Word-Of-the-Week #862: Anxiety

February 11, 2021 by  

Anxiety – a state of uneasiness and apprehension. 

How would you rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10? How often do you feel a sense of apprehension or uneasiness? How much time do you spend dwelling on future uncertainties?

I felt this past WOW, Ways to reduce anxiety, improve well-being,” by Melanie Curtin, Inc. is pretty timely given we are still dealing with COVID after almost a year. And one of the things I keep hearing people talking about is their anxiety level. This features the first half.

“Stress and anxiety isn’t just uncomfortable–it can be debilitating. Around 40 million adults in the U.S. alone suffer from anxiety disorders, which are the most common mental illnesses in the country.

Fortunately, anxiety is very treatable. Here are some proven ways to calm down and lighten up:

  1. Meditate

Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says mindfulness meditation is perfect for reducing anxiety both short- and long-term:

“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power … You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that–a thought, and not a part of my core self.'”

Research shows you only need 10-15 minutes of meditation per day to get the health benefits, which includes reducing stress hormone levels, increasing serotonin, and strengthening your ability to let go of thoughts that don’t serve you. Download a meditation app like Calm or Headspace to get started.

  1. Go forest bathing

From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent $4 million studying the physiological impact of “forest bathing”, which just means spending time around trees. They found that it reduces anxiety, boosts your immune system, and amplifies feelings of wellbeing.

You don’t need to go to a heavily forested area, either. People in cities get the same benefits in a park. Like meditation, you don’t need a lot of exposure to get the health effects–you just need regular contact.

Scientists say part of the reason for the reduction of anxiety has to with the essential oils trees emit, aka phytoncide. Breathing in tree air doesn’t just feel fresher–it actually is; it boosts your intake of phytoncide, which improves your overall health.

  1. Chew gum

Multitasking is generally bad for anxiety, but if you’re going to do it, get yourself some Juicy Fruit.

A study out of Swinburne University found that people who chew gum while multitasking under stress had lower cortisol levels, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and increased levels of alertness and performance.

Another found that chewing gum can improve a negative mood, and increase levels of peace and calm. Scientists don’t know precisely why, but believe it’s because chewing gum tends to improve blood flow in the brain.

  1. Laugh 

Laughter is an easy, cheap, and surprisingly effective way of reducing anxiety and boosting mood. The Mayo Clinic says laughing stimulates your heart and lungs, bringing in lots of oxygen-rich air. It also ups your endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter, and improves your immune functioning. 

Multiple studies show that while laughter initially triggers your stress response (causing your heart rate and blood pressure to spike), when it subsides it calms your nervous system down to a point where you feel not just relaxed, but relaxed and happy. 

My favorite way to get in a quick laugh is to watch news bloopers.”

This week’s focus is about reducing anxiety. How would it feel to turn a negative thought into a positive one? When was the last time you went forest bathing? How often do you chew gum? When is the last time you had a good “belly laugh”?

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