Plan for a time when you can completely disconnect. Start with increments of time that seem sustainable and doable for you, even if it's just five minutes. That means phone off, no emails, no TV, no news, nothing. Let other people know they won't be able to reach you so you can veg worry free. There's some evidence that too much noise can boost our stress levels, so schedule some sacred silent time among all the ruckus of daily life.
Visualise anything positive.
When confronted with anxious thoughts, take a moment to visualise yourself handling the situation with calm, ease, and clarity. Try not to pay attention to the current mental state; just focus on the feeling of smooth-sailing through the storm. Picture yourself somewhere you'd rather be - on holiday, taking a bath, in a yoga class to help get you there. The technique is called "guided imagery" or "guided visualisation" and can help reduce feelings of stress.
Listen to music.
If a massage isn't in your budget or on your interest list, turn on some relaxing tunes. Research has shown that lying down and listening to music is as effective as massage.
While more research is necessary in this area, studies have found that any kind of meditative movement, including yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong, can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, some psychologists suggest getting our Om on could be as effective as taking antidepressant medication. Mindfulness meditation (a technique focused on learning to be present and sit with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings) can be especially helpful for decreasing depression and anxiety.
Get a move on.
Studies have found that exercise can be highly protective against depression and anxiety. Johnson says he recommends his patients do 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio exercise every morning for a positive energy boost.
Kids and animals seem to have an innate ability to play, without stressing about their overflowing inboxes. Until business offices give us recess breaks, we'll have to take responsibility for our own playtime. Offer to take a friend's dog out for a walk, or babysit for an afternoon to get out of your head and let the careless creatures lead by example.
Learn to breathe.
A useful tool to prevent panic attacks; the breath is also a great marker of where your anxiety level is at throughout the day. Short, shallow breaths signify stress and anxiety in the brain and body. On the flip side, consciously breathing, plus lengthening and strengthening the breath helps send signals to the brain that it's okay to relax.
Make time for yourself.
Need a breather? A relaxing yoga sequence such as yin yoga will relax muscles, release tension, and help get your head in a calm place. Just 20 minutes on the mat will help revitalise your body and quiet your mind.
Fight anxiety before it sets in by preparing for the day or week ahead. Try making a schedule or a to-do list and develop habits that increase productivity. So, instead of spending 10 extra minutes every morning frantically looking for those keys, make a habit of always putting them in the same place when you come home. Lay out clothes the night before, pack a gym bag and leave it by the door, or make lunch ahead of time. Focus on how to "un-think" the anxiety-producing beliefs by prepping before they pop up.
Studies have found expressing gratitude helps reduce anxiety, especially when we're well-rested. Start a gratitude journal to get in the mindset of appreciation, and out of the mindset of being overwhelmed.
Smell something relaxing.
Try sniffing some calming oils. Lavender, basil, anise, and chamomile are great choices; they reduce tension in the body and help increase mental clarity.
Anxiety can throw our bodies totally out of whack: Our appetite might change, or we might crave certain foods. But to give the body the support it needs, try eating more of foods that contain nutrients such as vitamin B and omega-3s, plus some healthy whole-grain carbohydrates. Studies have linked vitamin B with good mental health, and omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Whole-grain carbs help regulate levels of serotonin, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter that helps us remain calm. And even though our cravings might be telling us otherwise, research suggests that eating sugary and processed foods can increase symptoms of anxiety.
Get enough sleep.
Inconsistent sleep can have some serious consequences. Not only does it affect our physical health, but lack of sleep can also contribute to overall anxiety and stress. And sometimes it turns into a vicious cycle, since anxiety often leads to disruptions in sleep . Especially when feeling anxious, try to schedule a full seven to nine hours of snooze time and see what a few nights of sweet slumber do for those anxiety levels throughout the day.2. Smile. When work has got us down, it's a good idea to take a quick break to get some giggles on. Research suggests that laughter can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, so consider checking out a funny YouTube clip to calm those jittery nerves.
Make time for tea.
A warming, soothing cup of hot tea is one of the oldest tricks in the book for stressing less & relaxing more. Instead of just grabbing your tea on the go, make take the time to sit and enjoy a few minutes of solitude. Turning this into a daily ritual will help you keep a relaxed perspective.
People who have lots of social support tend to react less negatively to stress than those who fly solo. That's probably because socialising stimulates the production of the hormone oxytocin, which has an anxiety-reducing effect. So the next time a freak-out appears on the horizon, grab some pals and go for a walk or just have a quick chat.