How to Be Calm With Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide

Feeling anxious? You’re not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States. While anxiety can be debilitating, there are many effective techniques and lifestyle changes you can use to find calm and take back control of your life. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about managing anxiety and finding your inner peace.

Key Takeaways:

  • Anxiety is a normal and common emotion, but excessive, persistent anxiety may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
  • Learning to accept and face your anxiety in small, managed steps can help overcome avoidance and anxious thoughts.
  • Breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, yoga, and spending time in nature are proven methods to relieve anxiety.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications, and supplements can also help manage anxiety alongside lifestyle changes.
  • Setting healthy boundaries, simplifying your life, connecting with others, and taking care of your body can prevent anxiety from worsening.

Understanding Anxiety and Its Causes

We all feel anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a normal human emotion that alerts us to potential threats. However, for some people, anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and overwhelming—far out of proportion to the actual situation. This intense and chronic anxiety indicates an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health concern in the United States, affecting over 19% of adults each year. The most common types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday things.
  • Social anxiety disorder – Extreme fear of social situations and judgment by others.
  • Panic disorder – Repeated, unexpected panic attacks.
  • Specific phobias – Intense fear related to a specific object or situation.
  • Agoraphobia – Fear of situations where escape might be difficult.

While the exact causes of anxiety disorders are still being researched, contributing factors are thought to include:

  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. Genes may influence brain chemistry and make certain individuals more vulnerable.
  • Brain chemistry: An imbalance of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine has been linked to anxiety disorders.
  • Environmental stress: Stressful or traumatic life situations like financial problems, grief, chronic illness, family discord, or relationship issues can trigger or worsen anxiety.
  • Medical factors: Certain medical conditions, prescription medications, and substance abuse may produce symptoms of anxiety.
  • Personality traits: Individuals with traits like shyness or introversion may be more prone to anxiety.

While the exact cause of excessive anxiety is often complex, the good news is many effective treatments are available, both natural and medical, to help find calm.

Learning to Face Your Anxiety

Avoiding anxious feelings and situations tend to make anxiety worse over time. Anxiety thrives off avoidance. The key is learning how to face your anxiety. Of course, this is easier said than done. Facing anxiety means experiencing some discomfort in the present moment instead of avoiding a future outcome you dread (even if it is unlikely to happen).

Here are some healthy coping techniques to help face anxiety one small step at a time:

  • Keep a worry journal. Make a list of your common anxious thoughts. Review it to identify patterns.
  • Rate your worries. On a scale of 1-10, rate how likely the worst outcome is to happen. Often, the probability is low.
  • Set a worry schedule. Schedule 15-20 minutes per day to worry. When anxious thoughts arise, defer them until this time.
  • Talk back to anxious thoughts. Challenge distorted thinking patterns like catastrophizing. Think more realistically about the actual risk.
  • Expose yourself gradually. Start small to manage fears and build confidence. For example, driving one block if you have driving anxiety.
  • Visualize success. Picture yourself facing your fears calmly and successfully. Imagining a positive outcome helps build courage.
  • Lean into uncertainty. Accept not knowing what will happen relieves the pressure of needing certainty. Let go of the intense urge to control.
  • Find your anchors. Identify people, places, phrases that make you feel safe and grounded when anxiety spikes.

Along with these mental techniques, physical relaxation practices help calm the body’s stress response. Deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature offer quick relief from anxiety.

Using Breathing Exercises to Relax

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing, deep breathing is one of the quickest ways to calm the body’s stress response during anxiety. Taking slow, measured breaths sends signals to the brain to relax and releases soothing neurotransmitters.

Here’s how to practice deep breathing:

  • Find a quiet space. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Rest one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen. Feel your abdomen rise under your hand.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and exhale slowly through pursed lips. Feel your abdomen fall.
  • Repeat for 10-15 cycles, breathing rhythmically. Use a timer to keep track.
  • To enhance relaxation, try counting slowly to 5 on each inhalation and exhalation.

Perform this simple 2-5 minute breathing exercise whenever overwhelming anxiety strikes. It can be done discreetly anywhere, anytime. Other breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing and alternate nostril breathing also calm anxiety effectively.

Establishing a Meditation Practice

Meditation is clinically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression by inducing deep relaxation and producing brain changes that increase inner peace. Building a consistent meditation habit provides lasting relief from anxiety.

Getting started meditating is easier than it seems – the key steps are:

  • Choose a meditation style. Guided meditations, mantras, mindful meditation, transcendental meditation, zen, and more. Sample different ones.
  • Find a quiet space. A quiet, distraction-free environment. Turn off devices and sit on a cushion.
  • Get comfortable. Wear loose clothing and focus on your posture. Close eyes or gaze softly downward.
  • Direct your attention. Focus fully on your object of meditation, such as your breathing, a mantra, or a visualization.
  • Return your attention gently when your mind wanders. Mind wandering is normal – don’t get frustrated. Just refocus calmly.
  • Start small. Meditate 5-10 minutes daily, then increase with time. Small steps make lasting habits.
  • Be consistent. Make meditation a part of your daily routine. Meditating at the same time helps build the habit.
  • Practice patience and self-compassion. Meditation takes practice. Don’t expect immediate results. Progress takes time.

Apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer provide guided meditations and timers to support you in developing a meditation practice.

Moving Your Body With Exercise and Yoga

Adding regular exercise to your routines gives anxiety relief by burning off excess stress energy, while also boosting feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters. However, anxiety may make it hard to get motivated to exercise. Start small – even 10 minutes of movement provides benefits. Build up at your own pace.

Here are some accessible ways to incorporate exercise:

  • Take a walk – Enjoy a 10-30 minute stroll around your neighborhood. Walking helps clear your mind.
  • Follow YouTube exercise videos – Search beginner cardio, strength training, dance, or yoga routines. Work out in the comfort of home.
  • Try yoga – YouTube and yoga studios offer beginner classes. Yoga combines physical postures, breathing, and mindfulness.
  • Join an online exercise class – Many gyms now offer virtual classes. Consider pilates, cycling, aerobics, or kickboxing.
  • Listen to music or podcasts – Make routine activities like household chores or walking the dog more lively.
  • Set manageable fitness goals – For motivation, make goals like walking 3x per week or taking a daily exercise class.

Even light physical activity for 10-20 minutes makes a difference. Find forms of movement you enjoy and start small to build consistency.

Harnessing the Healing Power of Nature

Did you know that spending time in nature has measurable anxiety-reducing benefits? Greenery, water, and fresh air promote calm. If your anxiety prevents you from enjoying the outdoors, open a window, position yourself near natural light, play nature sounds, or tend to houseplants.

Here are some soothing, low-impact ideas for getting outside:

  • Lay in the grass and watch clouds or leaves rustling
  • Sit near a lake, stream, or waterfall listening to water sounds
  • Stroll through a park, garden, or green trail breathing fresh air
  • Try forest bathing – walking slowly through a forest using all your senses
  • Plant flower or vegetable seeds and care for them as they grow
  • Observe wildlife like birds, butterflies, squirrels, and other animals
  • Lie on a blanket in your yard or open outdoor space and gaze at the sky

Unplug indoors by playing soft nature sounds or gazing at nature scenes or photos to reap some benefits. Anxiety makes us feel disconnected – nature nurtures our spiritual wellbeing.

Finding a Therapist for Anxiety Management

Seeking professional counseling is another route to mastering anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered highly effective for treating anxiety disorders. CBT helps identify and change destructive thought patterns while developing positive coping strategies.

Here’s how to find a therapist specializing in anxiety:

  • Ask your primary care doctor for referrals or search online directories like Psychology Today.
  • Look for keywords like “CBT” or “anxiety” in the therapist’s profile.
  • Check credentials. Licensed counselors (LCPC), psychologists (PsyD/PhD), and social workers (LCSW/MSW) have specialized training.
  • Read client reviews about their anxiety counseling experience.
  • Schedule a consultation call to ask about their anxiety treatment approach.
  • Look for a supportive therapist you feel comfortable opening up to.
  • Commit to weekly sessions for 6-12 weeks to get lasting benefits. Consistency is key.

Working with an experienced anxiety counselor provides objective guidance as you implement lifestyle changes. Therapy equips you with powerful self-care tools. Online counseling now expands access to licensed professionals worldwide.

Considering Medication Options for Anxiety

Medications are sometimes used alongside therapy, exercise, and other lifestyle interventions to manage anxiety – especially severe forms. Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines provide fast, short-term relief while antidepressants treat underlying causes long-term.

Some key facts about anxiety medication:

  • Doctors may prescribe SSRIs like Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, or SNRIs like Effexor to treat anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium help quickly when anxiety acutely spikes but should be used cautiously.
  • Potential side effects include fatigue, insomnia, headaches, nausea, and sexual problems.
  • Never stop medication abruptly – tapering off slowly minimizes withdrawal symptoms.
  • Long-term medication may be needed for chronic anxiety conditions like GAD.
  • For milder anxiety, consider trying natural remedies first before medications.

Have an open discussion with your doctor weighing pros and cons of anxiety medication for your situation. Many find a combination of medication, therapy, and self-care works best.

Using Herbal Supplements to Lessen Anxiety

Many herbs and nutritional supplements are thought to help calm anxiety gently and safely as part of an overall wellness plan. Popular anti-anxiety supplements include:

  • L-theanine – An amino acid found in green tea believed to boost alpha waves and serotonin.
  • Omega-3s – Found in fish oil. May have anti-anxiety effects.
  • Ashwagandha – An adaptogenic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine thought to lower cortisol.
  • Probiotics – Helpful bacteria that may improve gut-brain connection and stress response.
  • Magnesium – An essential mineral many are deficient in that may ease anxiety.
  • Lavender – The essential oil has a calming scent that may alleviate anxiety.

Talk to your doctor before trying herbal supplements, especially if you take medication. While generally mild, side effects are possible. Supplements should complement other anxiety relief strategies.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Those struggling with anxiety often have trouble setting healthy limits or saying “no” to overwhelming demands from others. This contributes to drained energy reserves, frazzled nerves, and more anxiety. Learning to set kind but firm boundaries can help manage anxiety.

Tips for setting better boundaries:

  • Know your limits – identify your emotional and mental limits. What truly fuels you?
  • Don’t over-explain or apologize for your needs – bematter of fact.
  • Practice saying no – start small if this feels uncomfortable. But mean your no.
  • Stick to your guns – remember, boundaries only work if you maintain them.
  • Manage guilt and people pleasing tendencies – your needs matter.
  • Communicate boundaries clearly and directly – leave no room for negotiation.
  • Consider distancing yourself from people who violate your boundaries.

Start small by setting boundaries in low-risk situations before moving to more challenging ones. With practice, anxiety-prone people can reclaim their personal power.

Simplifying Your Life and Commitments

Modern life is increasingly frantic and overcrowded. For those prone to anxiety, a packed schedule can be overwhelming. Take time for self-inventory. Do you take on too much? Feel pressure to always say yes? Leave no margin in your week? Learning to simplify and focus only on true priorities can ease anxiety immensely.

Here are some keys to simplifying an anxiety-inducing lifestyle:

  • Identify top 2-3 priorities that matter most. Focus here.
  • Delegate tasks to others when possible.
  • Leave buffer time for contingencies so your schedule isn’t packed.
  • Block off time for self-care – relaxation, fun activities, exercise.
  • Learn to say no more often. Decline non-essential commitments.
  • Reduce clutter and distractions. Live simply.
  • Give yourself grace. Perfection isn’t possible or healthy.
  • Let some things around the house go. Don’t get overwhelmed maintaining it all.
  • Minimize toxic relationships, commitments, media.

Anxiety thrives when we do too much, have too little margin, and constantly feel rushed or behind. Take back control by purposefully living simply.

Connecting With Others for Support

Anxiety and isolation tend to go hand-in-hand, feeding off each other in a vicious cycle. Making meaningful social connections is critical for anxiety relief. Interacting with supportive friends and family who care about you is grounding. Feeling understood and accepted eases the loneliness anxiety creates.

Here’s how to cultivate your social support system:

  • Spend time with positive people who lift you up, not bring additional negativity.
  • Open up to 1-2 trusted confidantes – sharing your struggles helps release pent-up feelings.
  • Join a support group (in-person or online) to exchange coping strategies.
  • Video chat if unable to meet in person – virtual connections are meaningful too.
  • Confide in close family members – let them comfort and assist you.
  • Seek professional counseling for objective guidance and validation.
  • Bond over shared interests, not just anxiety – connect as multidimensional people.

While isolation seems safer, increased meaningful human contact delivers hope. Let people in.

Optimizing Your Physical Health

Caring for your physical body helps minimize anxiety by managing stress hormones, energy levels, brain chemistry, and thought patterns. Eat nutritious whole foods, hydrate properly, get sufficient sleep, reduce stimulant intake, and take time to unwind and rejuvenate.

Here are some self-care basics to remember:

  • Eat more veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds. Reduce processed foods.
  • Stay hydrated with water, herbal tea, broth, fruit infused water.
  • Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar which can exacerbate anxiety.
  • Move your body daily – even light activity helps.
  • Give yourself downtime to recharge – relax, have fun, be creative.
  • Unplug from devices and screens for blocks of time.
  • Express yourself through journaling, music, art, dance.
  • Get outdoors for fresh air, sunshine, nature connection.
  • Make time for laughter – it’s wonderful medicine.

Listen to your body’s needs. Slow down. Simplify. Tend to your whole being, not just your mind.

Finding Calm One Day at a Time

Living with anxiety may feel like a constant battle. Some days will be smoother than others on your journey. Expect setbacks, be compassionate with yourself, and focus on the progress you make. Each small step leads to greater peace and freedom from anxiety’s grip.

Rather than feeling defeated by the challenges anxiety brings, view it as an opportunity for personal growth. Healing anxiety takes courage, vulnerability, grit, and faith. With time and perseverance, you can find calm amidst the emotional storms through utilization of these proven techniques. You have many resources available and reasons to be hopeful.

Summary of Key Points

  • Learning to sit with and face anxiety helps overcome avoidance patterns making anxiety worse long-term.
  • Calming practices like deep breathing, meditation, exercise, yoga, and spending time in nature provide quick relief in anxious moments.
  • Working with a therapist and considering medications or supplements can help manage anxiety.
  • Making lifestyle changes like setting boundaries, simplifying commitments, connecting with others and optimizing physical health prevents anxiety from escalating.
  • Have patience on your journey to manage anxiety. Progress takes time through daily commitment and support.

Know you’re not alone on the path to mastering anxiety. By actively practicing these coping strategies and self-care essentials, you can find serenity and contentment. Keep going. Brighter days lie ahead.