5 At-Home Ways to Deal With Anxiety, According to an Expert
Anyone who has ever dealt with anxiety knows just how debilitating it can be. And while we always suggest telling a parent if you're feeling totally overwhelmed—or even seeking professional help if it begins interrupting your daily functioning—there are some at-home remedies that can help you relax and keep your anxiety at bay.
We tapped Dr. Nicole Hisaka at UCLA, who specializes in treating youth and families who have experienced trauma and other stressors. Her emphasis on parent-child interaction therapy helps her explain more about what causes anxiety, how to cope and when to seek treatment.
(via Dr. Nicole Hisaka)
For starters, it's always helpful to get to the root of your anxiety. Dr. Hisaka explains, "Most anxiety in teens stems from the perception or actualization of being negatively evaluated by peers [bullying, for example]. Thus, engaging in social situations becomes a derivative of fear."
Of course, academic pressures can also take a toll, which, Dr. Hisaka adds, "tend to increase during this time as teens prepare for challenging school demands and rigorous classes and college-readiness. This, alone, causes a drastic increase in anxiety, mainly because deadlines can be strict, and peer-to-peer competition occurs."
Sound like you? Don't worry, there are solutions you can incorporate at home to calm your nerves. Below, Dr. Hisaka shares five tips and exercises to use when you're feeling overwhelmed.
There's nothing that makes you more anxious then thinking about how anxious you are, so it's important to have a grounding technique to help take your mind off of your anxiety.
"When you're feeling anxious, transferring attention away from anxious thoughts buys your mind time to regulate back to its baseline, or less anxious state," Dr Hisaka says. "One way to do this is transfer attention to other tasks. An easy way to do this is in the comfort of your own home, car, or classroom setting where it is not distracting to others and you can do in the privacy of your own mind. Acknowledge: Five items you see. For example, clock, pillow, desk, pencil, lamp; four things you can touch around you—chair, pencil, floor, hair; three things you can hear; two things you can smell; and one thing you can taste. By the time you've completed these techniques, your body has had time to regulate itself a little more than it was and become mindful of its surroundings."
Anxiety is largely caused by your nerves being out of whack, which is why relaxation is a key way to reduce a bad episode. Dr Hisaka explains, "Relaxing the nervous system is one of the keys to relieving anxiety. By engaging in activities that relieve the body and directly affect the nervous system, alleviation of anxiety can take place."
Her suggestion? Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) which "is a task that promotes the release of muscle contraction and may help control reduced cortisol (stress hormone) release, according to research. Sitting or laying down in a comfortable place of choice, you can contract the muscle of your choice. For example, make a fist with your hand, extend your foot, tighten your stomach, hold for five seconds, and release. You can try this with multiple different muscles. The contracting and releasing of the muscle has shown empirical success for the reduction of anxiety."
Never forget the power that is deep breathing. It's a great technique to use if you're nervous before a big presentation, asking your crush to a dance, and yes, for anxiety, too.
"A great way to reduce anxiety is by increasing the oxygen flow to your brain regulating your nervous system by elongating your breaths," Dr. Hisaka advises. "This does not require you to be in a comfortable or quiet space, though that may be more helpful. Begin by inhaling through your nose, holding for three seconds, and slowly releasing through your mouth. Repeating this technique 5-10 times can be very beneficial for reducing heartbeat and allowing the nervous system to calm down."
Once mastered, "attempting abdominal breathing can be significantly beneficial allowing for deeper breaths," she says. "By laying on the floor to practice and placing an object like a Kleenex box, for example, on your stomach, inhale through your nose with the intention of having your stomach rise filling your stomach with air, hold for three seconds, and exhale through your mouth. The point of the object on your stomach is to show how to engage in abdominal breaths as you will see the object rise upon inhale and fall upon exhale."
There's something so freeing about grabbing a pen and writing your feelings down, and it's also a great form of stress-relief.
"Journaling is a form of self-reflection and a way to release stress through a form of venting," Dr. Hisaka shares. "Especially for teens, often times verbally sharing information may not be easy, and writing it down may be easier. Getting into a routine of daily— or a few times per week—journal writing can help you process different experiences and emotions attached to these experiences. Research has shown that sharing a negative or even a positive experience with others has decreased anxiety."
If you're feeling alone or want to keep things private, "sometimes getting it out on paper feels better than sharing with someone if you are not ready," Dr. Hisaka says. "Getting it 'out-of-mind' and to somewhere else can be very relieving. Sometimes, you can dispose of the paper you wrote on and physically 'throw it away' into the trash as an 'anxiety dump.' "
Nothing does the mind and body as good as talking nicely to yourself! Whether it's our looks, our weight or our success, most of us are all guilty of talking down to ourselves at one point or another. But praising ourselves is a powerful tool.
"Anxiety is often explored through the connection of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors," Dr. Hisaka shares. "One of the ways to tackle anxiety, is to challenge your own thoughts. If you can give yourself a new narrative, such as, 'I know this may be hard, and I am capable,' or, 'Even if I don't get the feedback I want, it doesn't change who I am,' it helps you reframe the way you think. If you can have a dialogue in your head with yourself challenging your negative thoughts with positive ones, it may have an impact on your overall anxiety."
The at-home remedies can be really helpful, but if you're still struggling, it's always smart to seek the advice of a medical professional.
"When anxiety impairs daily functioning and has been of concern for a lengthy period of time (3-6 months), then consideration of clinical intervention should be brought to the table," says Dr. Hisaka.
She says some examples of anxiety meddling with daily functions include, "finding it difficult to tend to routine daily tasks, a decline in academic performance, a decreased interest in social situations, and experience anxiety that prevents them from engaging in certain activities or experiences."
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