How are you holding up right now? Are you living and loving life? Or are you struggling with overwhelming anxiety and a sense of impending doom?
Recent events have impacted every single one of our lives, to some degree. Whether it’s the virus, social injustice, or a tanking economy, stress is everywhere you look. Anxiety lurks around every corner.
It seems as if each new day presents a fresh reason to stress out!
My own struggles with anxiety have taken me to dark places in my life. Places where it’s impossible to focus on anything other than fear concocted by my subconscious. And places where peace, joy, and happiness are nowhere to be found.
But you can take back control of your life and tame those racing thoughts! Each of the following anxiety relieving activities has a positive impact on my own life and is worth trying in your own.
Much like storm clouds taking over a sunny day, so too can anxiety overshadow your life with negativity. Make a choice to stop the cycle of negativity and give these anxiety relieving activities a try today.
Before we get into it, let’s chat about stress, anxiety, and how to determine when you need help.
Stress, Anxiety, or Both?
Although people often use the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably, there are differences between the two. Stress is typically described as a reaction to something happening in the here and now. Anxiety, on the other hand, is worry about the future.
Let’s break them both down a bit further.
Believe it or not, stress can result from both positive and negative life changes. The birth of a new baby, starting a different job, and buying a house are all examples of positive life events capable of triggering stress.
Any time you make a life change, the potential for stress exists.
An event that one person considers horrendously overwhelming may have little to no effect on the next person.
The physical and emotional effects of stress are also variable from person to person. You may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep at night. It may suddenly become difficult to concentrate. You may also find that you feel extremely exhausted all the time.
Or maybe you’re so easily irritated that the slightest inconvenience sends you in a rage. Some people react to stress with depression. Still others begin overeating.
Although stress is a normal part of life, when left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your health and your happiness. It can also morph into anxiety.
You may enjoy reading this post about finding peace despite chaos.
Would it surprise you to learn that approximately 40 million Americans have some form of an anxiety disorder? Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized state of worry about any and everything to specific phobias such as a fear of spiders or of flying.
It is similar to stress in that it affects people to varying degrees. Some people experience only occasional twinges of nervousness about an upcoming interview or work presentation.
Other people, however, obsess about the potential downsides of every little decision. What can start out as stress stemming from a life change turns into a hamster wheel of worst case scenarios. Anxiety dominates every waking thought. Soon it becomes difficult to focus on anything other than fear of the unknown and typically, the unlikely.
Physical symptoms often accompany anxiety and may include chest pain, rapid breathing, or feeling overwhelmingly tired.
Although everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it becomes problematic when it dominates your thoughts and consistently interferes with your daily life.
Even occasional anxiety can cloud your thinking and put you in a negative mood.
But you can break free! Let’s get into some amazingly effective anxiety relieving activities!
Reframe Your Thinking
In any given situation, you have a choice. You control your thoughts. And there are positives to be found in even the darkest situations.
But once anxiety gains a foothold in your life, your thinking skews to the negative. Seeing catastrophic disaster around every corner can turn into something of a habit. Your brain becomes conditioned to block out any positives and to instead hone in on any little thing which is slightly amiss.
After a while, your entire world turns into one of those cold, dreary, miserable January days. I’m talking January in Wisconsin. For those of you who have never been to Wisconsin, January is the absolute worst! The excitement of the holidays is over and the novelty of snow has worn thin. Temperatures average around 20 degrees but are quite often below zero. Even the sun abandons the state around this time every year. Summer seems so far away that it’s painful to even think about blue skies, warm breezes, or green grass. It’s easier to pretend none of it exists than to acknowledge how long it will be before you can experience the magic of summer again.
See what I did there?
Yes, January is a long, dark month. But there is a positive side to anything in life, even January in Wisconsin. Snow means sledding, snowboarding, and skiing. It means hot beverages after a cold day spent outside.
I can tell you from experience that if you obsess over every little negative, January will crawl by. But if you actively look for joy, it will reveal itself and before you know it, spring is right around the corner!
Start looking for joy in your life and the world will suddenly seem a much brighter, less anxious place.
You may enjoy reading this post about how to achieve a more positive mindset.
One side effect of anxiety that I find to be particularly challenging is that my mind races. But it’s not in a helpful way like when I’m constructively thinking through my latest blog post. It’s more like that 3 A.M. can’t get back to sleep because I’m re-living every stupid thing I’ve ever said or done kind of way.
Remember what I said about you having control over your thoughts?
It’s absolutely true.
This anxiety relieving activity stops that hamster in its tracks and gives you an opportunity to regain control.
When our mind is racing, it’s often revolving around things which are either in the past or the future. In other words, imaginary things which we can’t do anything about. Continuing to think about them is pointless! It only serves to fuel anxiety and feed into the sense that we are out of control.
Take back your thoughts by using your senses in this incredibly easy anxiety relieving activity.
The next time your mind is racing, remember that you have 5 senses. Next, use each sense to gather one piece of information.
In this moment, here and now, what is one thing you can see, taste, touch, hear, and smell?
Shifting your focus to something tangible is a powerful tactic to distract you from the imaginary. Take back your power and get back on track!
Avoid the Sugar Trap
This next anxiety relieving activity is all about preventing anxiety before it even starts. And as you may have guessed from the heading, it involves sugar.
I will be the first to admit that I love sugar! There aren’t too many things I can claim as my guilty pleasure but sugar is definitely one of them!
And in today’s world of highly processed foods, you don’t need to look far to find it. Sugar is hiding in everything.
I don’t know about you but when I’m feeling a bit drained from all those racing thoughts, something sweet seems the perfect pick-me-up.
But sugar is a liar. It tricks you into thinking you will feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.
And you may feel that way for a short time. But eventually your body will crash, leaving you feeling worse than ever. Worse than before you ate that gigantic piece of leftover birthday cake. Or that chunk of frosted brownie. Much worse.
Our bodies crave stability and predictability from the food we take in. We function best on nutrients which break down more slowly and cause a more gradual energy spike.
Nutrients such as proteins provide a more effective fuel source for your body. Protein will give you a more sustainable energy and won’t leave you with that “hung-over” feeling.
And if your body is fueled adequately, your mind is more likely to follow suit.
Anxiety Relieving Activities Work Best With Help
Although there are a host of effective anxiety relieving activities out there, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Especially if you feel that anxiety is taking over your life. There are many ways to manage anxiety and some people require professional assistance to do so.
Speaking with your doctor and/or a counselor can be extremely beneficial in helping you manage anxiety. Anxiety can be accompanied by other diagnoses, including depression, so it’s important that you receive the appropriate treatment.
Your primary care provider can determine whether medication on either a long or short-term basis may be the right choice for you. Not everyone who has anxiety requires medication but it can be helpful, especially in the beginning, to get things under control.
The most effective treatment of anxiety involves an emphasis on taking care of yourself, body and soul. If you are lacking in one area, anxiety has the potential to creep back into your life.
And a counselor can help you untangle those negative pathways in your mind which are feeding into anxiety. They can help you set a more positive mindset and challenge the false realities you create for yourself.
This past spring has been like no other. If recent events have left you feeling unsettled and drained, please get help! You’re never alone. And there are people out there who both understand and can relate to what you’re going through.
You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.
Spend Time in Nature
“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”John Muir
Of all the anxiety relieving activities on the list, this is my favorite! I am a firm believer in the power of a little sun and fresh air. There’s just something about getting out into nature which feeds the soul.
The beauty and solitude is a reminder that peace exists. There is so much out there which is bigger than we are. A little sun on your face and the wind in your hair is enough to convince you that everything will be ok after all. And suddenly the anxious thoughts once taking over your mind seem insignificant compared with the majesty of nature.
Although Wisconsin winters present a variety of challenges, there are still ample opportunities to enjoy nature. My favorite winter days often follow the biggest snowstorms. Not nice for driving but freshly fallen snow sparkles like thousands of diamonds. Everywhere you look, the world seems shiny new. Paired with a bright blue sky, this view is like nothing else and will take your breath away!
I especially love pairing nature with exercise! It’s the absolute best way to naturally raise your endorphins and banish negativity!
The next time you find yourself reeling from repetitively negative thoughts, strap on your tennis shoes and get outside. Focus on nature all around you and I promise you will be shocked at how quickly the anxiety disappears.
Funniest Anxiety Relieving Activities
We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine but did you know it’s actually true? Not for everything, of course, but for certain things it’s unbeatable! Especially when you find someone else to laugh with!
Similar to exercise, laughter releases feel good hormones known as endorphins. It also decreases your body’s stress response leaving you feeling calm and relaxed.
Research has also proven there are long-term benefits of laughter which include a stronger immune system and better overall life satisfaction.
The next time you’re struggling with anxiety that you just can’t shake, take a laugh break! I’ll even give you a recommendation to get you started!
I discovered Charlie Berens about a year ago and I have to say that before him, I wasn’t a big fan of being a Wisconsinite. Between the frigid winters, the quirky eccentricities of small town life, and the state’s obsession with the Packers, it seemed like there was nothing cool about being from Wisconsin. In my opinion, it was the most boring state. Except Iowa, of course. I’ve heard Iowa is even worse on the state cool meter.
Anyway, Charlie has a way of spinning Wisconsin life to make it seem much cooler than it actually is. He takes snippets of daily life in the dairy state and by using humor, oddly makes me feel better about living where I live. Not that I was ever particularly distressed about being from Wisconsin but it’s definitely not as cool as being from New York, California, or Florida.
If you’re unfamiliar with Charlie or small town Wisconsin, here are a few videos to get you up to speed:
1) Confused about what goes in a casserole? Not sure what a hot dish is? This video explains it all.
2) Ever wondered what your husband does while you’re strolling the aisles of Target? Find out here.
3) I’ve never been to an Ikea but after watching this video feel as if I get the gist.
4) Curious about how quarantine in Wisconsin is going? Find out here.
5) Tips and tricks on backyard deep frying.
It’s Your Turn
Anxiety sucks. But there are ways to overcome it and I hope you have come away with inspiration on taming the negativity! Stop letting anxiety hold you back from living your best life. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling.
Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your tips on controlling anxiety! I’d also love to hear about videos you find hilarious or that keep you sane on a bad day!