Oftentimes, we allow stress and anxiety to completely overtake us. We surrender to it and suffer from it—without even putting up a fight—because we’ve convinced ourselves that there’s no other option. But that just couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In addition to counseling, there are a multitude of simple therapeutic practices that can benefit your mental health and improve your overall wellbeing. All that’s required is you put in the time and the effort to employ these techniques. Here are 5 of those therapeutic practices, which will prove to lessen your anxiety:
1) Spend time in green spaces.
Lee explains that spending time outside or “forest bathing” is scientifically-proven to work wonders for your mental health. “The effects of ‘forest bathing’ have been widely researched in Japan and South Korea. These highly stressed countries have the highest suicide rates in the world. And other countries are adapting their therapies after they’ve seen successful declines in anxiety, depression, cortisol (stress hormone), and blood pressure. This study also revealed that the effects of hiking a full day through natural woods or forests can last up to 7 days in our bodies. When ‘forest bathing,’ it is best to leave behind your cellphones, headphones, or any other electronics. Anything that can distract you from taking in all of nature can decrease or negate these therapy effects.”
2) Exercise for at least 21 minutes.
“Many studies have been done on the effects of exercise and its ability in reducing anxiety,” Lee explains. “Research has proven that exercising just 21 minutes can release enough endorphins to decrease the effects of anxiety. It also helps with other symptoms: increasing alertness, concentration, and sleep. Just remember that it is normal to not feel the effects of working out right away—don’t give up! Effects from exercising usually takes place after an 8-week commitment.” Lee recommends finding a heart-pumping exercise that you enjoy, such as running, swimming, or dancing, and working out at least 3-4 days a week.
3) Focus on your breathing
According to Lee, “the way you’re breathing may be contributing to your anxiety. There are two ways people breathe: chest-breathing and abdominal breathing. When people are anxious, they tend to take shallower breaths that come from the chest, rather than from the diaphragm (abdomen). This type of breathing prevents air from properly flowing through the body.” Lee says that the following three breathing exercises will help to decrease feelings of anxiety: deep breathing, accelerated breathing, and breath-counting. Deep breathing requires you to inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Accelerated breathing involves fast and noisy breathing, which causes a feeling of elation, followed by calmness. And breath-counting is exactly as it sounds: you focus on counting your breaths, instead of whatever’s triggering your anxiety.
4) Keep a journal.
Lee says that, “keeping a journal is effective at relieving stress and anxiety. There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal. Writing can help you to sort through hidden and dormant thoughts and emotions, as it’s sometimes hard to comprehend what you’re going through, and it may be easier to better understand them when you see it on paper. Writing down how you’re feeling also provides an outlet for your emotions. Noting past traumas or hurt can help you let go of negative thoughts and help you move on to a happier state.”
5) Limit caffeine and alcohol.
And finally, “if you’re prone to anxiety, it is best to limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol,” says Lee. “Caffeine stimulates the nervous system. Although it increases concentration and alertness, it can exacerbate symptoms for people with anxiety and depression, such as rapid heart rates and sweaty palms. While trying to limit caffeine, remember that it is also in teas, chocolate, coffee, and sodas. Alcohol works the opposite way of caffeine. It slows things down and causes a state of excitability and euphoria. When consumed in large amounts, alcohol can cause rapid heart rates, low blood sugar, and increased feelings of anxiety and depression.”