Do you often feel anxious, afraid, or worried, even if you aren’t sure why?
You may be dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or a similar condition. Anxiety disorders, including Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder, affect over 40 million U.S. adults, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Fortunately, there are many coping mechanisms and new habits you can learn and apply on your own (even some you might not have thought of). We spent the time to weed through them all and found the ones that actually work.
1. Get an emotional support animal
Ready for one of the very best anxiety reduction techniques? It’s also the cutest – get a furry friend!
Having a pet is one of the best ways to lower anxiety and improve your mood. Dogs, cats, and other animals can reduce loneliness and promote happiness through unconditional love and cuddles.
Do you already have a furbaby? If you rely on their nuzzles, purrs, or tail wags to help you cope with anxiety or depression, then your pet is an emotional support animal! An ESA can significantly improve your quality of life. Knowing that they depend on you for food, shelter, and walks can help you fight lethargy and depression. In fact, ESAs are recognized by the U.S. government as legitimate assistance animals with legal protections.
Whether you already have an ESA or are ready to look for one, it’s important to get official documentation. Even the most comforting and helpful animal isn’t a recognized ESA without the right paperwork. A legitimate ESA letter is like a prescription – it must be written and signed by a Licensed Mental Health Professional. [You can also apply for a psychiatric service letter, too, which gives you even more flexibility with your pet!]
Fortunately, you don’t need to wait for months to get an appointment with a local LMHP. Pettable makes it easy to get an official ESA letter online. All you have to do is answer a few short questions and book an online appointment with one of Pettable's licensed professionals. If you meet the eligibility requirements for an ESA, you can get your letter in as little as 24 hours.
2. Write down your thoughts
Another technique for coping with anxiety is journaling, which is shown to lower anxiety and improve well-being. Writing down your thoughts can keep you from obsessing over fears and entering a spiral of worry and anxiety.
You can use a traditional pen and paper journal or keep a digital version on a phone or computer. Here are some tips to get started:
- Set a timer for 5 to 15 minutes and write about anything that is on your mind: worries, stressful situations, or things from the past, present, or future.
- Pause for a bit, and then read what you’ve written and develop solutions.
- Try to write down at least one way to think differently or cope with each fear.
Whether you journal in full sentences with correct grammar or jot down phrases and doodles, the goal is to simply write your uncensored thoughts. Getting them out of your head can reduce the feelings of anxiety attached to them.
3. Go for a walk
Another effective and accessible technique for dealing with anxiety is walking. While everyone’s experience is unique, there are many reasons that walking is so effective:
- Physical stimulation helps pull you away from negative thoughts.
- Walking outside provides fresh air and sunshine.
- It’s a great time to physically express your anxious feelings – try stomping or yelling!
- If you have a dog (or an emotional support animal!), you’ll make their day every time you get out the leash.
You may start by taking a walk whenever you feel anxious, but creating a daily habit can have even more benefits.
4. Find a meditation strategy that works for you
Meditation has long been recommended as a coping mechanism for various mental health issues. Several studies show that it can reduce anxiety and help create a positive outlook. Yogis have been meditating for centuries, and the practice is just as popular among modern-day celebrities. So whether you’re following Kino MacGregor or Ryan Renolds, meditating ensures you’re in good company.
There are several different styles of meditation. The MBSR program combines meditation and yoga to address and deal with unconscious thoughts. Transcendental meditation helps you reach a state of “relaxed awareness” to reduce anxiety.
Not a fan of meditation? That’s OK – not everyone enjoys it or finds it useful. One alternative that can be just as effective is building a daily routine that helps you feel relaxed and in control:
- Decide how much time you can set aside in the morning (or at night).
- Choose activities that help you feel calm and less anxious. Try reading a book before checking your social media or taking a short walk before your first cup of coffee.
- Keep it simple so it’s something you can do on autopilot even when you are feeling tired, anxious, or worried.
Of course, you can always combine both options and create a morning routine that includes meditation.
5. Get some exercise
We all know exercise is good for physical health, but there is also a well-documented connection between exercise and reduced mental health symptoms.
Exercise helps reduce anxiety by promoting better sleep, which is an essential part of good mental health. And as we learned from Elle Woods, exercise releases endorphins and lowers stress hormones.
Most experts agree that any form of exercise can be beneficial for mental health. To reduce anxiety, find a type of exercise that you like – you’re more likely to stick to an exercise plan when you enjoy it. Some options to consider are
One particularly helpful (if a little on the nose) option is yoga, which incorporates that anxiety-reducing mindful breathing.
6. Reduce your caffeine intake
Most people consume caffeine on a daily basis through coffee, tea, or soda. If you’re dealing with anxiety, however, those daily cups of coffee could be doing more harm than good.
According to some popular studies, low doses of caffeine may help reduce anxiety and improve mood. However, moderate to high doses of caffeine are shown to cause increased levels of anxiety. People with certain mental illnesses (including panic disorder) may be more sensitive to caffeine and feel negative effects from smaller doses.
If you’re frequently anxious, see if reducing your caffeine intake helps. Skipping that afternoon espresso will probably help you sleep better too.
7. Practice mindful breathing
One of the best ways to overcome anxious feelings and uneasiness? Take deep breaths. We know it sounds simple, but controlled breathing can really help you work through a panic attack or stop one before it starts.
If you feel better after a few deep breaths, you’re not alone. There’s plenty of science showing the link between mindful breathing and relaxation. Both the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that deep, slow breathing techniques can increase comfort and relaxation and reduce anxiety.
There are several different types of breathing techniques. One of the most popular is the 4-7-8 method, which is based on the yogic technique pranayama.
To practice this type of breathing, sit or lie down comfortably.
- Start by exhaling completely through your mouth, allowing yourself to make a “whooshing” sound.
- Breathe in through your nose while you count to four in your head.
- Hold your breath for the count of seven.
- Exhale slowly for the count of eight, again making a whooshing sound.
That is the pattern for a single breath. According to Healthline, you should practice this technique for four full breaths when you start out and work your way up to eight breaths.
Reduce your anxiety with small, consistent habits
Anxiety can be challenging, but there are ways to manage it. Making small positive changes to your daily routine can effectively reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Walking, journaling, controlled breathing, and meditation are all reliable ways to reduce anxiety.
One of the best (and most adorable) ways to manage your mental health is to get an emotional support animal. Countless scientific studies back up what we all know – animals make our daily lives better just by being their loving and happy selves.
An ESA dog or cat can help you feel less overwhelmed in stressful situations and less anxious in your daily life. If you get an emotional support animal, make sure you obtain proper documentation to ensure you can keep them with you wherever you live. With Pettable, you can get prequalified for your ESA letter in just a few minutes.