While stress and anxiety may be a normal part of everyday life, they’re certainly not fun to deal with — especially the physical symptoms, like sweating, shaking or a racing heart.
We’d bet many of you want to know how to lessen anxiety. Understandably so, as 40 million U.S. adults (or around 19 percent of the population) are affected by anxiety disorders.
Whether you have a severe anxiety disorder, are dealing with a stressful situation, or can’t seem to get negative thoughts out of your head, knowing how to calm anxiety can be useful.
Less stress and anxiety can have an incredibly positive impact on both your physical and mental health. Below we’ll share what helps calm anxiety, along with strategies you can use if you’re living with anxiety.
We all deal with anxiety from time to time — but when anxious feelings or worries interfere with your daily, life such as work, school and relationships, you could be dealing with an anxiety disorder.
We won’t spend too much time on all the different anxiety disorders — after all, you’re here to learn how to calm down anxiety. But the basics are a great place to start when you want to know how to lessen your anxiety.
Various anxiety disorders exist, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t classified as an anxiety disorder, anxiety can occur as a result of this mental health condition.
Some common symptoms of anxiety disorders include restlessness, sleep issues, trouble concentrating, irritability and trouble controlling anxious thoughts.
Certain anxiety disorders can have unique symptoms. Panic disorder, for example, involves panic attacks that cause increased heart rate, chest pain, dizziness, nausea or shortness of breath.
Your mental health is more than what’s going on in your brain — it encompasses your emotional, psychological and social well-being and is just as important as your physical health. Self-care strategies can help you maintain your mental health, especially if you have an anxiety disorder.
If you find yourself dealing with either the psychological or physical symptoms of anxiety, you might be curious to know how to calm anxiety. Can you use music to calm anxiety? Does exercise help or hurt stress levels? Keep reading for ways to calm anxiety.
While many of us love a cup (or three) of coffee, too much caffeine can be not so great for your health.
A 2015 review of studies examined the well-documented anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine on humans and animals. While low concentrations of coffee can help get you moving, higher amounts were found to have anxiogenic-like effects — that is, they increase anxiety levels.
We won’t judge you if there are days when you feel like you need an extra boost. But if you’re already feeling on-edge and vibrating, maybe put down the French press — or at least switch to a low-caffeine alternative like tea.
Enjoying a cocktail or beer at the end of a stressful day or week is one way some people like to unwind and relax. However, alcohol may be doing more harm than good when it comes to calming anxiety.
The connection between alcohol and anxiety is well-documented. Increased anxiety levels after drinking are nicknamed “hangxiety” — a stressed or panicky feeling you get when hungover. You can easily build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol, creating a vicious cycle of more anxiety while not coping with your existing anxiety and stress.
You may not need to cut out alcohol entirely. But if you’re depending on alcohol as a way to calm anxiety, cutting back on your intake may help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Not only does exercise have great benefits for your physical health, but your mental health can also see some improvement from regular exercise.
Exercise produces endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — while improving sleep, boosting your mood, improving self-esteem and reducing stress.
The best part? You don’t have to run marathons or become a gym rat to get the mood benefits of exercise. Even a walk around the block can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
An increasingly popular form of exercise, yoga helps us stretch our muscles, build strength and relax our bodies and minds.
A very small study from a 2018 meta-analysis found that yoga may be an effective and safe intervention for those with higher levels of anxiety.
Though the evidence isn’t conclusive, and larger studies need to be done, the review pointed to preliminary evidence that yoga can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
We tend to feel anxious when we ruminate about the past. You might focus on what you could have or should have done — or fast-forward to the future and start imagining worst-case scenarios about nothing in particular.
Practicing mindfulness keeps you in the present moment instead of thinking about the past or future to calm your mind. Mindfulness techniques can also help manage anxiety, sleep quality, stress and so much more.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from meditation and grounding techniques to deep-breathing exercises like the 478 breathing technique.
Learn more relaxation techniques for anxiety in our guide.
Another strategy on how to calm anxiety that you probably already do? Listen to music.
According to research, listening to music is associated with positive effects on mood and may help temporarily relieve symptoms of anxiety.
Need more than music to calm anxiety? Our guide explores even more natural anxiety disorder treatments to help you learn how to calm your anxiety.
While these strategies to calm anxiety can be helpful, they don’t replace professional guidance and proven treatment options, like psychotherapy and medication.
Many anxiety disorders can be treated through psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy.
One common form of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves learning different methods of thinking and reacting to sources of anxiety, as well as identifying negative thoughts and behavior patterns.
You can explore psychotherapy and connect with a mental health professional through our online therapy platform.
If you’re dealing with anxiety on a daily basis or have severe anxiety symptoms, seek medical advice from a healthcare provider or licensed psychiatrist. They may recommend anxiety medications.
Want to know more about seeing a psychiatrist? Read our blog for insight.
Common medications used to help reduce anxiety symptoms include:
Antidepressants. Zoloft® (sertraline), Lexapro® (escitalopram), Paxil® (paroxetine), Cymbalta® (duloxetine), Wellbutrin XL® (bupropion) and other antidepressants may be used for anxiety. Just a heads up, they can cause side effects and often take several weeks to work.
Anti-anxiety medications. Anti-anxiety meds like benzodiazepines work quickly to promote a relaxed feeling, providing immediate relief from anxiety symptoms. Benzodiazepines promote a relaxed feeling but are often used for short-term treatment due to their addictive and abusive nature.
Buspirone. Buspirone (generic for Buspar®) is a medication used for generalized anxiety disorder, often as a second-line treatment for people who don’t respond to other medications, such as antidepressants.
Beta-blockers. Propranolol and other beta-blockers block the effects of stress hormones on your heart. They’re occasionally used off-label to treat the physical symptoms of performance anxiety — a type of anxiety that occurs before speeches or performances. While beta-blockers can prevent the physical symptoms of anxiety, they don’t treat the psychological symptoms.
If you think anxiety medication may help you calm your anxiety, here are some tips on asking your healthcare provider for anxiety medication.
Not sure who to see for anxiety? Our guide has helpful insight.
Lessening stress and anxiety can have an incredibly positive impact on your health, both physical and mental. There are plenty of strategies on how to calm down anxiety and improve your overall quality of life.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
While common, anxiety disorders can negatively affect your daily life.
There are different types of anxiety disorders. While specific disorders have some unique symptoms, common symptoms include trouble sleeping, feeling nervous, faster heart rate, rapid breathing and excessive sweating.
Ways to calm anxiety include reducing or completely cutting out caffeine and alcohol, getting regular exercise, practicing mindfulness, using relaxation techniques and listening to music.
Psychotherapy and anxiety medications are two proven-effective treatments for anxiety that can help reduce the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety.
Using the above strategies in combination with medical advice from a healthcare professional is your best treatment plan for how to lessen anxiety. These tips on reducing anxiety in the moment provide more information on calming anxiety.
Dr. Beth Pausic is a clinical psychologist and oversees the therapy platform at Hims & Hers.
Prior to Hims & Hers, Beth worked in senior roles at several behavioral healthcare startups focused on the digital delivery of emotional support and treatment through both conventional and innovative approaches.
Her experience prior to working in telebehavioral health includes over 15 years as a Clinical Administrator and provider in diverse clinical settings. In her clinical work, she primarily focused on anxiety, depression and relationships.
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