My 4- and 5-year-old kids sing a song from the PBS show "Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood": “Try new food, 'cause it might taste good.” Simple, repetitive wisdom from the mouths of babes. A helpful reminder to us adults that sometimes we might need to take a measurable risk to explore something outside of our comfort zone and, who knows? It might even work!
When it comes to managing anxiety we're familiar with the tried and true recommendations: talk to a therapist, practice meditation, decrease caffeine/nicotine/alcohol intake, try some good-mood foods. Each is an excellent suggestion that should not be ignored, but when you already have them in your repertoire, what are other solutions that might provide relief and calm your nerves?
Think Outside, No Box Necessary
Ecotherapy is growing in popularity, and not just for tree-huggers. Studies comparing the brains of individuals spending 20 to 30 minutes in the built environment versus a natural setting show that those in the great outdoors have lower heart rates and less activity in the part of the brain related to anxiety and stress. Next time you need a little downregulation of that nervous system, step outside, find the greenest place that you can and you’ll be amazed by the difference it makes.
Move It, Move It
For so long, exercise has been framed as something to do for physical fitness; the fact that it’s also good for mental well-being is secondary. Perhaps it's time we started focusing on the mental benefits first. Not only is exercise a helpful distraction when things feel out of control, but it also releases important anti-anxiety chemicals into our bodies. Plus, getting your sweat on activates the part of our brain involved in executive functioning, a wake-up call that quiets down the area triggered by stress.
There’s an App for That
When you need anxiety support immediately, no matter where you are, just pick up your phone. Apps designed to help individuals respond to symptoms of anxiety have become extremely popular and are grounded in either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or meditation, two data-driven solutions. If you're interested in exploring the potentials for growth, check out options like Rootd, Mindshift, Uplift and Sanvello.
We All Need Somebody to Lean On
In a time when loneliness is on the rise and not everyone is looking to connect with a therapist in person, online peer-support communities are popping up as a way to create affinity groups. Through these connections individuals can share tips, be a listening ear and help you to feel less alone. If your support system is nonexistent or you feel uncomfortable discussing issues with friends or family, an online community could be the safe space you need to open up without fear of judgement. Get outside your comfort zone and find a community that can rally around you in places like Seven Cups of Tea, The Tribe and Daily Strength.