While mental health issues are still accompanied by pervasive stigmas, we’re slowly breaking down the barriers that keep us from discussing our experiences. Rather than suffer in silence, many people are now sharing their thoughts and struggles in the hopes of preventing tragedies and encouraging others to seek out help. After all, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the U.S. every year. Alleviating the shame associated with mental health can go a long way in improving the quality of life for countless Americans.
While 92% of people agree that massage can be effective in reducing physical pain, massages are often cited as a go-to when someone is experiencing mental stress. And while spa treatments may be relaxing to some, they’re unattainable to others — almost one-third of families struggle with medical bills and other health expenses. Rather than spend hundreds at a day spa or hang all your hopes on a masseuse, there are some simple and affordable ways to manage your anxiety on an ongoing basis. Did you know pets can be a great way to help you manage anxiety? Here is how to ask a doctor for an emotional support animal.
Focus on Breathing
Sometimes, remembering to breathe can be essential. Although our body does this unconsciously, we may end up responding to physical cues that can send our sense of panic into overdrive. You can stop this cycle by practicing deep breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth, breathing fully and focusing on being present. Some people find counting to four on each inhale and exhale can help to recenter their thought processes. There’s also a 4-7-8 technique for breathing that’s said to promote immense relaxation. It might sound too simple to be worthwhile, but taking a break to breathe can keep you from letting your anxiety take over.
Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle
In this case, a healthy body can translate to a healthy mind. Eating well-balanced meals on a regular basis can keep you from feeling jittery or sluggish while getting ample sleep can help to mitigate stress and anxiety. It’s a good idea to stay away from alcohol and caffeine, as well, as these popular beverages can actually exacerbate anxiety. You’ll want to prioritize regular exercise, too. Although less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, it’s an important part of maintaining hormonal balance, improving self-esteem, and working through stressful situations. Whether you walk around the neighborhood, attend a yoga class, or sweat it out on the elliptical, exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental well-being. Certain nutritional supplements — like omega-3 fatty acids, lemon balm, and kava kava — are said to reduce anxiety, but it’s important to discuss any additional herbal remedies with your doctor prior to taking them. And while social interaction can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle, make sure that the interactions you have are beneficial to you; you may need to evaluate your relationships to ensure that the people in your life aren’t worsening your anxiety with their harmful behaviors
Look Outside Yourself
One of the keys to managing anxiety in both the short and long term is to shift your concentration to something outside your current experience. That might involve partaking in a creative endeavor (like drawing or painting), writing in a gratitude journal (which can also help you sleep), listening to music, reading a book, meditating, cooking, or volunteering within your community. While trying to escape the problem or pretend it doesn’t exist won’t help, redirecting your focus to something that doesn’t cause anxiety can be a good coping mechanism for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Not only can it distract you from spinning out, but it can recenter your thought process and allow you to keep things in perspective.
Of course, these tips serve as only the beginning. It’s important to talk to your doctor, schedule an appointment with a therapist, or discuss these issues with people you trust in order to address your mental health struggles on a larger scale. Whether you’re feeling anxious due to a particular situation or you’ve experienced ongoing panic attacks, remember that you aren’t alone. The tips above can serve as a welcome start to prioritizing mental wellness in your life.