Top 5 Ways to Lower Stress and Anxiety

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Everyone feels stress. It’s a fact of life. Stress can come from anywhere: school, work, home, life, etc. Some people who feel stress also feel anxiety. It is more common today for people to be seriously concerned about their levels of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, not everyone can go to therapy since therapy is pricey or esoteric or geared towards long-term solutions and won’t work for everyone. In lieu of (or in addition to) professional help, there are ways one can help to relieve stress that can be done every day.

Silly Putty

Silly Putty. Yes, it is a child’s toy and most people don’t own any. They should. The feeling of squishing, shaping and popping the putty can be fantastic stress relief. It is calming to just focus on the putty and how it feels. A plus with the putty is that you can play with it while working. I have personally played with putty in one hand while using a calculator in the other; work doesn’t have to stop the release of stress.  Even better, it is cheap. A single egg (of putty) is less than $7, so take advantage of a student Amazon Prime account and get some.

Breathe

I know it is a cliché to tell stressed people to “just breathe,” but it is true. I don’t mean breathe like normal, though. Stress and anxiety can alter how we breathe without us noticing. If you feel like you are starting to worry too much, push all the air out of your lungs in one go. Make your abs and diaphragm contract and exhale quickly. Now that your lungs have no air in them, take a nice slow deep breath in. Forcing the air out of your lungs forces your brain to make breathing its new priority rather than anxiety. The slow inhale lowers cortisol levels, which a study has shown can help reduce anxiety and stress.

Music

Everyone has a favorite song that puts them in a good mood. Some people have a song that makes them cry. Music is quite powerful, so put it to use. When you start to worry or stress out, put on some good music to lift your spirits. Good music doesn’t have to be soothing music; if there is a song that makes you feel better — blast it. If you are brave, you can combine music with the next trick.

Get Moving

My personal suggestion is to dance, but moving your body in any way is a great way to release stress. Focusing on your body distracts your brain from the anxiety. If you want a challenge, do something that is physically difficult and requires concentration. If focusing super hard on one movement isn’t your thing, go to tried-and-true cardio to get your heart pumping. No matter the method, getting your body moving releases endorphins, endorphins being the neurotransmitter shown to reduce stress and improve your mood.

Write

Coming from a writer, the advice to write might sound irrelevant, but it really isn’t. Write down what you are worried about. Write down what is making you anxious. The format doesn’t matter either. If the idea of keeping a journal just isn’t for you, find a format that is. Expressing what you are feeling on a page takes a bit of the load off your brain. Pour everything you are feeling onto the page. When you’re done you may feel lighter.

Make It Worse

If you are, in fact, a writer, you are probably upset that this is the sixth item on a five-item list. Hear me out. I suggest the way to deal with stress and anxiety is to add more stress and anxiety. It sounds crazy, but there is some logic behind it. When it comes to stress, sometimes doing more is a good thing. It is possible to be so busy that your brain doesn’t have time to be stressed. This idea works wonders for some people and it doesn’t for others. There is a line for everyone and where that line falls depends on the person; while staying busy is good, burning out is not.

Anxiety works a little differently. If you feel anxious being around people, make it worse and be around more people. Eventually, your brain will get used to it and your anxiety should ease up a bit. That method can be applied in a multitude of different situations. You just have to decide to make it worse so it gets better later on. That is not to say this works for everyone. Each brain is different and reacts to things in unique ways. As someone with anxiety, this is the technique I’ve found to work for me. Maybe it can help you.

In the End

Everybody feels stress and some people feel anxiety as well. These tips and tricks are things to try when you need a little help. Some of these might help. Maybe there is a trick you like better. In the end, it is about how you use tools to get through the day as best you can to not let stress or anxiety stand in your way.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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