12 Ways You Can Combat Stress and Anxiety RIGHT NOW!

Written by Robyn Ashbaugh, ALMFT at Solid Foundations Therapy

A year ago, advice on managing stress and anxiety may not have looked much different at the surface, but now, we have to work harder than ever to make our mental health a priority, and really take the way we manage stress and anxiety seriously.  

We are in the midst of unprecedented times right now.  While 2020 may have started ripe with possibilities, only 6 months in and we find ourselves up against a global pandemic and mass societal unrest.  Social media can be an outlet, or help lighten the mood with its countless memes and lighthearted ribbing at the current state of our world (including speculation that someone, somewhere, is playing a rather horrible game of Jumanji!)  

The reality is that this year has so far proven to be a tough one – full of circumstances that, individually, would increase stress and anxiety and be hard enough to handle on their own.  So it’s only logical that these instances following one another in close succession means that it is that much harder for people to be able to come back down to their baseline before the next thing happens. 

The last three months, in particular, have led to many discussions between therapists and clients about how to manage the anxiety about contacting Covid-19, how to adjust to the “new normal” including working from home while also homeschooling the kids, or how to healthily get through a quarantine with no certain end date in sight. We understand that stress has become more difficult to manage, and that we can’t always rely on our typical coping mechanisms to get through day-to-day happenings. 

However, just because managing stress may look a little different right now doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be focusing on it.  It is incredibly important to keep your mental health at the forefront right now, and the positive effects from taking care of yourself are certain to trickle down to your relationships.  

So what can you do to reduce stress and manage anxiety?  There are a plethora of ways you can cope with anxiety and stress – some healthy, others not so much!  Let’s look at a few new strategies that have been shown to help, which you can add to your current stress management routine or use to create your own:

  • Mindfulness or Meditation –  There are MANY different forms of mediation.  In this context, mindfulness is the awareness of “some-thing” where meditation is the awareness of “no-thing”, but ultimately both aim to calm your mind and body by focusing your attention on your breathing and increasing your awareness.  If you’re new to mindfulness or meditation, be forgiving with yourself in the beginning.  Not only is this a completely new practice to you, but it’s one that truly takes practice to master or perfect.  Beginners may find better success starting with a guided meditation, usually a recording that walks you through a meditation varying in length (Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm are some of our favorite meditation apps that are full of guided meditations based on your goals, or relaxing music you can use to help you focus.  You can absolutely ritualize this practice by lighting candles or dousing yourself in fancy oils, but you truly don’t need these fancy props to gain the benefits from the practice itself.  
    • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, and 
    • Focus on your breath.  
    • Take deep breaths in and out, noticing changes in your body or thoughts.  
    • When your thoughts stray from your breath, direct them back.  
    • Start by meditating for 5-10 minutes and increase from there when you’re ready.
  • Breathing Exercises – If you’re not interested in full-blown meditation, or are looking for something a bit less intense, don’t sleep on breathing exercises!  Deep breathing exercises tell your amygdala (the part of your brain that experiences emotions) to calm down, convincing your brain that you are safe.  This is a wonderful technique for when you’re short on time, or in a stressful situation that you can’t necessarily remove yourself from in the moment.   Start with this popular belly-breathing technique:
    • Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position
    • Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs, and the other hand on your chest.
    • Take a deep breath in through your nose, letting your belly push your hand out.  Your chest should not move!
    • Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling.  Feel your hand move back in with your belly, and use it as if you’re pushing the air out of yourself.
    • Do this 3-10 times, taking your time with each individual breath.
    • Notice how you feel at the end of this exercise. 
  • Physical Exercise – Physical exercise is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.  If you’re not someone who works out on a regular basis, this may sound like the LAST thing you want to do.  Admittedly, it’s not one of the easiest habits to get in to, but this can be a really powerful technique in battling stress or anxiety for one main reason:  it helps to make you feel more in control of the moment.  This is an instant boost to your psyche AND your confidence.  Plus, physical exercise is also proven to increase energy, and giving your productivity a boost may be just what you need.
  • Read a book or watch TV – Disclaimer: You probably already know that TV is best in moderation, but don’t feel guilty for using it to your advantage when you need to – in this case, as a way to distract yourself and your mind.   Alternatively, grab a book and get lost in a story (bonus points for walking while listening to an audiobook, or getting out in the sunshine for some Vitamin D while you read)
  • Call a friend and chat –  Ultimately, this is another distraction technique to help keep you from focusing on what is causing anxiety, but having a friend that you feel comfortable enough to vent to can also help lighten your anxiety or stress loads.  Not only does it help to just get things off our chests, but the advice or open ear of a friend can help you work through, or even come to your own realizations about whatever issue is top of mind for you at that particular moment.
  • Focus on flexing and relaxing particular parts of your body –  It takes more focus to flex on the bicep than it does a calf muscle, for example, making this a great technique that serves a dual purpose – acting as a distraction while also helping you feel in control.  This is also a great trick because it can be done anywhere and at any time! 
  • Get a full night of sleep – Sleep is incredibly important, and probably one of the most commonly slacked upon areas.  Lack of sleep only serves to heighten the stress and anxiety your body is already feeling.  If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, try to be conscious of your sleep habits.  Unplugging an hour before bed and implementing a nighttime ritual can help you wind down and fall asleep more easily.
  • Engage in self care – Self care is a great way to help you feel more in control or relaxed while taking the focus away from your anxiety, and also increasing confidence!  What does self-care look like for you?  For many, things like massages or painting nails or a facial come to mind, (and those all sound GREAT right about now!), but if that’s not your thing, figure out what is, and make it a priority in your daily or weekly routine.  Remember, your own cup must be full in order for you to pour to others!
  • Clean – This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone as it allows you to do something productive (but a little mindless) which makes the anxiety feeling lessen.  Oftentimes when we’re not feeling our best, taking care of our homes can be one of the first things to slip.  If you’re overwhelmed with the current status of your home, think of this as a mindless exercise rather than yet another task on your to-do list contributing to your stress.  Even spending just 15 minutes decluttering can help, and oftentimes once you get started you WANT to continue after that 15 minutes is up.  Anxiety distraction AND a tidier home – sign us up!
  • Plan something to look forward to –  Whether it’s a day trip or a fun activity, planning something to look forward to will help shift your focus to anticipation of your upcoming adventure, taking away from the anxiety you’ve been focusing on.
  • Use lavender essential oil – Lavender has been shown to have many healing properties including decreasing anxiety, and it’s super simple to use!  Putting a few drops in your bath or near your pillow will help reduce stress and anxiety, and can even help you get to bed easier to improve your sleep!
  • Challenge negative thoughts – It is natural to feel pessimistic when we’re feeling anxious, but being mindful of this and actively working against it will help you improve confidence, regain the feeling of control, and decrease feelings of anxiety.  Stand up to your negative thoughts and focus on the positive!

There’s no telling what tomorrow will hold, but the importance of prioritizing your mental health and taking control of stress and anxiety are a few things you can count on!  Use these tips to supplement your existing stress/anxiety management routines, or to create your own, and let us know how they work for you!

The dedicated experts at Solid Foundations have helped many individuals manage stress and anxiety, increase confidence, and improve understanding of relationships, and our clients have successfully achieved their goals as a result! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!

Sterk Family Law Group is here to assist you

We are aware that everyone has been affected by the recent response to COVID-19 but we hope that you find some comfort in knowing that we are still operational and here to assist you.

Whether you are a current client or if you are looking for family law or estate planning assistance, our team is here for you and will continue to be available to address your concerns.

To the extent possible, we will offer remote consultations and provide services from a distance.

You may message us here, email our office at info@sterkfamilylaw.com, or call 815-600-8950 and one of our team members will be able to assist you.

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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