How to calm down when stressed

We are in the midst of a global anxiety crisisone that didn't just disappear once we hit 2022so naturally, were all wondering how to calm anxiety. You cant keep a fight-or-flight r

How to calm down when stressed

We are in the midst of a global anxiety crisisone that didn't just disappear once we hit 2022so naturally, were all wondering how to calm anxiety. You cant keep a fight-or-flight response up for a year, says Miranda Beltzer, a Ph.D. candidate researching emotion regulation and anxiety disorders. Its a perfect storm of things that can make people emotionally disregulated.

According to the Household Pulse survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Census Bureau, well over 50% of adults in their 20s and 30s exhibited symptoms of anxiety- or depression-related disorders in November 2020, and the stats have been (understandably) high since the weekly survey began in April 2020. As anxiety rises, so does our need for self-care.

Of course, were all feeling down, but that doesnt mean we get to skip taking care of ourselves, says Julia Colangelo, DSW, LCSW, a therapist and adjunct lecturer at Columbia University. It's important to honor any and all emotions, and continue to seek out support as you may have before the pandemic.

We asked experts in anxiety and emotion regulation for their favorite stress reduction strategies so you can figure out how to calm anxiety.

1. Grab a weighted blanket.

ICYMI, weighted blankets feel like a 15-pound hugand we already found the best ones to buy. Studies have shown that using a weighted blanket can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.Courtesy of brand

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2. Create tension to release tension.

Progressive muscle relaxation helps with de-stressing by tapping into your mind-body connection. The idea is simple: Tense up your muscle groups one by onereally squeezing until theyre pretty tense for 30 seconds eachand then release them all at once. Try this five-minute tutorial via InsightTimer after your next meeting if you feel an anxiety attack coming on.

3. Binge something comforting.

Whether its a playlist on repeat, that same episode of Friends, or a nostalgic film, you can calm down your headspace through repetition. This is especially true for music. When a melody is familiar, that can be comforting because you know what to expect, you know whats coming next, says Rachel Schwartz, a certified psychiatric music therapist.

4. Track your moods.

Keeping track of your changing moods can help you manage an anxiety disorder. Use a visual reminder to track waves of stress, calm, or anxiety, says Colangelo, who uses an oversized wall calendar to track her own. When you do experience a more significant bout of stress, you can go back to review your patterns and plan for support.

5. Take a mental health day.

Tracking your moods can also allow you to plan ahead for low days. For example, your mental state may fluctuate with hormonal changes throughout your cycle, so if you know you typically see signs of anxiety just before your period, you can begin to anticipate certain waves of emotions and inform those around you, says Colangelo. She suggests planning something with friends, or taking a mental health day if you can, just to relax.

6. Give yourself a massage.

Self-massage can help relieve pain and stress while stimulating physical touchand, if you prefer, you can be socially distant while you do it. Try a reflexology technique or outsource your rubdown to one of the best heated mechanical foot massagers.Courtesy of brand

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7. Bust a move.

Theres so much tension in an average dayso where can you unleash that? Suggests Schwartz, Have a dance party in your home to literally shake off the energy youre holding.

8. Find your inner child.

I encourage my clients, peers, and students to engage in more activities that activate our inner child and enhance our creativity, says Colangelo. She paints: Its not for social media, I dont post about it, it doesnt matter what I makeits just for me, she says.

9. Use your hands.

If painting isnt your jam but you're still not sure how to relieve stress, try another form of active mindfulness, like knitting or embroidery, which can help boost your mood and focus on whats right in front of you.Courtesy of brand

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10. Retrain your brain.

If you're reading this article, you may have googled What is anxiety and What causes anxiety so many times that it only added to your stress. A lot of times when youre in an uncertain situation, your head goes to the worst possible outcome: This will never end, and I will definitely get COVID-19 or give it to someone I love, says Beltzer. Cognitive bias modification is a therapeutic practice that can help shift your thinking. You can find a therapist that specializes in helping you get out of anxious thought patterns.

11. Chill out.

For times of extreme distress, Beltzer suggests a practice called ice diving. The basics: Fill a bowl with ice water and dunk your face in. This dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) tactic balances the nervous system, taking us from a sympathetic response back to a parasympathetic state. We need these extremes, when we are feeling extreme or when were feeling an overall flatness, says Colangelo.

12. Try aromatherapy.

Lavender aromatherapy has been linked to the ability to decrease stress. Essential oils can be a great aromatherapy tool (just make sure you vet them) or light a scented candle.Courtesy of brand

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13. Rearrange your space.

Can you shift your room around, and give yourself more of a sanctuary? says Colangelo. If you're waking up with anxiety, channel that Home Edit energy and tackle your closet to remove clutter in your space that could be adding to your stress.

14. Write a letter to yourself.

Colangelo recommends future writing, a technique to envision a time beyond the stress of here and now, to help you calm down. Mindfulness is great until we get stuck in the present moment, she says. Writing to your future self can be cathartic and start to bridge the gap between the stuck-ness of here and now and the excitement for what good might come down the road. (You can send yourself notes at

15. Try breath work.

Practicing certain breathing exercises, known as breath work, engages our psychosomatic responses by regulating oxygen flow and mental focus. Try taking a deep exhale, which can stimulate your body's relaxation response through the parasympathetic nervous system. Inhale for four seconds, exhale for six, repeat.

16. Try a new meditation app.

There are tons of free meditation apps out there to help you manage stressful situations. If you havent found one you love yet, we vetted the best ones. And for those who find themselves tossing and turning, try sleep meditations.

17. Read a book.

Understanding the science of our emotions can help us navigate them more comfortably. Burnout, by Emily and Amelia Nagowski, is a game changer for understanding our emotional pathways and how to deal with anxiety. (Their conversation with Brené Brown on her podcast is also illuminating.)

BurnoutBurnout$12 at Target

18. Get to know your triggers.

Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to conquering anxiety, says clinical psychologist Dr. Monica Vermani. Understanding your triggers better equips you for future anxious moments. Think about what situations and events have spiked your anxiety in the past, Vermani suggests. Make a comprehensive list of your triggering settings and scenarios. The next time you know you will be facing a feared, anxiety-inducing situation, you will arrive prepared with your arsenal of strategies to calm you down."

19. Be in natureor just listen to it.

Don't underestimate the power of a little fresh air. Says Corrie Fentress, a lead therapist at Connections Wellness Group, recommends observing wildlife or animals in nature or sitting by a body of water. Can't make it outdoors? Fentress suggests listening to sounds of nature that tend to relax and soothe.

20. Practice warm self-touch.

Oxytocin is a naturally occurring, calming neurotransmitter. It acts as a rapid down-regulator of our bodys stress response, says Niloufar Nekou, the clinical director at Alter Health Group. One of the easiest ways to produce more of it is to use kind self-touch. Start by placing your hand over your heart. Warm, safe touch anywhere that feels comfortable on our body can release the oxytocin, but there are neural cells around the heart that communicate directly with the brain and more quickly begin the activation of the release of oxytocin, Nekou says.

21. Be one with your senses.

Your five senses have a grounding power to them. When anxiety gets to be too much, use them to anchor you to the present moment. Lookaround, Vermani says. Notice and identify small details you might normally miss. Breathe deeply andcatch the scentof the fragrances in the air.Tastea bite of food, a piece of chocolate, a mint, or a take sip of cold water, strong coffee, something you enjoy.Touchan object and feel its texture, shape, and temperature.Tune into sounds in your environment and identify and name them.

22. Play around.

Playful activities serve as an antidote to anxiety. Fentress suggests activities that embrace a more carefree side of yourself, like flying a kite, playing a board game, tossing a frisbee around with a friend, or picking up a musical instrument.

23. Switch off.

After you finish reading this article, power down your devices for just an houror a full weekend if youre feeling particularly overwhelmed. Let your key loved ones know youll be offline for a defined amount of time and then allow yourself to take a mental break. While youre at it, dive into How to Do Nothing, Jenny ODells assessment of our productivity culture and the attention economy is an enlightening guide to how we can redesign a better future with technology that feels less draining.

Right now can feel really damn hard. For free live 24/7 support, Crisis Text Line is here to help you.

Stefanie Groner is a writer in Chicago. DM her @stefsnapshots to share your favorite anxiety memes and self-care follows.

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