“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
Per the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. alone – a number representing only the diagnosed. The actual number is likely around 65 to 66 million, or about 30 percent of the population.
Numbers only tell part of the story. People who struggle with anxiety often cannot understand what’s happening. Only those who have felt the fear of constant anxiety can relate.
Our goal in this article is to describe five quick ways of reducing anxiety. In this hustle-and-bustle world of ours, few can afford the time or resources necessary to undergo “proper” treatment.
Here are five proven ways to reduce anxiety in minutes (in no particular order):
“Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says Robbie Maller-Hartman, Ph.D.
Contrary to popular belief, one needn’t be a sage to experience meditation’s tremendous anxiety-relieving benefits. (Of course, additional practice only strengthens one’s ability to combat stress/anxiety.)
The method is simple. For the sake of instruction, we’ll assume you’re at work or parked in a car somewhere. Here’s what to do: sit up straight with both feet on the floor and close your eyes. Recite – silently or aloud – a mantra, such as “I am at peace,” “or “I love myself.” Dismiss any distracting thoughts without prejudice or judgment.
2. Deep Breathing
When it comes to easing anxiety, focusing on the breath is (by far) the most efficient, timely method. All you need a 5-minute break and some patience.
Again, the practice is simple. Sit up straight with your eyes closed. Place a hand one your belly as you slowly inhale through your nose. Feel the breath fill your abdomen and travel upwards, as if the breath is reaching the top of your head. Hold the breath for a couple of seconds, then naturally (and slowly) exhale through the mouth.
How refreshing is that? All in just five minutes!
3. Be Present
To “be present” is to notice all sensations as they surface – to exist for this moment, and only this moment.
The beautiful thing about being present is that you can practice it anywhere, doing anything, at any time. Washing the dishes? Notice how the dishes’ surface feels in your hand as you apply the dish soap. Walking? Feel the air as it flows onto and past your face and body. Typing? Listen to the sound of each click of the keyboard as you work.
Being present is extraordinarily powerful, as the practice renders mute (or at least “muffles”) the brain’s money-minded antics. You’re focusing all of your awareness on your senses, as opposed to impulse.
4. Prioritize Your Time
At the risk of sounding cliché, our time on this Earth is limited. The (sometimes uncomfortable) truth is that we don’t know how much of this precious resource we have. Sadly, too many people act as if they’re immune to time’s passing.
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, who would ultimately succumb to cancer, gave his perspective on time: “If today was the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?”
The lesson? Evaluate how you spend your time. There is no “right” or “wrong” way – only your way. If you’re fortunate enough to work at a job you love, by all means, invest your time there. If you feel your “work-life-other” balance is out of whack, consider creating a schedule. If you’re happy just “going with the flow” and cherishing each experience – that’s beautiful.
To value time is to spend it enjoying your life while dismissing any external expectations.
5. Write things out
Journaling your thoughts is a powerful anxiety reliever. Stressful thoughts that are allowed to accumulate inevitably results in anxiety.
Writing down what you’re thinking and feeling can provide a profound sense of relief, as you are no longer relying upon your cognitive faculties to store and interpret every little impulse.
Journaling, in essence, is transferring your thoughts to something tangible. In doing so, you’re freeing up your cognitive resources and neutralizing anxiety. As a result, you’re more relaxed – and a relaxed mind is a peaceful mind.
A good practice: keep a notepad within the distance of your reach. Whenever a stressful, anxious thought surfaces, write it down. At the day’s end, review your entries – does something need to change, or are your anxieties a harmless byproduct of an overactive mind?