When researching about reducing anxiety, the first thing you always hear is “Meditate”.
Queue the immediate responses:
“But meditating is so hard!”“I can’t clear my mind for two minutes, let alone 20!”
Ok, I hear you. This post is for you. I have compiled my best ways to reduce anxiety – besides meditation. And I only included things I actively do myself. Nothing makes me roll my eyes harder than someone who gives advice but doesn’t actually do it themselves.
(Although note, meditation is life changing, and I highly recommend.)
Anxiety is simply your body’s reaction to stress. As someone who has a lot of their plate, stress is a normal part of my life. There are always 1,000 things going on and many balls to juggle. I am sure this is the case for you, too.
For the sake of simplicity, my advice is pretty simple: in order to reduce anxiety, we need to reduce the stressors in our life. In order to reduce the stressors in our life, we must simplify. Simply our life, our routines, and any unnecessary stimulants.
Let’s get started.
Ok, starting with a hard one. When we have a lot going on and are being pulled in many different directions, this causes stress and anxiety. There’s the partner, the kids, the volunteer work, self care, there’s friends, family – and I haven’t even mentioned work yet!
Take a few minutes to take stock of where you are spending your time.
Then put them in priority order.
Here is what mine looks like:
- Personal care
Now, does the time you spend in each of these align with the priority in your life? If not, you may need to do some rejiggering. You can’t do and be everything for everyone. This means that we need to cut back. Give the most important things in your life the most time. Your list might be in a slightly different order, and that’s ok.
Here is what this means for me.
Personal care – It took many years for me to get personal care at the top of my list, but now it comes naturally. I work on my self care every single day. It is my highest priority. I get sleep. I eat right, practice gratitude, meditation … the whole nine yards. If I am not taking care of myself, I am not doing a good job with everything else on my plate.
Family – Family comes next. If something comes up with the kids, I will leave work immediately. We have dinner as a family every night. I try to connect with each person in my family every day. If there is a need, it is my priority.
Work – Gotta pay the bills, yo. I go to work everyday, and I work hard to be extra present while I am there. I commit to doing a good job, and do right by my company and the people I work with.
Friends – I adore my friends, and keep up with several people regularly. However, it is not a daily thing. I wouldn’t be able to socialize every single day and keep up with everything else going on. For this reason, I shoot for having 1-2 coffee friend dates a week, and no more. This means that sometimes I have to schedule coffee dates a month out because I already have something going on for the next few weeks. And that is ok. It also means that I prioritize who I spend time with. If I only go out 1-2 times a week, I want it to be with friends who are not energy vampires – you know the ones, they only talk about themselves or negative things or talk trash about people. My time is limited, and I prioritize the relationships that are uplifting and reciprocal.
Volunteering – There are a couple causes I care about, and it is easy for me to get so wrapped up in them that I don’t spend as much time with my family or friends or even on my own self care. For this reason, I work to prioritize volunteering to 1-2 times per month.
Another tough one. Caffeine is a stimulant. It doesn’t case anxiety, but if you are prone to it, it could worsen your symptoms.
I have an espresso drink before I leave the house each morning. Then I was having 1-2 cups of coffee at work. Oh, and maybe tea too, which has caffeine as well. I was constantly on edge and I didn’t realize until I cut back on caffeine how much it was affecting me. Now I have my espresso in the morning. Then I switch to decaffeinated green tea. And then maybe I’ll have one cup of coffee sometime during the day. It’s amazing how much more calm I feel.
STAYING OFF SOCIAL MEDIA
Let’s do some super rough calculations.
Say you are on the low end of the spectrum, and spend one hour a day on social media.
As you scan a page, you visually process one new thing a second. (It’s much more than that, but I’m being extra conservative.)
Over an hour, that’s 3,600 things your brain then processes and responds to.
For someone with anxiety, can you image how much that adds to your already full mind?
I have been working intentionally on cutting back on my scroll time. The thing that has worked best for me has been to logout of my accounts when I am not actively looking at them. That is both on my computer and on my phone. Before it was something I did without thinking. Have a few extra minutes? Pull out my phone and scroll. The simple act of logging out disrupts that habit and forces me to ask myself if I really need to look at my social media account. Hint: usually the answer is no. Now I simply login 1-2 times a day, spend 5-10 minutes catching up, then log back out.
Now maybe you can’t do this because you need to be on social media for whatever reason. That is fine! Just pick a segment of time, say the weekend, and turn it off. Or logout before you start your evening routine and log back in after you finish your morning routine. I promise every little bit helps.
PREP FOOD & CLOTHES
We’re talking about simplifying and reducing stimulants. Is it more stressful to figure out what to wear and eat when you need to do it that moment and need to get out the door in 20 minutes or when you have all the time in the world? The latter for me for sure. For that reason, I pack my breakfast and lunches and pick out my clothes for the week on Sunday. That way during the week, I never have to give it a second thought.
Then daily I plan out what the next day is going to look like. The less surprises, the less anxiety I get.
Some quick tips:
Lay out your clothes the week before or day before
Prepare breakfast and/or lunches
Have a general idea of what you will have for dinner each night – Bonus points if you prep a couple items to make meal time faster when it comes around
Use your calendar and keep it up to date
When you know what it coming next, it is comforting. And when you do things automatically, it is less work for your brain. For this reason, routines are great. And the good thing is, routines are customizable! Do what works for you! If you don’t have a routine, you’ll quickly learn that it is a work in progress and it will likely take a good bit of trial and error to find what works for you, but when you do, it will pay dividends.
I have actively been working on my routines for a good while now. I am further along on my morning routine, but even though it is a work in progress, I have a wonderful morning routine that I look forward to and know it will set me up for the day.
My morning routine, which is pretty evolved and consistent:
First and foremost, turn on espresso machine to warm up
Skincare, brush teeth, floss
Make espresso and take to my chair
Get out my journal: 10 things I am grateful for & 10 affirmations
Read a book
Prayer/meditation or yoga
Pack breakfast, lunch (which are ready to go in the frig) and green tea
Pack work bag
Hair and makeup
Give everyone loves and head to work
I am sure you are wondering how long this takes. From opening my eyes to walking out the door, an hour and a half. I can also do a modified version in an hour or 45 minutes. Although note that I RARELY skip any step, I just shorten it. Instead of reading a chapter, I may read a page or two. Instead of curling my hair and being creative with makeup, I’ll go for more of a minimal approach. Stuff like that. Consistency in the steps is key. My brain never has to think about what is next.
My evening routine is not near as far along as my morning routine and I am not consistent, but this is roughly what it looks like:
Cup of tea
Straighten up a bit
Write a line or two in my 5-year journal
Skincare, brush teeth
Give everyone loves and head to bed
I hope this has been helpful in giving you a few ideas on where to start with minimizing the anxiety and stress in your life. A lot of people can manage their stress and anxiety with tips and tricks like these. However, if you have been struggling with anxiety and stress and haven’t been able to make a lot of progress, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. There may be more going on than simply “being too busy”. I, myself, recently became aware of some things that happened in my past that are causing issues in my current life. And I consider myself a pretty self aware individual! I’d make the argument that mental health is more important than physical help. If you would go to the doctor for a gash on your leg, I would hope you would be able to seek help with an issue that could potentially cause long term ramifications in your personal and professional life as well.