10 Insanely Actionable Ways to Stop Anxiety Today

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man screaming while holding hands over head and face due to anxiety

So, you’d like to try to stop anxiety today? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

I think it’s fair to say the following:

It can be insanely hard to decrease or defeat moments of anxiety. Or better yet, stop anxiety completely.

Well, believe it or not, you can dramatically decrease anxiety symptoms with a few simple steps.

In fact, these simple steps have helped myself and the clients I work with.

Tip #1: Get More Sleep to Get Less Anxiety

Research has shown that getting more than 6 hours of sleep per night is good for your body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The PNS is your body’s STOP system for stress and anxiety. Similar research has also shown that getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night can make your PNS less active.

What does this mean, then? We’ll keep it simple:

Get more sleep to help stop anxiety!

This is what you can do to get started:

  • Create new patterns of sleep by going to be earlier.
  • Turn off Netflix, your phone, and any other bright light items that stimulate your mind to stay up.
  • If thoughts of the mind persist, practice writing them down on a notepad to clear your mind.
  • Many say don’t read in bed as it can stimulate the mind; however, I’ve come across many readers who say reading makes them pass out. See what works for you.
  • Consult with your doctor if you’ve exhausted all your options to get to sleep. They may suggest using over the counter Melatonin for a short period.

Tip #2: Get Yourself into Nature, Now

Studies have shown that removing yourself from city settings to more natural environments (e.g, parks, walking trails, etc.) helps decrease stress and anxiety substantially.

Other studies have also highlighted that simply listening to sounds of nature can give similar effects of keeping your PNS active, and your anxiety levels low.

This is what you can do to get started:

  • Find a nearby park and go to it. (There are also studies that show benefits just by looking at a nearby park from afar)
  • Practice taking strolls in your neighborhood. Preferably, near trees, grass, flowers and bushes.
  • Change your screensavers to a natural setting on your phone and computer devices.
  • Find ambient nature sounds on YouTube and play them daily.
  • Google the nearest “preserve” aka natural forest-like areas to spend time in.
  • Locate running water where you live and listen to the running current.
  • Buy and take care of a indoor plant, or begin gardening as a hobby.

Tip #3: Breathe Like a Boss

There’s dozens of studies that show the power of breathing. Specifically, diaphragmatic breathing.

This type of special breathing makes immediate, physiological changes in how your body responds to anxiety.

This process can shock the body into turning up the volume on your PNS, within minutes. All in a days work to help stop anxiety.

This is what you can do to get started:

  1. Remove yourself from any stressful environments, if possible.
  2. If you can, sit down in a comfortable position.
  3. Place on of your hands over your stomach.
  4. Take a very deep breath in with your nose and notice your hand on your stomach expand.
  5. Breath in for 5 whole seconds, and hold it for another 5 seconds.
  6. Breath out for another 5 seconds (or until you feel all the air come out).
  7. Wait for another 5 seconds before you repeat this process again.
  8. Make sure your neck, chest, and shoulders are not moving or expanding during this process.
  9. Your PNS is more likely to be active when your breathing is focused on your stomach only (where the diaphragm is doing the work)
  10. That’s it!

Tip #4: Activate Your Vagus Nerve

The vague nerve (VN) is known as the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your head all the way down your neck, chest and abdomen until it reaches your colon.

This nerve does loads for your body, but most interesting is what happens when it’s stimulated.

Many studies have noticed that VN stimulation can not only help treatment-resistant depression, but it can also help with anxiety.

Many correlative studies showcase that stimulating this nerve increases activation of the PNS and dozens of other benefits. Yes, it could help slowdown or stop anxiety in its tracks.

This is what you can do to get started:

  • Deep breathing (tip #3)
  • Splashing cold water on your face, especially after a hard workout.
  • Begin to sing or chant helps.
  • Gargling a glass of water helps.
  • Doing stuff that makes you laugh (I watch standup comedy once a day)
  • Similar to singing, humming can also help stimulate the VN.
  • Connecting with others you’re comfortable with and an trust. Laugh, hug, and engage. All of which can help with VN stimulation.

Tip #5: You + Yoga = Anxiety Who?

Yoga has the power to reduce heart rate, is a powerful stress reduction technique, and is an adequate way to battle against anxiety.

Reviews have suggested that yoga practices can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses. This means that anxiety may not be as powerful if you experience another episode.

This is what you can call a passive and active technique.

Active: you do yoga to relieve anxiety.

Passive: you do yoga for fun, and it also can benefit your body to better handle anxiety in the future.

This is what you can do to get started:

  1. Find a quiet place to focus.
  2. Get a yoga mat, towel, blanket, or good ol’ nothing at all. Just the clothes on your back is good enough to get started.
  3. Some stretch before jumping into yoga poses. Others use warm up routines that may involve poses.
  4. Pull up something like “yoga for beginners” on YouTube. There are thousands of videos to choose from.
  5. Keep it simple and practice poses and breathing you feel you can.
  6. Remember, the goal is not to be perfect at this. Trying is enough.
  7. Practice for 5-10 minutes at first and gradually increase your time.

Tip #6: Positive Imagery Flattens Anxiety

Tons of studies have shown the power in positive thinking when it comes to anxiety, but what about thinking in pictures?

This is what researchers call Positive Imagery. This type of technique is something you can practice anywhere, at seemingly anytime. With little to no preparation at all.

Yes, the imagination is enough to help stop anxiety.

This is what you can do to get started:

  1. Close your eyes if you comfortably can.
  2. Picture a place or experience where you can pretend you’re there now.
  3. Identify what you can catch with your senses: What do you see? What can you smell? What can you tough? What can you hear? What can you taste?
  4. Really, immerse yourself in this space. It’s going to be a little tough the first couple of tries.
  5. Focus on what you’re getting in this experience and soon you’ll notice anxiety drift away.
  6. Practice this while your anxious. Practice this while you’re not anxious, too.
  7. Repeat this process in quiet spaces. Then, move up to spaces where it’s harder to concentrate. You’ll notice that as you make the environment more impossible to practice this each time, the better you’ll get at this.

Tip #7: Figure Out What’s in Your Control

Most anecdotal evidence of anxiety shows that anxiety appears when we think something is out of our control.

Research and case study have shown over and over that anxiety decreases once individuals notice what is actually in their control.

There’s a lot more we have in our control than we think.

This is what you can do to get started:

  1. Get a piece of paper and write out all the things you may be anxious about.
  2. Next, circle all of the items that are in your control right now, today.
  3. Then, scratch out all the items that are literally impossible to do such as things in the future or in the past.
  4. Take your circled items and place them in order from easiest to hardest.
  5. Begin doing what you can in a timely matter.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Practice keeping a sheet of paper handy to do this exercise each day until it becomes muscle memory.
  • Have another sheet of paper with a growing list of things that are actually in your control. Items such as “how I breathe” “how I react toward others” and “how I cope” are all in your control.
  • The more you practice this the easier it is to stop anxiety symptoms from exaggerating.

Tip #8: Never, I Repeat, Never Thought Stop

Back in the day, there was a hype of “thought stopping” aka telling yourself to stop thinking (insert here) to rid yourself of anxiety.

Tons of research has shown that this just isn’t as helpful as it had once sounded. Especially, when it comes to decreasing anxiety.

You know the saying: If I tell you to not think of a blue elephant, what are you thinking of?

Probably, a blue elephant.

This happens because the more you practice telling yourself to not think of _______, the more likely you will still think of _______.

Instead, there’s a much more powerful technique to practice as a replacement:

Ride the wave of uncertainty

In other words, rather than fighting with these intrusive thoughts to help stop anxiety, try and allow it to enter your mind and run its course instead.

This has shown to decrease anxiety much more efficiently than thought stopping.

This is what you can do to get started:

  • The moment you begin to tell yourself “stop thinking of…”, practice accepting that the thought is just floating in your mind.
  • Add some space between you and this thought by saying,”Right now, I’m having the thought of (insert thought here). This can make it less personal.
  • Time it. See how long you notice this thought until it drifts off. Chances are, the more you practice this process the easier and quicker it can work.
  • Notice these thoughts coming in your mind like a car cruising on a long, empty road. Allow it to enter, then watch it drive off in the far distance until it disappears.

Tip #9: Pets Can Help Defeat Anxiety

There’s a generous amount of research that shows pets, dogs in particular, can help increase PNS activity and decrease anxiety levels.

Furthermore, there is also research that shows you don’t even have to have a pet in order to get these results. You just need to know someone that does. These furry critters have the power to help slowdown or stop anxiety.

This is what you can do to get started:

  • Begin walking your dog at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Pet a nearby animal if you feel safe to.
  • Patting dogs on their heads is helpful.
  • Don’t have an animal, consider adopting one at a local shelter.
  • Having a pet not an option? That’s okay! There are plenty of people I know who get the same effects from watching videos or looking at photos of pets.
  • Hang out with a friend and play with their pet if they have one.
  • Visit your nearest pet shop. Pets in these stores are usually happy seeing visitors.
  • Yes, these techniques also work with cats, and other domestic pets that feel stress reducing.

Tip #10: Transfer Anxiety into Helpful Energy

Many studies have suggested that it’s useful to use the energy in anxiety for more productive or helpful things.

Rather than spending hours on end feeling on edge and out of control, use this energy for something more beneficial for you in the moment.

This is what you can do to get started:

  • Run cold water under your wrists
  • Jump in a pool to shock your
  • Journal
  • Make a song
  • Read something calming
  • Get off social media
  • Dance, dance, dance
  • Drink herbal tea
  • Hug a pillow
  • Light a candle
  • Put your phone on silent
  • Take a bath
  • Call a friend
  • Take a bike ride
  • Color with crayons
  • Let out a sigh
  • Eat a meal in silence
  • Clean something
  • Rearrange furniture
  • Cook a meal
  • Paint or draw
  • Alphabetize CDs/DVD/Books/etc
  • Rip a piece a paper into smaller pieces
  • Pray
  • Meditate

Last words

I encourage, no, implore you to take action with this.

Anxiety can really place good people in an endless spiral that no one deserves to be in.

So take action. Because inaction keeps you stuck in this difficult cycle of anxiety. The goal is to stop anxiety in its tracks before it becomes unhelpful.

Take at least one thing from this post and put it to work.

If it works, great! Keep doing it. If it doesn’t, great! You can now say you did it, take it off your list, and now you can move on to another way to cope.

Use this article as a template to help you out with battling your anxiety. Add new skills on it as you move along. But most of all…

Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Anxiety is a battle worth winning.

You deserve wellness.

If you enjoyed this read, here’s another article I’ve written on stress and anxiety.

Jacob Kountz

Jacob Kountz

Jacob is currently an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Bakersfield, Ca.

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