People with anxiety disorders share the simple lifestyle strategies that have helped them manage anxious thoughts.
It's normal to feel anxious every so often, but if anxiety is interfering with your life and making it difficult to concentrate on work, school, or relationships, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. And if you are, you're not alone: anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, and approximately 40 million American adults have the disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Someone with an anxiety disorder may find it helpful to seek out cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, or psychotherapy; depending on your symptoms, you may be prescribed medication. But whether you have a full-blown anxiety disorder or are just coping with a rough patch in your life, there's still plenty you can do yourself to help calm your thoughts. Many people find that natural remedies and lifestyle changes can make a big difference in how anxious they feel.
The r/Anxiety forum on Reddit is a great place to connect with people who currently have or have had anxiety. This supportive community frequently shares strategies they've found helpful for managing their symptoms, and we compiled some of their best tips below. While it's important to note that what works for one person may not work for another, if you're struggling with anxiety, it may be worth trying these strategies.
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"I would really recommend adding meditation to your routine. It's still something I struggle to keep up with, but it helps. There are all kinds of benefits to the meditation itself, but what's equally as powerful for me is just setting aside dedicated time to shedding my worries and just trying to be present and aware of myself. Guided meditation is great, but try some silent as well. It can take some working up to but once you're able to sit quietly, focusing on your breathing for 20 minutes, and being able to feel even slightly relaxed afterward is incredibly encouraging." —pizzapenpal123
"Cutting out processed sugars and starches has made a huge difference. I've noticed that when I consume said foods, my anxiety 'brain fog' and depersonalization gets significantly worse. [I've been] eliminating all beverages except water. Caffeinated and/or sugary drinks are basically the devil when it comes to anxiety so I'd cut back on those if it's hard to eliminate altogether." —Ginacolada
"Exercise keeps my mind calm—running is my favourite [sic], but I also dance and lift weights and study yoga. The aspect of yoga that has been the most helpful is savasana, corpse pose...it's tremendously relaxing and would be a useful tool for me to pull out if I find myself overwhelmed with anxiety...I find myself getting really cagey if a long enough span goes by without getting any exercise." —gazork_chumble_spuzz
Get your zzz's
"I sleep normal hours (for me this is 11:30ish to 7-7:30ish). Sleeping enough and not staying up late have helped me a lot. Starting my day early makes me feel like I've put the right foot forward." —heyidk
For social anxiety, surround yourself with good friends
"I found people who I was comfortable with and who were positive. I cut out the negative nancys [sic] and hung out around happier people. I had social anxiety but I was persistent in looking for someone I felt comfortable with. Socializing isn't relaxing if you're tense the whole time." —mynameisabraham
Focus on what makes you happy
"I've also found that making a mental list of what makes you happy helps ... If you are uncomfortable or unhappy, think about what you enjoy doing and try to visualize it! (Mine is swinging and sunsets)." —ragelobster
Clear your mind
"This sounds kinda weird but it works for me sometimes. What I do is I will look at something like I'm really seeing it for the first time. It helps if it's something beautiful like a landscape. Really study it, look at all the details of it. I think it's a sort of meditation. It helps clear your mind for the moment and sort of makes you live in the now." —antag4123
"There are a number of very helpful anxiety podcasts. I'd recommend The Anxiety Coach's podcast. There are two new episodes each week (Wednesdays and Sundays) that somehow relate to anxiety. The host provides listeners with MANY tools for helping with anxiety, as well as an extremely diverse range of topics. I've found that even episodes I don't think apply to my anxiety have always consisted of useful information and helpful tricks." —Ginacolada
Know your triggers
"I pay attention to what my triggers are. Keeping a journal/diary has helped with figuring that out. For me my triggers are centered around uncertainty. I freak out if I'm somewhere with no clear plan on how/when to go home. I freak out when I don't know what's going on with someone and our friendship or relationship. So I work on doing what I can to absolve those issues. Having clear plans before going out. Talking things over with people rather than just letting it go. Doing away with people who are not understanding or respectful of my needs. And then also learning to let go and accept it when I can't know everything about a situation. Accepting that sometimes I just can't be that spontaneous and that's okay. Deep breaths. Getting away from the crowd for a bit. Enjoying my solitude without allowing myself to become isolated. It's work, and it's not perfect, but I'm doing way better than I was a few months ago." —sleepingwideawake
Get involved in a cause you believe in
"I volunteer in my community, it's amazing how much getting involved can make you feel better even if it's scary at first." —humanace
Be kind to yourself
"One of the best and simplest pieces of advice a college counselor said about managing my anxiety is to, every once in a while and after finishing a task or feat, [give] yourself the praise and positive reinforcement, a la a pat on the back. If validation from others doesn't work or just doesn't come along, get in the habit of being self-reliant and being kind to yourself." —joanna_glass