Anxiety can disrupt every part of your day, making it hard to socialize, eat, and sleep. For some people, it manifests as a pit in their stomach, while others can feel fully disconnected from the world around them. Treating anxiety symptoms is critical, but it can be difficult if clinical treatment is out of reach.
There are a few simple things that you can do to disengage from anxious mental states and experience relief.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
PMR is an exercise that allows you to consciously release tension throughout your body. This can aid in reducing the intensity of anxiety symptoms and, when used routinely, managing insomnia. There are several comprehensive PMR guides on the Internet as well as some great videos to help you get started.
Several studies have found that making and listening to music are excellent tools for improving emotional regulation, managing anxiety symptoms, and even focusing attention and promoting cognitive function.
If you do not have access to a music therapist, there are myriad ways to engage with music as a therapeutic tool.
Try compiling your own mood playlists to help you process sadness, anger, or stress or find an album that calms you down when feeling anxious. Music is also great for developing a calm and focused space for meditation, which is known to help manage anxiety symptoms. If you can, try writing music or even learning your favorite songs on an instrument.
We have written at length about the link between exercise and mental health[JG1] , and there is a plethora of research supporting that mild to moderate activity can help manage anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression. But how can the simple act of walking be useful in treating anxiety?
A few main characteristics of walking can be beneficial for people with anxiety: movement, breath awareness, and distractions.
By moving at a comfortable pace, you can reduce muscle tension and excite the frontal regions of the brain—which can directly impact our reactions to real and perceived threats.
When we exercise, we tend to be somewhat more focused on our breath. Breath awareness can calm racing thoughts and bring our attention to the present moment, rather than the several possible disaster scenarios that may be wreaking havoc as a result of anxiety.
Walking outside can provide auditory and visual “distractions” from our daily routine. This can divert our attention from the stimuli responsible for anxious responses.
While scientific data is great for finding what works for many people, you do not need a study to prove what works for you. These coping strategies are simple and easy to try just once. If you like it, you can develop a routine that helps address your specific needs.