It’s the mental health vicious cycle: Exercise has been proven in study after study as one of the best remedies for anxiety and depression, yet getting sweaty is often the last thing anxious people feel like doing. Even worse, sometimes just the thought of going to a gym full of people in spandex is enough to trigger an anxiety attack. Enter yoga. You can do it in the privacy of your own home and it’s gentle enough that most people can do it. “The endorphins that exercise helps to release are crucial for people with anxiety as they often have a small ‘window of tolerance,’ meaning stressors that seem small to others feel very big to them,” says Kelsey Torgerson, MSW, a licensed clinical social worker and anxiety and anger management specialist in St. Louis, adding that she personally does yoga four times a week. “Yoga increases that window of tolerance and builds stress management skills.”
Get off social media
Feeling anxious and stressed out? A lot of people will take a brain break by scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Unfortunately, this “rest” may be doing you more harm than good when it comes to anxiety, says Rebecca Burton, a licensed marriage and family counselor. “Staying continually plugged in means you are susceptible to the anxiety-provoking events of the day, whether it’s that a good friend is ill or a large-scale disaster is unfolding,” she says. Not to mention how comparing yourself to others on social media can be anxiety-inducing in its own right. Why don’t you have 6-pack abs, an immaculate kitchen, and children that spout wise sayings every 30 minutes? But disconnecting can be harder than it sounds, as social media addiction is a legit problem. Instead of constantly checking your notifications, plan breaks, Burton advises.
Accept anxiety as a part of life
“When a client tells me they have anxiety, I say ‘Great!, which often takes them by surprise,” says Akshay Nanavati, speaker and author of Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness. “Embracing and harnessing your anxiety will help you control it rather than it controlling you.” He explains that suffering is part of life and you can learn how to build a positive relationship with pain. There’s a myth that life is supposed to be all happiness and if you have a problem it’s because you are doing something wrong. Not so, he says. And one of the worst parts of anxiety is the fear of impending pain but it’s silly to start the suffering early. Accept that there will be struggles and know you are strong enough to deal with them when they happen. If your anxiety feels too overwhelming and you can’t put it in perspective, it may be time to see your doctor about therapy and/or medication.