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Health

5 Tips For Handling Anxiety In 2022

Many of us feel like our stress levels are out of control.

We’re only two months into 2022, and already it has been a roller coaster of uncertainty. After these last couple of years, many of us are feeling like our anxiety is out of control. As Anxiety Sisters, we have not only walked the walk, but we have huddled, heaved, hurled, sweated, palpitated, and hyperventilated our way through life. Luckily, we have learned a few things along the way about managing anxiety. Because we know that one size does not fit all (in fact, it may not even fit the same person two days in a row!), we believe in having an arsenal of anxiety management techniques at the ready. The following are five of our favorites:

1. Talk to yourself.

Self-talk is one of the most powerful (and cheapest) ways to manage anxiety. Study after study shows that our brain listens to our voice more than any other. But when we are anxious, we might not know what to say to ourselves that would be most helpful. The beauty of a mantra is that it is a short, easy to remember, and soothing phrase. When you are anxious, say the mantra to yourself aloud. And don’t worry about how you’ll look — with all these fancy earphones, everyone looks like they are talking to themselves!

You can make-up your own mantra or use one already widely in circulation:

I can do hard things.

One minute at a time.

This too shall pass.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I am okay.

2. Adopt a plant.

Most of us spend 85 percent (or more) of our time indoors, but we know that the natural world has a profoundly positive effect on our physical and emotional health. House plants can be a fantastic way to bring the benefits of the natural world inside our homes and offices. Did you know that plants absorb toxins from our indoor air and put more oxygen back into the environment? They are extraordinary air-filters and look so much better than those big expensive plastic boxes. Also, studies have shown that caring for plants boosts our creativity, helps make us more mindful and decreases stress hormones. And you don’t have to take them for walks! So this year, consider becoming a plant parent for an easy and healthy way to soothe anxiety.

3. Learn how to juggle.

We know this may sound odd, but every time we practice a new skill, we take advantage of our brain’s neuroplasticity (ability to change and adapt). Not only will you strengthen your cognitive functions including memory (bilateral exercises are great for challenging our brains) and have a great distraction for those anxious times, but you will surely have some fun in the process. Juggling actually keeps our brain in shape so we can continue to learn. Really, anything that teaches your brain to do something differently — for example, brushing your teeth or writing with the opposite hand — develops the brain and can even help it heal from injury or disease. So learn a new language, travel to a new place, try new foods, do a few puzzles. Flexing your neuroplasticity will help you create new habits — including better anxiety management techniques — and unlearn old patterns that cause anxiety.

(4) Create Connection. Human beings are social animals – we are wired for connection. More than any other factor (including health habits) social connection is correlated with a longer, healthier life. More importantly, people with social ties recover quicker from setbacks and trauma, have lower rates of depression and anxiety, and report being happier. For those of us with social anxiety (and in the time of COVID), it is not always easy to connect. But here is the brilliant part, any kind of social connection counts—even casual connections go a long way toward decreasing anxiety and increasing happiness.

Here are a few ways to create connection in 2022:

1. Say hello to the people that work in the stores you frequent or deliver goods to your house. One study tracked people as they bought coffee, and found those who chatted with the barista left the shop feeling happier than the non-chatters. Stopping to ask the guy behind the deli counter how he is doing or thanking the garbage collector can make a big difference in everyone’s mood. Smile and wave to your neighbor or thank someone for a small kindness.

2. Connect with a person from your past. Maybe you have lost touch with an old friend, relative, or work colleague. Send him or her a handwritten note, an email, or make a phone call. Let that person know you are thinking of him/her and want to check in.

3. Give of yourself. You don’t have to volunteer in order to be giving (although that is a great way to connect). Bake some cookies for your neighbor, visit an elderly person in your family/community, or (if circumstances allow) give an extra-generous tip to your favorite server.

4. Make a Spin Kit. Spin Kits are portable first aid kits for anxiety which you carry with you wherever you go. (Just like an EpiPen for folks who suffer from allergies.) Spin Kits consist of three types of items: (1) distractors such as crochet, a fidget spinner or an audiobook (2) soothers for your senses such as a lemon drop, a cool towel, your favorite essential oil, or a soft piece of fabric and (3) symptom relief such as TUMS or Advil. Choose a few of each item and put them in a make-up bag or even a Ziploc and voilà! By the way, just being prepared for anxiety makes it impossible for it to surprise you, which is most of its power.

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