too much. Humans are social creatures, and despite many people getting anxious in large crowds and around strangers, the presence of familiar people calms and soothes the mind long enough for the body to get with the program. Studies prove that talking to someone familiar or someone you consider safe may help in reducing anxiety, depression, and produces a feeling of mental and physical relaxation.
  11. Physical contact: Physical contact like hugging, hand-holding, and cuddling is a guaranteed stress reliever. Cuddling or 20 seconds long hugs releases the hormone, oxytocin responsible for making you feel relaxed and happy so regularly having simple physical contact with other people helps in elevating anxiety. Physical contact with pets can also help reduce stress and produce oxytocin. In a study conducted in more than 58 people, the participants were exposed to stressful situations such as having a tarantula in the same area as them. The results showed that people holding pets like rabbits, turtles, and others were more able to cope with the stress caused while those holding stuffed toys showed no change.
  12. Staying Hydrated: Staying hydrated helps in staying calm and lowers blood pressure and cools down the body during panic meltdowns especially in summers where being dehydrated means getting headaches, being nauseous, elevation of heart rate, elevation of cortisol levels, body temperature elevating, getting panic attacks and even fainting. Staying hydrated can prevent these and allow the body to relax and reduce cortisol levels in the body which reduces stress.
  13. Timetables/Schedules: While it sounds ridiculous, studies at Harvard University show that having a timetable/ schedule helps in alleviating anxiety as it has everything organized in specific periods which reduces the burden of choosing what activity to perform first. It also gives structure and discipline in an otherwise chaotic mind and world which gives a sense of control over the situation and one’s self.
  14. Pets: Once again everyone’s favorite subject science has proved that having pets helps in alleviating anxiety especially with people who do not like coming in contact with other people. Physical contact with pets like dogs and cats prompts the release of the love hormone oxytocin which reduces stress and creates a feeling of intimacy. While having a pet provides a non-judgmental and adorable companion, it also gives pet owners a feeling of responsibility and control which helps them stay in focus. I personally recommend something low-maintenance like a goldfish or turtle for people with high stress and low leisure time-jobs as these pets require only feeding once or twice a day and are happy to play on their own, other pets, especially dogs are great companions on a rough day for people who can be responsible for them. P.S. indoor low maintenance plants like cacti or Aloes work just as perfectly for people who do not want to or cannot take responsibility for pets.
  15. Getting therapy: Gone are the days where seeing a therapist meant you were classified as crazy. In fact, psychology recommends that everyone should see a therapist every few months to keep their mental health in check. Getting help is nothing to be ashamed of and is always helpful. If not a therapist then keeping track of things that cause you to feel anxious in a notebook or diary, like a stress diary can help you understand what situations trigger you which can help you either avoid them in the future or at least be ready for them with a course of action in place for them.
  16. Appreciate yourself: Appreciating yourself instead of depreciating yourself goes a long way to deal with anxiety. Remember to celebrate the small wins and accomplishments even if it was just going to the gym or sleeping on time or eating healthy. Even organizing your closet or stuff can be exhausting sometimes and taking care of something small and personal like that should make you feel good about yourself. Do not compare yourself with what others are doing. What you are doing is enough and deserves to be appreciated by yourself. Studies show that the behavior of self-praising and self-love daily helps boost confidence, reduces anxiety, and alleviates symptoms of mild depression.