As we continue to move through what feels like endless cycles of COVID-19, the stressful parts of life are definitely starting to add up. Throw in eternal social media scroll, pressure at home to perform well in school, athletics, fill in the blank, and you have a perfect storm on your hands.
According to The National Institutes of Health, 1 in 3 teens and young adults face significant levels of anxiety in their lifetime. Translation: almost every person you meet has struggled with anxiety at one point or another. Not that this is the news you woke up and wanted to hear this morning, but still, it is worth noting that there is nothing wrong with you if it is something you are dealing with.
So, my advice to you now is to stop, take a deep breath, and release the tension you are holding on your shoulders while you read this. Here are seven things that have helped me when working through anxiety that you can try out.
- Turn your devices off (especially before bed).
This is a big one and is something that we hear often, nevertheless, that does not diminish how important it is. A study from 2017 showed that larger amounts of screen time were correlated with depression, anxiety, and other adverse health effects, and there are numerous studies to back this one up (Domingues-Montanari). Further, turning off your device before you get into bed will help give you more time to sleep (Loughran, 2015) and it will lead to a better quality of sleep (Perrault et al., 2019), which will, in turn, lead to better health and daytime functioning. Even though it seems cliche, it is true, so tonight why don’t you give it a try by powering Tik Tok down for the night before you head to bed. The results might end up being life-changing.
- Spend some time outside.
In 2014, two researchers conducted a review of multiple studies related to spending time outside and mental health conditions, and they found that exposure to natural environments helps to reduce stress, mental fatigue, depression, and anxiety (Pearson & Craig). That is huge! Go outside, get in a walk, run, a bike ride or whatever works for you, and soak it all up.
- Cuddle with your pet.
This is one of my personal favorites. A study conducted in 2016 showed that spending time with a pet can help to manage long-term mental health issues and provide support and encouragement for activity (Brooks et al.). So if you have one, this is your cue to get up from the computer and go cuddle with your pet. (If your parents try to stop you, just send them to me).
- Work on your breathing.
Another way that helps a lot of people to reign in their anxiety is through deep breathing and stabilization exercises. Start by trying the Box breathing exercise or the 4-4-4 breathing exercise (in for 4, hold for 4, and out for 4). You could also try my personal favorite, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise (in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8). When I am feeling particularly anxious or stressed and I need to come down immediately from my heightened state, these exercises always help to regulate my system again.
- Dance it out.
If you were looking for an excuse to put in your earbuds, blast your artist of choice, and dance around the room, here it is. The research in the field is endlessly supporting the idea that movement and dance are hugely beneficial to mental health. I always find that a good Lizzo moment helps me, but you find what works for you. Needless to say, dancing to release your hard feelings and worries is always the way to go.
- Clear out your feed.
This is a step that I definitely undervalued until I did it myself, and I couldn’t believe how much it changed the time I spend on social media. It was actually an influencer who I was watching that mentioned you can unfollow other users any time you want, and if you don’t want to unfollow them (trying to avoid an uncomfortable conversation with an acquaintance) you can also continue to follow them but have their content muted on your feed so that you do not have to view it. I cannot stress enough how much I love clearing out my feed now-setting boundaries is where it is at.
- Seek out help.
Finally, if these tips are not working for you or you are still feeling the anxiety that you cannot seem to manage, I recommend finding a local counselor or support group that specifically addresses anxiety. I always thought that counseling was a joke until I finally went, and it changed my life. Never underestimate the power of a trained professional.
Aurore A Perrault, Laurence Bayer, Mathias Peuvrier, Alia Afyouni, Paolo Ghisletta, Celine Brockmann, Mona Spiridon, Sophie Hulo Vesely, Dagmar M Haller, Swann Pichon, Stephen Perrig, Sophie Schwartz, Virginie Sterpenich, Reducing the use of screen electronic devices in the evening is associated with improved sleep and daytime vigilance in adolescents, Sleep, Volume 42, Issue 9, September 2019, zsz125, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsz125
Brooks,H., Rushton, K., Walker, S. et al. Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets:a study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. BMC Psychiatry 16, 409 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-1111-3
DOMINGUES-MONTANARI, S. Clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time on children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, [s. l.], v. 53, n. 4, p. 333, 2017. DOI 10.1111/jpc.13462. Disponível em: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.488174010&site=eds-live. Acesso em: 27 jan. 2022.
Loughran,S. P. (n.d.). Why screen time before bed is bad for children. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=2681&context=sspapers.
Pearson, D.G., & Craig, T. (2014). The great outdoors? exploring the mental health benefits of Natural Environments. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Any anxiety disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder#part_155096