Whether you count yourself among the millions of Americans with a diagnosed anxiety disorder or you simply experience the stress and overwhelmed feelings that are a regular part of modern life, one thing is certain: Every one of us can benefit from tools and habits that allow us to ease anxiety and embrace a calmer state of mind.
But not just any tools will do. If you’re trying to calm down, the last thing you need is a complicated to-do list aimed at anxiety reduction. Instead, you need simple and effective strategies that will truly reduce your stress—not add to it. That’s exactly what you’ll get with the following six tips for feeling calmer every day.
Acknowledge how you feel.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it’s normal to try to avoid these “negative” feelings. But avoidance can actually increase your anxiety. As an alternative, try simply acknowledging that you’re feeling unsettled. This could be as simple as saying “I am feeling anxious” out loud. Doing so helps you step into the role of objective observer and remember that you are not your stress or anxiety; instead, your anxiety is a temporary feeling, not a permanent state. And that realization can provide immediate relief.
Challenge anxious thoughts.
If you’ve acknowledged that you’re feeling something other than calm, the next step is to challenge the negative thoughts that are probably running rampant through your mind. Start by observing the thoughts that are cropping up in your head (“Nobody likes me,” “My boss thinks I’m terrible at my job,” and so on). Then counter them by finding evidence to the contrary and reminding yourself the odds are good your worry isn’t realistic—and even if the worst outcome does happen, you have the wherewithal to make sure you’re okay. This is also a good time to turn to positive affirmations.
Inhale soothing scents.
A variety of natural scents have been found to promote stress reduction, calmness, and even help reduce brain fog. These include lavender, citrus, coffee, tea tree, and fresh flowers. Keep a stash of essential oils on hand for whenever anxiety strikes, or simply reach for an orange, a bag of coffee beans, or a bouquet whenever you need to feel a little calmer.
Hang out with animals.
Study after study finds that spending time with animals is a seriously effective stress buster that can promote a deep sense of calm. If you have a pet at home, make sure to spend plenty of quality time with them every day. (Petting and/or cuddling with animals is thought to be especially soothing.) If you don’t have your own pet, consider volunteering at an animal shelter or visiting a friend who has furry family members.
Create a personal sanctuary.
When feelings of stress and overwhelm hit, it’s important to have a safe space you can retreat to in order to recuperate and reconnect with yourself. Your sanctuary will be highly individualized; it could be a comfy chair in the corner of your bedroom, a secluded spot in nature, a dedicated room where you go to journal, create art, or meditate, or even your entire house. Basically, the goal is to identify a space where you feel like you can truly relax. Critical to this is feeling safe—so whether that means investing in a security system for your home or simply telling your family members they’re not allowed to disturb you for at least a full hour, make sure you’ve erected boundaries that allow you to truly enjoy spending time in your sanctuary.
Listen to a favorite song or album.
There’s a reason there’s an entire therapeutic modality devoted to music: More and more research finds that listening to music can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and help us feel calmer and happier. The key is to listen to tunes you really enjoy. Whether that’s Mozart or Lady Gaga, be sure to give yourself a dose of pleasurable music every day.
Practicing one of these strategies every day will have a positive impact on your state of mind. Making a regular habit out of all them will magnify these benefits and help tip the scales away from stress and toward a sustained sense of calm.