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TIPS AND TOOLS FOR MANAGING ANXIETY AND STRESS

John Grimm

John Grimm

Perla Limon and Damia Meglasson

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Countless people deal with difficult anxiety, but there are ways to manage it that are effective for multiple situations.

Anxiety can range from mild stress to panic attacks that can cause ongoing issues in everyday life. On the more severe end of the anxiety spectrum, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States. According to The Institute of Mental Health, these disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, age 18 and older (18% of the population).

Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of performing poorly in school, missing out on important social experiences, and engaging in substance abuse. Anxiety and depression are treatable, but 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60% of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment, according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report (ADAA).

Even though there are large amounts of people suffering from this treatable disorder, only about one-third receive the appropriate treatment. Other than professional help, there are various ways that people can relieve their anxiety.

Some ways can include:

-Exercise

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise maintains mental and physical fitness, stimulating your muscles and reducing fatigue, both of which may be very helpful after stress and/or anxiety has depleted your energy or made it harder to concentrate. Additionally, physical activities like exercise increase the production of endorphins (natural pain-killing hormones) and tire out the body, helping you sleep better after a stressful or long day.

-Eat well-balanced meals

Eating balanced meals is a big contributor to both physical and mental health.

-Drink water

Since our bodies are made up of mostly water, it’s very important that we drink lots of it to stay hydrated.

-Have a mental health day

Simply put, take a day off from anything that might be considered stressful or a cause of anxiety. Stay home or find a place away from home where you can just rest your mental and emotional state.

-Sleep/Take a nap

When you sleep or take a nap, your breathing usually slows down and reduces adrenaline. It’s also a good method for clearing your mind and body of ‘toxins,’ whether in literal or figurative terms of the word.

-Read

It may just be a temporary safe-haven, but readers can often relate to a protagonist’s transformation as they progress past obstacles and face their fears. Even simply engaging in reading a novel can give readers a metaphorical “shot of courage,” encouraging personal growth as it helps manage anxiety. The official term for this is bibliotherapy.

-Listen to music

Listening to music can take your mind off of things as you focus on the lyrics or notes being played/sung. It can also help you relax and tune out your environment.

-Art

Art is a good way to vent out your frustrations or feelings in the form of drawing, painting, sculpture, embroidery… etc. It can help you channel your anxiety and creativity into something physical that you can either share or keep private.

-Take deep breaths

Taking deep breaths can help your heart beat slow down and reduce adrenaline. It may also help to take in details of your surroundings as you slow your breathing.

-Slowly count to 10

There are some people who find this method very effective. This is one of the easier ways to help reduce anxiety in certain situations.

-Meditate

Meditation is preferably conducted in a place where there are no interruptions. There are many different forms of meditation, like finding a comfortable position and humming a single or multiple notes or listening to a specific type of meditation music. An advanced form of meditation requires the ability and knowledge of opening chakras.

-Chocolate (preferably dark chocolate)

Eating dark chocolate can increase production of hormones such as endorphins and serotonin, which can reduce pain and cause a near euphoric state of happiness.

-Focus Exercises

Sometimes, it’s best to shift your focus from the panic/stress you’re feeling to your environment. This can be done by calming your breathing and grabbing the closest item nearby. You ask yourself a series of questions aloud, such as: What is this item? What does it do? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Is it heavy? By answering these questions aloud, it helps you force your brain out of panic mode and into a calmer state of awareness in which you can identify the object. Repeating this process at least three times is recommended.

-ASMR (Caution! This can be a cause of anxiety for some people. Read the description thoroughly to decide whether this is something you’re comfortable with.)

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is defined as a tingling sensation that usually starts on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck. It’s triggered by various noises and stimuli that can be replicated in ASMR videos all over Youtube. These noises include specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, or by personal attention. Oftentimes it can depend on what you find to be pleasant or calming. Overall these videos are presented in a calming manner, but to reiterate, it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not a big fan of proximity, then perhaps a personal attention ASMR video may not be best. Some ASMR is even quiet guided-meditation.

-Play with a pet (fish don’t count)

      Unless you’re watching the fish…then that’s okay.

Sometimes sitting down to pet a dog, cat, or some other free roaming pet can be very relaxing, and playing with them can help you take your mind off of other things.

-Cuddle

Hugging, kissing, and other physical acts of touching others increase oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone a ‘bonding’ hormone. The increase in production of this hormone reduces blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, but it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.

-Let everything out

There are times when you just need to let everything out and be completely random and silly. The best time to do this is with friends who will be silly right along with you.

-Hang out with a friend

True friends who know you well can be very helpful when you’re feeling stress or anxiety. For some people, it’s easier to manage anxiety if there’s someone who can help them or stand by them to provide support. Plus it’s good to have someone who can make you laugh and take your mind off of things.

These methods are from a variety of sources and personal techniques.There are other methods as well.  This article is not written from medical advice, please seek out a professional if needed.

 

And if worse comes to worst, then just remember that ‘stressed’ spelled backward is ‘desserts.’

Sources:

https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics  

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/15/why-novel-reading-reduces-anxiety/  

https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children

 

Photo Credit: “Stress” Unaltered Photo by John Grimm [Flickr]. Some Rights Reserved. <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/> <https://www.flickr.com/photos/awesomecool/440451871/in/photolist-EVqZM>
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TIPS AND TOOLS FOR MANAGING ANXIETY AND STRESS