There are hundreds of ways to reduce anxiety, and they aren’t all good for everyone. This list isn’t comprehensive, and it couldn’t be even if it were the Top 250 Strategies to Reduce Anxiety. These are tools that help me, and I’ve seen help others. Interpret them to apply to your own life, and you will feel better for it.
1 – Remove Yourself or Take a Break
If you find yourself in a place or situation that regularly makes you anxious, step back. Breathe. Evaluate. Why are you here? Can you find the best parts in another way? Can you remove the anxiety producing parts? A friend of mine has parties at her house fairly regularly. It’s far enough away that Jenny and I spend the night when we go, and drive back the next day. It also has the effect of me not being able to leave. A solution presented itself, and I use it freely. I go outside and take a nap leaning against the house. I let my brain rest and am ready to reenter the party.
2 – Honesty
Being honest means never having to worry about what you say. If you always speak the truth, everything will come out better on the other side. Honesty is a key component to a quiet mind. I used to worry more about people judging me for what I said. A lot of this had to do with my chronic lying. After my turnaround and recovery, I learned that telling the truth is like wearing armor. If someone gets upset over the truth, I can 100% solidly tell myself that the problem is with them, not me, as long as I wasn’t hurtful on purpose.
3 – Physical Safety
The number one anxiety in the world is physical safety. Take control of your body, and your world. Give yourself a home-base, even if it’s your bathroom. Find a place where you are safe from everyone else, including your cats, if need be. This is always in my back pocket. Nobody is coming in when I’m in the bathroom, so I can take a break and come back when I’m ready. I sit with my back to a wall in restaurants, and I never have to look over my shoulder. I enjoy eating out about 10000% more than I used to.
4 – Medication
I’m not saying that anyone should or should not take medication. That’s between you and your doctor. What I am saying is that if you have medication, you should be using it responsibly. Take it when you need it, don’t take it when you don’t. Under-use means you aren’t using the help you already have. Over-use can cause greater anxiety through dependency and side effects. Treat yourself appropriately.
5 – Routine
A routine can be magic, but you have to be willing to commit. I use 7 timers throughout the day to keep me on schedule. These timers allow me to let go of time-based anxiety. When I need to do something, my phone will tell me. Until then, I’m able to commit to my activity. I don’t have to guess about what I need to do to be efficient, saving me many minutes (or hours, even) of worry about whether or not I’m being efficient and getting my work done.
6 – Lose Yourself in Something Good
Find a passion you can lose yourself in. Or, find anything you can lose yourself in. I do NOT mean substances. I mean hobbies. Grab some scratch paper, and practice drawing lines. Read a book. Or watch Dora the Explorer episodes, and talk back to the little girl as if she can hear you! Whatever it takes to let your critical mind take a break, or be useful for once, lose yourself in something, and let your worry sit on a shelf with its mouth closed for a while.
7 – Recharge
Find your recharge button. Where is your power source? For extroverts, this might mean going to a party, or having people over. For introverts, this could be reading or texting friends. Find as many things as you can that give you energy back, and reduce the things that take energy away. For me, I reduced my participation in social media, and started playing more video games. It has made a huge difference.
8 – Find Your Quiet Mind
Find your “quiet”. I’m not saying that yoga and meditating are the fast track to an anxiety-free existence. For some people, silence or prayer are their “quiet”. My “quiet” happens to include loud music plugged into my ears, blocking out the sounds of the neighbors’ dog, and of ambient conversation. Finding your “quiet” means finding a place inside yourself where you can shake some of the static clutter from your ears. For me, music takes up the tracks of my brain that like to complain the most. Turns out my bitchy anxiety voices are divas in their spare time, and cannot resist blaring out some Prince or Justin Beiber.
9 – Remove Clutter
I don’t mean you have to clean your whole damned house, but you can if you like. Removing clutter from your space lets your brain see more of your space as “safe”. It reduces the things your brain has to take in. This isn’t just about soothing the nerves of us clean freaks. It’s about reducing the number of things your brain has to track, in order to let it relax sometimes.
10 – Fill Your Life with Happy Little Things
This one. All day. I look up and see my Applejack cake topper, and my plush Charizard. On my sunvisor in the car, I have a tiny Raphael who smiles at me. In my medicine cabinet, I have a Hello Kitty tin. I surround myself with little things that make me smile. I associate going to work with my tiny fox magnet that I use to indicate to my family that I’m not to be disturbed. It makes all the difference, because it’s super cute, and I can’t help but smile when I see it.
I hope my Top 10 Strategies help you, or someone you love. Remember, mental health isn’t something in a book. It’s a living breathing dialogue that has to be talked about every day. Use your therapists, doctors, friends, family, and your own wisdom to foster a conversation, and move you along your path of wellness.