On a scale from 1 to 10, where’s your anxiety level right now?
Do you feel like everything’s up in the air and you can’t make any solid plans? Are you living in a constant state of worry and stress?
Perhaps the global health crisis has completely disrupted your daily schedule, creating a variety of lifestyle changes that have impacted your focus, sleep, and mood. Or, maybe the unique stressors of these uncertain times have impaired your ability to cope, making you feel completely overwhelmed most of the time.
Spending so much time at-home may be inducing a form of agoraphobia (an irrational fear of specific places, situations, or spaces), where a shut-in existence seems preferable to breaking quarantine and risking getting sick. This lifestyle, of course, can lead to a host of physical, behavioral, and psychological issues.
While it’s understandable that you want to protect yourself and your family, there are no guarantees in life. You can’t stop what’s happening around the globe, but you can change what’s going on inside your brain to prevent fear from dominating your life.
If you need some relief from all the chaos in the world right now, here are 10 helpful ways to dial back the stress and fear in your life…
10 Ways to Help You Find Emotional Stability & Overcome Fear in an Uncertain World
1. Start Out Positive
Begin each morning by saying something like, “Today is going to be a great day!” Such a simple sentence can cause your brain to look for ways to fulfill that affirmative statement. It also establishes a healthy thought pattern that you can continue throughout the day.
When you focus on positive thoughts, your brain will help you discover ways to turn them into reality. This simple strategy can make a significant difference in your life, so do it first thing in the morning to set the tone for your entire day.
2. Mental Hygiene
In recent months, many people have gotten into the habit of frequently washing their hands and using hand sanitizer. While physical cleanliness is extremely important, many fail to realize that it’s just as important to practice mental hygiene. Letting your fears run wild in your mind can leave you feeling stressed or worried, so be proactive at curbing negative thoughts.
You can disinfect your thoughts by exterminating the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that steal your happiness. Anytime you feel sad, mad, nervous, or stressed, write down what you’re thinking and then challenge that ANT. When you stop believing every fearful thought you have, you can start to regain control of your life.
3. Healthy Fears
During this unprecedented season of life, it’s completely normal to feel stressed or worried. It’s also natural to have occasional feelings of anxiety or fear.
Having a healthy fear of potentially harmful things can save your life. Studies show that the “don’t worry, be happy” types – like those who crowd Florida’s beaches during Spring Break – die the earliest from accidents and preventable illnesses. Not all fears are bad; appropriate levels of anxiety can keep you sharp and safe.
4. Just Breathe
Whenever you feel worried, frustrated, angry, or tense, consider doing a deep breathing exercise. Take a deep breath, hold it for one to two seconds, and then slowly exhale for about five seconds. Do this 10 times and you’ll start to feel very relaxed, perhaps even a little sleepy.
It sounds so simple, but breathing is essential to life. When you slow down and become more efficient with your breathing, you may find that your problems aren’t as dire as you thought they were before you started the exercise.
5. Visit a Haven
Choose a haven – a place you can imagine with all your senses. If it’s the beach, visualize the ocean, feel the sand beneath your feet, and the warm sun on your skin. Your haven can be any real or imaginary place where you feel comfortable.
Begin to envision yourself not as you currently are, but as you want to be. Spend at least 20 minutes a day on this refueling, life-changing exercise. You’ll be amazed at the results.
6. Avoid Alcohol
Frequent consumption of alcohol is associated with lowered brain volume. The functional consequences of this effect can be life-altering in their scope.
Many people are using alcohol to calm their worries while in quarantine, but this coping strategy can significantly backfire. Alcohol’s impact on health is serious: though well known to harm the liver, it also damages the heart, lungs, and pancreas. It also affects mood, which can make what’s going on in the world seem even gloomier.
7. Outdoor Activities
Engaging in outdoor activities is important for everyone, especially those who’ve been cooped up for the last several months. Exercise can boost blood flow to deliver oxygen and other positive nutrients to the brain. Physical activity has also been associated with improved mood and a more optimistic outlook on life.
Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, or horseback riding, being outdoors has an overall positive effect on vitality. Walking can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and burn some calories all at the same time.
8. Tea Time
Drinking a cup of warm tea can help relieve stress and lift your spirits. Many teas are low calorie, sugar-free, high in antioxidants, and low in caffeine.
Some decaffeinated teas can help you feel more at ease. For centuries, chamomile tea has been hailed for its calming effects. This herbal tea helps promote relaxation and can help alleviate the stresses of the day, so you can turn off your brain and get some quality sleep.
9. Turn Off the News
When news channels present unsettling projections and shocking images, the fear centers of the brain may be activated. News can induce a state of FOMO (fear of missing out) that keeps you riveted to each new alarming or controversial event, which can make you feel even more on edge.
Obsessively scrolling through news sites on the internet also can fill you with fear. In fact, watching negative news can increase both anxious and sad moods. Minimize your exposure to the news by establishing time limits and stop watching TV at least an hour before you go to sleep at night.
10. End the Day Well
At night, ask yourself, “What went well today?” Even if you’re struggling with emotions, worried about finances, or having relationship issues, there’s sure to be at least one good thing that happened earlier in the day.
Right before bed, write down 3 things that went well during the day. Train your brain to review the positive events of the day and create your own nightly highlight reel. It will help you sleep better, which will enhance your mood and energy levels the next day.
Research has shown that people who did this exercise were happier and less depressed at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups than at the study’s outset. In a 2017 study, this simple exercise was found to help people in stressful jobs develop a more positive sense of well-being. This easy activity can help you end each day on a positive note.
These are just a few of the proven techniques you can use to reduce the stress and fear in your life. Try these tips and see which ones work best for you. Then, feel free to share them with your friends and family.
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