how to reduce anxiety without affording therapy

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


With exam weeks rolling in, assignments piling up, and students collectively sharing moments of existential crisis, I thought about the ways one can lower anxiety levels in stressful times like these.

Living with anxiety is a big issue; it sits on your shoulder and weighs you down. I'm not going to go into the details of my own experiences, but I've found that the most offered solution to it, is therapy.

The Internet gives us endless information around How Therapy Changed My Life. Therapy is indeed a powerful, helpful tool for recovery,

but it's also expensive.


And as students, paying large amounts of money to a professional just so we can tell them about our problems isn't always a viable option. We also might not have the time. Even if we are anxious. And we do need to find healthy ways to cope with our stress.

So whether your anxiety is a fleeting thing, an everyday struggle, or if it's become a diagnosis, listed below are some subtle ways you can reduce anxiety, which you can do anytime without having to find a therapist or spending hundreds of dollars.

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1. walking
People sometimes wonder why I walk so much. Despite having excellent public transport in our city, I still walk everywhere and also often take random walks to distant places. 
Applied as a habit, walking benefits both our physical and mental health. As opposed to sitting in a moving vehicle, the movement + breathing dynamic of walking helps distract our body and mind from things that were sucking the life out of us. We become more in tune with our surroundings, accustoming ourselves to the shuffling of our own feet, and we have that space to breathe and enjoy what our senses pick up along the way. And of course, if comfortable, you can always turn this to jogging, running, or any form of exercise as well.  

2. pray/meditate
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
Anxiety comes when we're trying to do everything on our own. Spending time in prayer and meditating on Scripture reminds us that we don't have to. Not to be mistaken as treating God like a mental health pill that you just take whenever you need to. But overall, silencing our thoughts and placing ourselves in His presence through prayer does work. 
If you aren't religious, though, meditation is still a great method to consider. So what do I do? Just sit there and do nothing? Yes, that is exactly what meditation is. You sit somewhere comfortable (inside or outside your home), close your eyes, focus on your heartbeat, and regulate your breathing. I admit it sounds silly, but anxiety is a boat, and the more you rock it, the more chances you have of completely losing yourself. Quieting everything in you for a short 5 minutes is really not a bad idea.

3. house chores
Surprisingly, doing trivial things like cleaning, tidying up, cooking, or doing the laundry calms me down more than I expect it could. It's because, similar to walking, our mind and body is focusing on one specific thing for a prolonged period of time. Turn on some music if it helps, leave your study desk. That pile of dirty dishes or unfinished laundry that's been bothering you for days do more harm to your stress levels than you think. So take care of them. Once and for all. And at the end, you'll find that finishing these tasks is also a great moodbooster for giving you a reason to be a tiny bit more proud of yourself that day. Whatever it takes to keep us going, right?

4. art/music therapy
And no, I'm not merely suggesting those "stress-relieving" coloring books (because frankly, those pages make me more anxious than when I first started.) But art therapy can take many forms, like drawing things with prompts, sketching sceneries or strangers in a public space, painting, taking pictures, etc. It's not about making the results look good, but about completely immersing yourself in the process and enjoying the small relaxing time you have of making them.
Some also turn to music–either listening to, or playing it. Find the type of songs that have a calming effect on you (you know what they would sound like), or turn to an instrument of your choice and focus on that for a few minutes. Again, it's all about distracting your body and mind with one focal activity for a certain time.
These things largely depend on what you like. If either of these options make you feel uncomfortable and unnatural in doing them, then don't do it. But if you like to doodle things onto your notebook, or fancy doing a little jam session on your favorite instrument, then you can use these things to distance yourself from the loud noises of anxiety.

5. getting out of your bedroom
If you've been sitting there for four hours and you're getting no proper studying done, that's because your mind is overworked while your body hasn't been working at all. Sitting in the same spot for hours on end will dull your senses, block productivity, and it does no good for your stress levels. 
Get up and stretch from time to time, leave your bedroom, walk around your house, sit in the living room for 5-10 minutes, explore your backyard for whatever reason, just–go anywhere. If you don't have the time to stop your studying at that moment, then take your papers and sit somewhere else. In a different room, or a different desk, or make use of a library/cafe you can continue your work in. A change of scenery is really more useful than you think. 

6. brewing tea
Anyone who knows me would know about my undying love for green tea. Different from coffee–which scientists think can actually worsen anxiety levels as they pump the heart rate up–there's something about the act of making yourself a cup of tea that just seems to slow down time. Warmth in your hands, the calming bitter taste, and the small timeframe of sitting with your cup, allowing the tea to cool down, and letting yourself calmly breathe while you're doing so.

7. positive people
You are much more prone to anxiety when you're alone. 
Have a group of friends you can rely on to make you feel better. Be careful on this one, because there are also friends whom you know you shouldn't keep around you if you want to look after yourself; friends who trouble you, discourage you, treat you unfairly, or basically just stress you out.
Instead, surround yourself with people who can uplift you. Whether it's a meetup, an ongoing text message, or just a short phone call, it's these human connections that can leave less space in your head for anxiety to come in. You can choose to vent about your issues (which will help give you a clearer view on things and give you the relief of getting it off your chest), or just conversing with them about something completely different. Overall, it's the same distraction mechanism, but it'll help give comforting signals and tell your inner self that everything is actually okay.

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What are some things you do to reduce anxiety?
Leave a comment below, it'd be lovely to hear from you!

Have a great week.

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7 comments

  1. I really needed to read this and boy am I glad I did. It's true, as students I feel like we are all panicking with exams up coming and it is super stressful but these tips are so important so tyvm! <3
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  2. Great tips! I find that if I do a little yoga or any form of exercise it reduces my anxiety and stress levels. I also find that putting some music on and dancing it out does too!

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  3. Really good advice! I have experiences with this too, and am always looking for ways to help without having to take the big step of therapy. I guess one thing I'd add is to get a blood test, because things like low iron and b12 can really affect your anxiety levels without you even realising. x

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  4. Wonderful tips, those all work for me too

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  5. I agree, you really are much more prone to anxiety and letting those worrying thoughts in when you're alone. I remember when I was at the peak of my anxiety, I found it was awful whenever I was alone and then when I was around other people who lifted me up I felt so much lighter and just better in general.

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