It's funny how complex, and yet how simple our brains are. Just like a houseplant needs water, sunlight, and good soil to thrive, so our brains just need a few basic daily ingredients in order to remain bright, happy, and clear. Most of us have a pretty good idea of what these ingredients are: good sleep, good food, good exercise, etc.
Though, sometimes, through no fault of our own, we can’t seem to escape the anxiety. I have found that when a complicated or distressing problem vexes my mind, if I'm not careful, my brain will go around and around in circles trying to solve it until it totally exhausts itself, and I'm left tied up in an anxious knot. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.
The follow five methods have helped me deescalate this harmful pattern, and get back to centeredness and feeling good immediately. I hope they help you too.
1. Take a warm bath or shower
Humans just love warm water. Because of the way it dilates blood vessels and relaxes muscles, it has a soothing effect on the body. A warm shower or bath seems to slow time down and help your whirring mind relax. Giving yourself some light entertainment with a book or magazine, and allowing yourself to unwind can make all the difference. Hot tubs, hot springs, saunas and steam rooms are all excellent ways to give your body and your joints a break. The effect of the steam can be quite beneficial as well. Not only does it help you to relax, but in specific, steam helps your face and your skin.
2. Go for a walk
Every therapist, every health expert, everyone who has ever been on a walk cites this one, I know, I know. The thing is that it really works! And sometimes we just need a reminder and a little motivation to make it happen. In a soothing and relaxing way, exercise helps the body clear out the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from the bloodstream. Heart beating, blood pumping, adn lungs heaving, exercise helps the body and mind focus on a new challenge and break out the feedback loop it was in previously.
Like most of the tips in this article, the trick isn't to know how and why the tip works, the trick is to actually do it. When I'm stressed and trying to figure out how to solve a problem, I hardly ever want to put on my shoes and go get moving. Certainly, many other people feel the same way. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do it, though, and trust that your future self will thank you. Mine always does.
Reading has such a therapeutic effect for me. I find it is just the right amount of engagement for my mind to process what it needs to process, while also diverting its attention away from the thorn that is causing me stress. Video games and movies are fun, but this kind of high-energy thought diversion seems to hijack the brain's emotions rather than helping you process them. Reading, by contrast, encourages stillness, thoughtfuless, and reminds you of the vastness of life without sucking you into its content the same way that other forms of entertainment might. If you do give yourself some reading time to escape the stress, make sure it's a calming book, though. Something tells me that that murder thriller book you read might not be all that helpful when it comes to releasing inner tension.
This might not be the case for people that are heavily introverted, but I have found socializing to be a great way to force my mind to back off of the issue it's attacking and instead focus on other people. Especially if you're associating with people who make you feel good, and make you smile and laugh, it can be an amazing way to override those anxious feelings you're dealing with. Humans are inherently social creatures, and brains reward us for breaking out of our own little space. Bonus points if you also employ tip #2 and spend some time in a jacuzzi or hot spring with your favorite people.
5. Listen to, or play music
Studies have shown that music's ability to elicit a physiological or psychological change in your being is impressive. As we've all experienced, the tempo, the lyrics, and the vibe of the song can suck you in. This is particularly true for people who play the piano, violin, or other instruments. Whenever I play the piano, my consciousness becomes so focused on the work at hand that I forget about what was worrying me before. It also feels good to be creative and to move around a little. Inevitably my mind mirrors the emotions of whatever music I'm engaging with.
Overcoming stress and anxiety can be one of the hardest repeated tasks that each of us has to do in life. If we approach our self-care in an intentional, strategic way, we can overcome feelings of worry and angst, however. Life gets easier when we allow it to.