Mind

These 5 Remedies to Calm Anxiety can Help Manage Symptoms

It's normal to feel anxious, and remedies like breath work, physical exercise, and connecting with others can go a long way toward helping you manage your symptoms.

By Max BennettMay 27, 2024 1:00 PM
Balance, breathing and young woman by plants for zen meditation in a greenery nursery. Breathe, gratitude and young African female person with a relaxing peace mindset by an indoor greenhouse garden.
(Credit: PeopleImages.com - Yuri A/Shutterstock)

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Whether it’s stressing about an upcoming deadline, date, or performance, most of us are all too familiar with the encroaching dread of anxiety.

In essence, anxiety is our body’s way of telling us to be alert and vigilant, but sometimes our limbic system can go a bit overboard. Anxiety originates in the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional center, and was once a useful tool in the minds of our Paleolithic ancestors.

But that was hundreds of thousands of years ago. Nowadays, most of us aren’t particularly concerned about a saber-toothed tiger pouncing on us at our local supermarket. To help keep your brain in check, here are 5 tips to help clear your mind and keep your head on your shoulders — no matter what's going on around you.

1. Don’t Fight It

What you resist, persists. Sometimes the best solution to combating in-the-moment spats of anxiety is to simply accept the feeling. Just as you won’t always be happy or sad, you won’t always be able to completely rid yourself of feeling anxious, as it is a very natural and common feeling. In fact, attempting to quickly suppress it is what sometimes leads to panic attacks.

By allowing the feeling to pass over without resistance, like a cloud drifting overhead, psychologists say that one can more quickly move on, rather than feeling frustrated at themselves for failing to control their minds.


Read More: What is Anxiety and How Can Worries Overpower Us?


2. Just Breathe

Of course, that anxiety will still linger, even if you accept it. That’s where the other techniques come in. For starters try this: breathe in for four seconds, hold, breathe out for four seconds, hold, and then repeat. Congratulations, you just completed a box breath, which U.S. Navy SEALs use to maintain calm under tremendously high pressure.

It works because breathing deeply, whether in a cycle or to your own rhythm, stimulates the vagus nerve near our diaphragm and tells the body to relax. Coupling this breath work with mental exercises, such as meditation, visualization, and paying extra attention to our senses, can be an effective way to put a dampener on an overactive nervous system.

Even beyond the lucid imagery of our imaginations, just putting on some music sometimes works wonders, too. Whether its classic tunes or some soft pop, the auditory stimulation is an effective means of distracting oneself. Keeping your mind present in the moment, rather than worrying about some unknown future or ruminating on past mistakes, is key.


Read More: Deep, Slow Breathing: An Antidote to Our Age of Anxiety?


3. Channel It

Ever felt a so-called a runner’s high after a nice jog? That’s because physically moving your body is a proven way to reduce feelings of anxiety, according to a 2018 paper in BMC Health Services Research. Beyond just distracting your mind, the rush of “feel-good” neurotransmitters, like endorphins, dopamine, and GABA, can have a potent effect on our nervous systems.

Moving your body also allows you to channel the anxious feelings into something more productive. Even a simple walk, or just getting out of bed if you’re stuck ruminating during the night, can help recalibrate your thoughts.

As long as there’s some feeling of a release as the anxious energy is “burned off,” then any activity, from dancing to chores, might be worth trying.


Read More: The Biology and Evolution of a Runner's High


4. Stay Off the Substances and Social Media

If you’re consistently suffering from symptoms of anxiety, it might be best to skip that morning brew, or even that late-night sip of wine. Caffeine is a stimulant that essentially revs up your nervous system like adding nitrous to a car, which is decidedly not good if your mind is already hyperactive with worry, according to a paper published in NCBI in 2015. Unless you absolutely need the extra energy to start your morning off right, consider cutting down on or phasing out the caffeine in your life.

Superficially, alcohol may seem to decrease feelings of anxiety. After all, they don’t call it “liquid courage” for nothing, but the answer to your woes isn’t at the bottom of a bottle. Research has identified a phenomenon called “hangxiety,” demonstrating that long-term alcohol use can worsen symptoms of anxiety, especially when sober, by interfering with brain chemistry.

Even something as innocuous as social media use can have profound effects on one’s mental health. A 2023 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found a positive correlation between social media and anxiety symptoms among college students.


Read More: Hangxiety: The Link Between Hangovers and Anxiety


5. Challenge and Connect

The other thing about anxiety is that it’s (often) wrong. Our brains tend to distort and magnify negative events, or even the threat of their occurrence. That’s why therapists recommend interrogating some of these negative thoughts to evaluate if things are truly that bad.

Journaling can help with this, allowing you to separate yourself from your thoughts and evaluate them in a more objective manner. A licensed therapist can also be of assistance, able to offer solutions like cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which has been shown through research to be highly effective.

And, if things are still looking bad, phoning a friend or family member can also be a great help. Leveraging connections to share and find support has been shown to be tremendously helpful to those enduring hardship, so reach out to those around you if you can, or see if any online communities can offer support.


Read More: Why Gratitude May Be Your Brain's Best Friend


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Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review for scientific accuracy and editorial standards. Review the sources used below for this article:

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