5 Anxiety Relief Strategies You Haven’t Tried Yet
September 17, 2021
We get it — managing anxiety is hard. You’ve been to all the yoga classes and downloaded every meditation app. Your stress ball has been squeezed so many times that it’s starting to look like a deflated balloon. And all the while, you’re still feeling a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, and sick-to-your-stomach nervousness.
You may think you’ve tried everything, but you probably haven’t yet. Here, we have a list of anxiety relief strategies — some for the short-term, some for handling more chronic anxiety problems — that have been shown to be extremely beneficial in fighting anxiety.
Getting Long-Term Relief
Managing the symptoms of anxiety isn’t always enough. Sometimes, a technique that attacks the source of the problem, preventing and alleviating your anxiety in the long term, is necessary.
In the last decade, there has been more vocal support for those going to therapy than ever before. What was once stigmatized and considered outside of the norm has become much more accepted — in fact, encouraged.
This is for good reason! Therapy has been an incredible tool for millions and millions of people not just across the country, but around the globe.
Therapy provides resources to people with anxiety in many ways. Therapists can provide assurance to anxious people against the worries brought upon them by an anxiety disorder. Therapists can also help anxious people to recognize when their anxiety is interfering with their life and employ coping skills.
Coping skills taught in therapy range from physical rituals, such as breathing exercises, to thought-based skills. Thought-based coping skills are designed to break down anxious and negative thoughts, invalidating them, and reassuring the patient.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
For those who have tried therapy before without much success, there are still treatment options out there for you. One such treatment is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS has been found to be highly effective against anxiety disorders, with some patients seeing full remission.
TMS is a treatment that uses electromagnets to impact the actual activity in your brain. When you suffer from anxiety, the areas of your brain that focus on fight-or-flight and danger are overactive, while the areas that focus on relaxation and enjoyment are underactive. TMS can correct these errors in brain patterns.
This treatment is safe and easy. You are awake throughout each session, as an electromagnet is placed lightly on your head, outside of the relevant areas of the brain. You might hear a clicking sound and feel a tapping on your head throughout the 30-minute session. Side effects are mild, and include headache and lightheadedness.
Getting Restful Sleep
One of the most underrated anxiety relief techniques is getting high-quality sleep. In general, our society and culture doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on sleeping well. Staying up late and getting very few hours of sleep is often normalized, and the impact on one’s health is understated.
This hides a crucial truth: sleep is essential for physical and mental health. It gives your body the time it needs to fully rest, repair your body, build up energy, and process information that you learned throughout the day.
Lack of good sleep can make you tired, more irritable, and slower on your feet. It can also reduce your attention span, worsen your memory, and increase your poor or risky decision-making. In the long term, it increases your likelihood of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Go to sleep at a reasonable time each night — try to schedule some screen-free time before bed, if possible — and wake up at the same time each morning. Initially, you should aim to get about 8 hours of sleep, but if you find that a couple more or less makes you feel the most refreshed and ready to take on the day, feel free to be flexible!
When You’re In a Pinch
Long-term solutions are great for reducing the overall severity and frequency of your anxiety, but are less helpful in moments that require quick relief. Fortunately, there are other anxiety relief techniques that focus on the short-term symptoms of anxiety attacks.
Purposeful Breathing Techniques
Don’t skip past this section just yet! We know what you’re thinking — you’ve tried breathing. After all, that’s what everyone tells you to do when you’re stressed out: “Just breathe.”
But there’s more to this concept than just huffing and puffing as you please. Breathing techniques are extremely effective in reducing the body’s fight-or-flight response and calming you down physically. In turn, you are more able to calm down mentally and emotionally.
The trick is to be very purposeful about your breathing. Don’t just think about taking deep breaths — think about filling your lungs with air from your nose and expelling it from your mouth. Don’t just think about breathing slowly; actually count out the number of seconds each breath takes and try to extend them.
One popular breathing trick is known as four square breathing or box breathing. It comes in four steps: breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold again. Each step should be followed for the same number of seconds (often four), to keep your breathing controlled and uniform. This is a very good grounding technique for any moment of high stress.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness is a state of mind, focusing on staying actively and openly in the present. The practice of mindfulness places emphasis on being aware of all of your thoughts and feelings in the present, without reacting to them or judging them as good or bad.
Mindfulness has been seen in studies to be significantly effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. As such, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which involves the use of mindfulness techniques, can be especially helpful in moments of great stress and anxiety.
Using this technique can help to distance yourself from your anxiety and your stressors, and reduce overthinking, snowballing, and dramatizing your situations.
Anxiety relief is difficult. There are so many strategies out there, each one tackling different areas. Therapy might help you to develop healthy coping mechanisms, while TMS corrects unhealthy patterns in your brain, and purposeful breathing slows down your fight-or-flight response in the moment.
In reality, just one of these solutions might not work for you. Combining two or several could prove to be the most effective. You might include both TMS and MBSR in your life, or work on your sleep schedule and breathing techniques at the same time.
There is a way to fight anxiety for everyone. You just have to find the thing that works for you, and stick with it. In no time at all, you’ll be feeling happier, more relaxed, and more empowered against your anxiety.