How to Calm Down: Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
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We’re in the midst of a global crisis of anxiety that didn’t go away when we hit 2021, so naturally we all wonder how to calm down. You can’t maintain a fight-or-flight response throughout the year, says Miranda Belzer, Ph.D. PhD in Emotion Regulation and Anxiety Disorders. It’s the perfect storm of things that can make people emotionally uncontrollable.
More than 50% of adults in their 20s and 30s showed symptoms of anxiety or depression disorders in November, according to a Household Pulse poll by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of the Census. The stats have been (understandably) high since the start of the weekly poll in April 2020. As anxiety grows, so does our need for self-care.
Of course, we’re all upset, but that doesn’t mean we can give up taking care of ourselves, says Julia Colangelo, DSW, LCSW, physician and assistant professor at Columbia University. It is important to respect any emotion and continue to seek support, just like before the pandemic.
We asked experts in anxiety and emotion regulation about their favorite stress reduction strategies so you can figure out how to calm down.
Take a weighted blanket
ICYMI, Weighted Blankets feel like 15-pound hugs – and we’ve already found the best ones. Studies have shown that using a weighted blanket can significantly reduce anxiety.
Build tension to release tension
Progressive muscle relaxation helps relieve stress by connecting the mind-body connection. The idea is simple: tense the muscle groups one by one, really squeezing until they are tense enough for 30 seconds each, and then release them all at once. Check out this 5 minute guide via InsightTimer after your next Zoom meeting.
Drink something soothing
Whether it’s a recurring playlist, the same episode from Friends, or a nostalgic holiday movie, you can calm your headspace with repetition. This is especially true for music. When the tune is familiar, it can be comforting because you know what to expect, you know what comes next, says Rachel Schwartz, M.D., LCAT, MT-BC, CASAC, psychiatric music therapist.
Monitor your mood
Tracking your mood swings can help you manage it. Use a visual reminder to keep track of waves of stress, calmness or anxiety, says Colangelo, who uses a large wall calendar to keep track of her own. When you do experience a more severe attack of stress, you can come back to reevaluate your habits and make a support plan.
Have a mental health day
Tracking your mood can also help you plan for bad days ahead of time. For example, your mental state can fluctuate based on hormonal changes throughout your cycle, so if you know that you usually experience heightened anxiety just before your period, you can start anticipating certain waves of emotion and informing those around you, says Colangelo. She suggests scheduling scaling with friends, or if you can, have a mental health day just to chill out.
Give yourself a massage
Self-massage can help relieve pain and stress while stimulating physical touch in social distancing. Try reflexology or seek out one of the best mechanical heated foot massagers.
So much tension from the routine of disguise, disinfection, and security, where can you unleash this? – says Schwartz. Throw a dance party in your apartment to literally get rid of the energy you store.
Find your inner child
I encourage my clients, peers and students to engage in more vigorous activities that energize our inner child and increase our creativity, says Colangelo. She writes: It’s not for social media, I don’t write about it, no matter what I do, it’s just for me, she says.
Use your hands
If drawing isn’t for you, try a different kind of active mindfulness, like knitting or sewing, to help lift your mood and focus on what’s in front of you.