14 things that help me feel less anxious

Although I have never been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I feel like I can confidently say that the level of anxiety I deal with on a daily basis is anything but average. Because of this, I've been keeping track of all the little things that have helped me feel less anxious for years, even though it's only recently that I've fully come to terms with my anxiety issues. I have to say, some of my coping mechanisms are pretty solid.

Like millions of Americans who struggle with anxiety (anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting nearly 20 percent of the population), I am no stranger to anxiety disorders. I had my first child when I was seven, and I've had more since then - so a few months ago I decided it was time to talk to someone about it. This was an important step for me because it meant I was finally starting to take my mental health seriously, but the medications I was prescribed weren't really helping. Yes, it relieved the tightness in my chest and stopped me from crying in public, but it also made me feel tired and irritable.

So, currently, I'm trying to learn how to control my anxiety without taking medication. Although it is hard work, it is definitely worth it. Here are 14 little things that help me when I feel anxious. I hope they can help you too.

1. Chewing gum

Not long ago, I was perusing the Bustle app, looking for tips on how to improve my focus, and I came across an article that listed "chewing gum" as a focus technique. So before I sat down to write my next post, I bought some gum and chewed it all over. Guess what? efficient!

Not only did chewing gum significantly improve my ability to focus on homework, it also reduced my anxiety. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I'm not the first person to use gum to relieve anxiety. Personally, I think this anti-anxiety approach works for me because chewing gum allows me to get rid of some of my nervous energy. The only thing I know for sure, though, is this: chewing gum helps reduce my anxiety. So now, whenever I feel anxious, I stick a piece of gum in my mouth. When I run out of these I stock up as quickly as possible.

2. Eat with your hands

Interestingly, I've actually found that eating without utensils is a simple way for me to feel more grounded, and finding effective grounding strategies is an important part of managing anxiety and panic attacks. I mean, I don't eat with my hands every meal because of the soup. However, eating with my hands has proven to be an effective grounding strategy for me, so I do it whenever possible. This particular chewing method engages all of my senses and brings me back to the present when I start to feel scared about past actions or upcoming events.

3. Play with animals

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Playing with my cat isn't usually enough to get me out of my anxiety attacks, as these things can get really hard. When it comes to dealing with my daily anxiety issues, though, Madeline and Smoogz are basically my furry little saviors. Not only do they make me feel happier and calmer, raising them forces me to consider the needs of others. No matter what happens to me, my kittens need to be brushed, fed, watered, and cuddled every day—their presence in my home means I’m never alone. As an added bonus, a cat's purring does strengthen bones, and studies show that cat owners also have fewer strokes.

I know that when I start to feel anxious, I can always rely on a friendly dog ​​to help me manage my emotions. Sometimes, when I feel too anxious to sit down but don't want to hang out, I just ask if I can take my friend's dog for a walk. It takes about 15 minutes and everyone wins.

4. Go for a walk by yourself

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Nothing helps me manage my anxiety like exercise, and walking is the simplest form of exercise. While I've always enjoyed walking with people I like (especially now that Pokemon GO exists), for me, walking alone is ideal when I'm trying to combat anxiety. Walking alone allows me to walk at a natural pace (Gilmore-level fast) while engaging in some meditation and positive self-talk. Additionally, walking has a wide range of benefits for both mental and physical health.

5. Breathe slowly and deeply

This is a cliche for a reason. Whenever I drive alone, I take advantage of this privacy by practicing deep breathing. If I'm hanging out with friends, I'll use my solo bathroom breaks to take some deeper breaths. When I was writing the article, I felt so anxious that I could hardly sit still. I closed my eyes and took five deep breaths. I try to do this whether I'm feeling anxious or not, though, because part of naturally managing anxiety is taking precautions to stay calm.

6. Stand and/or sit upright

Recently, a friend of mine told me, "You know you're so slouchy." I'm very sensitive, so it hurt my feelings a little, but he was right. Since then, I've made a lot more effort to stand and sit up straight, which has helped a lot with my anxiety. Considering that bad posture can mess with your breathing, heart rate, focus, and self-esteem, it's no surprise that this works well for me.

7. Stretching

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Whether I'm writing in a coffee shop, hanging out with friends, relaxing with friends, or watching Stranger Things , stretching has proven to be a super effective way to manage anxiety. Sometimes when I feel anxious, I stop and give up on yoga. When I'm out and don't want to do wheel poses in public, I just touch my toes and/or do some arm stretches.

8. Cleaning

Okay, I'm not interested in cleaning toilets or anything like that, but I've been cleaning to calm my anxiety ever since I was a kid. To be clear, other people's clutter doesn't bother me that much - but personally, I can't live in a messy house without feeling anxious all the time. So whether it's my entire kitchen or my bedroom, I try to clean something every day. For me, it's often a time for meditation as well, and meditative activities are great for relieving anxiety.

9. Orgasm

It’s a scientific fact that orgasms reduce stress. Because it's also fun, I try to make it happen every day. Luckily my brother is always depressed so that helps. But when we can't fit sex into our daily lives, I bring out my crafty toy friends. Anyway, in my experience, more orgasms = less anxiety.


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I value alone time, but too much alone time makes my anxiety worse. So when I start to feel out of control anxiety, I always try to meet or call one of my friends. Being with the people I love, or even just hearing their voices, makes me feel safe—it gives me the opportunity to listen to other people's concerns instead of dwelling on my own.

11. Have a cup of mint tea

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I love coffee, but if I drink more than two cups a day, I pay the price with anxiety symptoms. So when I need to comfort myself, but I've had two cups of java, I make a cup of peppermint tea. Not only did the tea itself help relieve my anxiety symptoms, the whole tea-making ritual also calmed me down. It forced me to focus on something other than the tightness in my chest and the stream of anxious thoughts running through my head.

12. Writing

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Oddly enough, my anxiety sometimes makes it hard for me to write - but when I manage to overcome it and write an article, it always makes me feel calm. Keeping a journal helps too – because writing down all my worries and then reading them to myself makes them feel less scary.

13. Practice self-care

I've always been one of those people who likes to dress up, but I just recently realized why. Committing to self-care helps me manage my anxiety for a number of reasons. If I take care of my body, I have nothing to worry about. Plus, self-care can often be a solitary thing, and some alone time is crucial for everyone . Best of all, making time for self-care boosts my self-esteem—because all those coconut oil hair treatments make me feel (and dare I say, look) like a hippie goddess.

14. Put away your phone

I used to keep my phone next to me, but this habit didn't do my anxiety any favors. Now, if I'm at a friend's house, I usually put my phone on one of their counters and ignore everything else in it. I also try not to check Facebook more than 3 times a day. If it's after 6pm, I won't be too nervous about missing a work email. Of course, that doesn't mean I stop using Instagram every day, and I still carry my phone with me everywhere. I’m just not that obsessed with it anymore – it’s had a huge impact on my mental health.

Image: lizzyenochs/Instagram, Giphy/(8)