Scientifically Proven Ways to Cope with Anxiety

 

Anxiety is one of the leading mental health problems in the U.S. and something that almost everyone will experience at some point. Arming yourself with the knowledge of proven strategies for overcoming those anxious feelings can help you or those around you who you want to help. Below are a variety of proven methods for fighting anxiety, ranging from active methods (things you can actively do) to foods and scents, with specific ideas for products or exercises that can help achieve these methods.

1) Watching an Aquarium

Several studies have shown that watching an aquarium can calm anxiety and aid relaxation [Source, Source & Source]. The best part about this is that you don’t even need to have an aquarium yourself. Here is a link to a live streaming aquarium on YouTube that is always available and is set to soothing music. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Watch some fish.

2) Chamomile

The chamomile plant that is typically used to make tea has been scientifically proven to decrease anxiety, and you don’t even have to ingest it! [SourceSource & Source.] Simply the aroma of chamomile is enough to calm nerves. If you want to ingest the tea, that can certainly help as well though. It’s a sleepy time tea, so it’s best to only have it at night. Here are some product suggestions for getting more good chamomile smells in your life.

Chamomile has a variety of other health-promoting effects as well, such as aiding in sleep, decreasing inflammation and may help prevent cancer, so it’s a good thing to keep on hand in general. [Source.]

3) Focus on Positivity

Positive thinking is well-proven as a method for coping with a variety of problems, including anxiety. [SourceSource.] Here are some exercises to practice positive thinking.

  • Imagine yourself achieving your goal. If flying, imagine your plane landing safely and you walking through the gate into the airport at your destination and hugging the relative you’re visiting. If overcoming an illness, imagine your doctor telling you that you’re healed or you telling someone else that you’re healed. If trying to pass a test, imagine looking at your report card and seeing an A or imagine walking in your cap & gown down a stage to receive your diploma. Let the emotions of those experiences wash over you – the relief, the excitement, the pride. This is especially helpful when the fear of the unknown is the source of your anxiety – let the unknown become known to your mind and body: the outcome is that you will conquer.
  • Plan ahead. Make plans for something in the distant future that depends on you achieving your goal. If having anxiety about your health, make plans that require your health to improve – a party you want to throw for your sister when she has her first baby. What kind of cake do you want to get for the party – a pull-apart cupcake cake, or maybe one shaped like a dolphin because she loves dolphins? If the plans you’re making are for this year, write them into your calendar. If later, write them on paper and put them somewhere you feel good about – on the refrigerator, in a journal, in a dedicated goals box, or even under your pillow.

4) Eat More Omega-3s

Omega-3s are a type of fat that is extremely healthy and most people don’t get enough of in their diet. Studies have shown these fats can reduce anxiety, among many other health benefits like decreasing inflammation and fighting cancer. [Source and Source.] Fish and other seafood like oysters, lobster and shrimp contain exceptionally high levels of omega-3s, with salmon being the most well-known and widely-available source. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of omega-3s, especially flaxseed, chia and walnuts. However, grass-fed beef is also an option as it contains significantly higher levels of omega-3s than conventional beef. [Source and Source.]

5) Grounding

The Earth is made of of electrical fields, which we can get separated from by walking on concrete, wearing rubber-soled shoes, and so on. The practice of grounding is simply reconnecting your body with the natural energy of the Earth by walking barefoot or sitting on the ground. This practice has been proven to improve the feeling of general well-being, decrease stress and aid in sleep. It certainly sounds unusual, but science says sitting in a park can help and there isn’t much harm in that so might as well try it. Fresh air can also be beneficial, increasing your available oxygen in the air, so try to choose a park that isn’t next to a busy street if possible. [Source.]

6) Increase Oxygen

One of the most well-known mechanisms for lowering anxiety in the moment is deep breathing. When experiencing anxiety, the body sometimes exhibits what’s known as respiratory dysregulation, meaning that your breathing is abnormal. This is why taking a deep breath or practicing breathing techniques can work to decrease anxiety. [Source and Source.] Although we breathe air all the time, the amount of oxygen available in each breath and the quality of air varies, and increasing oxygen levels has been shown to reduce anxiety. [Source and Source.] Here are some ways to increase your oxygen levels:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Place a plant on your desk at work or near where you sit.
  • Spend time in a park.
  • Visit an arboretum or botanical garden.
  • Go to an oxygen bar.
  • Use a hyperbaric chamber.

In particular, there are some plants that also can clean the area. NASA studied a variety of plants to determine which are best at removing several common air contaminants like formaldehyde and benzene. Here are some of the most beneficial plants they found. [Source.]

  • Peace lily
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English Ivy
  • Bamboo palm
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Dracena
  • Philodendron

Many Walmart stores have a section specifically dedicated to what are known as “Angel plants” – ones that work to clean the air and grow well indoors, so that is an easy place to find many of the plants listed above. As always, be sure any plant is safe for pets that many be nearby.

7) Eat More Antioxidants

Just as improving your oxygen intake can lower anxiety levels, antioxidants can also reduce the amount of oxidative stress in your body, therein reducing anxiety as well. [Source and Source.] There are a many different antioxidants available in food. Blueberries and other berries are known as some of the best sources for antioxidants, however olives (and olive products like olive oil), grapes, and any brightly-colored fruit or vegetable contain antioxidants.

8) Release Oxytocin

Ocytocin is a hormone that is released when our bodies experience joy. Increasing the level of oxytocin in the brain has been shown in brain scans to decrease the activity of the brain areas that are responsible for anxiety. [Source, Source and Source]

  • Spend time with a dog. Petting a dog has been shown to cause the brain to release oxytocin. If you don’t have a dog or are allergic, simply imagine petting a dog. The brain is so powerful that it can often benefit simply by imagining an activity. [SourceSource and Source]
  • Give yourself a massage. Use that chamomile baby oil mentioned above to massage your feet, your calves, your hands, your forearms. If you can have someone else give you a massage, that works as well. [Source.]
  • Meditation has been shown to release oxytocin. Specifically gratitude zen meditation was studied, though other types of meditation may work as well. [Source.]
  • Practicing yoga has been shown to stimulate oxytocin release. [Source.]

What methods for coping with anxiety have you found to be effective? Leave a comment below!

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