We all get stressed from time to time. But sometimes the stress can get overwhelming and build into some serious anxiety. The kind that can quickly derail your creativity and productivity at work. That kind of self-sabotage can be downright crippling and traumatic. So how can you beat back the demons and learn to relax and squash your fears? Follow these expert-backed tips to calm your nerves and quiet your mind in a matter of minutes.
It's the first thing someone tells you to do, but for good reason. Deep breathing allows the brain to receive a quick, extra dose of oxygen. "When your body is anxious, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is off," says Daniel Smith, author of the acclaimed Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. He suggests breathing in through your nose for four counts, then exhaling slowly through your mouth for six counts. "That balances the gaps in your bloodstream to help you relax."
When you're feeling stressed or anxious, pop a piece of gum into your mouth and start chewing. Studies have shown that the action of chewing gum (and particularly passionate chewing) has the ability to reduce fatigue, stress, and anxiety, and even boost your mood as well as your job performance. Another study determined that chewing gum actually reduced various stress-related responses in the brain.
When your mind is causing you to stress out and get anxious, try controlling and quieting it. Meditation is one of the best ways to put a stop to that dangerous mind-churning. "We live in a culture where maybe we think the more we're thinking about stuff, the more that we're doing stuff, the more productive we're going to be, but it doesn't actually always work like that," says Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace, the popular guided meditation app. "Meditation offers us the ability to step out from that thinking mind and to see it in a different way so that we're not so easily overwhelmed."
Call it yoga, call it stretching. Call it getting a quick rush of blood to your head. In any case, this is an age-old yoga pose that can be used at anytime—no mat required. Do it at the office, at home or anywhere (and anytime) you feel anxiety creeping up. It releases tension and gives you energy. All you need to do is stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, raise your arms and then think of your waist like a hinge as you bend at the waist, bringing your head toward your toes. Feel the heaviness release from tension hot-spots like your shoulders, upper back and neck. Hold for as long as you like and then slowly raise your head back up.