8 TIPS TO COMBAT STRESS + ANXIETY

I’ve battled with severe bouts of anxiety since I was a child. I won’t get into my life story spiel on that here today, but if you’d like to see a video or potentially even listen to a podcast episode about that, please comment below! I released my first audio download to test the waters on the idea of doing a podcast, so if you’re interested in that medium and want to hear my intimate answer to the frequently asked question “When/Will you ever be coming to YouTube again?”, subscribe to BeautyLeeBar.com for all the updates!!

What I’m sharing here in this post today is a collection of lessons and practices in no particular order that I’ve learned to put into practice over 20 years of battling with this mental health issue. I am 23 years young, just keep that in mind. I promise you that at least one of these 8 tools will help you help yourself and your mental health TODAY! I use all of them regularly, depending on what my mind and body need on any given day.

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Journal – Brain dumping your emotions, thoughts, and circumstances onto a piece of paper gets them out of your racing mind and onto something outside of yourself that you can digest and reflect on. It doesn’t have to make sense, doesn’t have to be intentional, but it has to flow out of you onto that paper. You can make sense of it and set intentions for yourself regarding what to do with it later. The simple act of doing it will usually provide an immediate sense of relief on its own.

Serving Others – Perspective and purpose is everything. Both can be found in serving others. When we’re drowning in our feels and stuck in a shitty season, it can be challenging to see the potential, opportunities, and blessings we have in our grasp. Being of service and helping others provides a great sense of positive purpose that can enlighten and evolve our perspectives and passions. 

Therapy – I struggled with therapy for a long ass time. I’ve talked and walked my way out of therapist’s offices since I was a kid, but boy oh boy, am I a prime candidate!

I didn’t want to feel crazy. I didn’t want to need therapy.

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So I successfully convinced countless therapists I was fiiine after just a couple of sessions. It wasn’t until my emotions got aggressively thrown out of whack when I decided to work in retail that I finally sought and consistently stick to the regular therapy I’ve needed for far too long. It’s something I look forward to every week. It’s like a verbal journaling session with some friendly professional guidance on the digestion and reflection part.

Support – A therapist is an important form of support because they’re completely unbiased to your situation and emotions… and they’re paid to listen. However, the people who love you are important to support tools to get comfortable uncomfortably leaning into when you’re in need. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed about what they’ll think of you or even feel that you don’t want to burden the people you care about with your shit. Those feelings come from a place of care and consideration for those people, which is something that I’d put good money on is reciprocated. They’ll more than likely want to be there for you in your moments of need. I forget to do this one a lot myself, but I’m lucky to have a friend that knows me better than myself some days and pushes me to lean in just when I need to.

Exercise – MOVE. YOUR. BODY. Endorphins are magical things!!! Sweat that anxiety out of your pores one mile or burpee or downward dog at a time. Actively moving your body works wonders for your mind. ALL THE TIME.

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Pray – Whether you’re praying to God or the universe or your loved ones passed or… the black space you see when you close your eyes, whatever works! And it works. Simply voicing your please’s and thank you’s is something we forget to do when we grow up and take the burden of life directly on our backs. Thank you for this and please help me with that. These are super simple sentences that make a big impact in making you feel like you can push gratitude and desires out of your mind and off of your shoulders alone.

Read – Knowledge is power. Educating myself in digestible tidbits daily has done wonders for my confidence and anxiety. Learning is a powerful tool for gaining perspective and inspiring passion and purpose. It’s also just a great temporary distraction from your own whirling thoughts!

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Just Fucking Cry – Self-explanatory. Sometimes, ya just gotta do it and when you give in to that moment, it can feel so good. I’m not a crier… unless I’m watching Forrest Gump, Irreplaceable You, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Freedom Writers, Moonlight, The Pursuit of Happyness, Pearl Harbor, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Fruitvale Station and Boys Don’t Cry. I’m a sucker for a heartbreaking/heartwarming story and usually, my tears come from empathy for others, but I don’t cry often for myself. I used to. Then life happens and you get used to sucking it up and moving forward, but sometimes that bottles something up that needs releasing. If that anxiety has you stuck, it’s usually a good time to let the waterworks flow for a hot minute. Indulge in it and let it out.

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These obviously aren’t all of the ways you can relieve anxiety, but they’re mine and now, if any of them resonated with you, they’re yours! They’re simple, you don’t need a prescription for any of ‘em and you can practice them anytime, anywhere. It’s good to have a few of these tools in your back pocket at all times because as I’m sure you already know if you’re reading this, anxiety can be one unpredictable witch!

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Anxious? Try This Doctor-Approved Breathing Trick

Anxiety has a very unwelcome way of popping up when you least expect it.

When you’re anxious or stressed, you don’t usually pay attention to your breathing. You either overdo it, taking short breaths or don’t do it at all. It’s quite possible to suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath and clenching your jaw for ages if you’re stressed out.

Just thinking about your breath and paying attention to it can have a calming effect though. It’s not something we do very often but breathing properly is so important. And using a focused breathing technique can be even more helpful when you’re anxious or stressed. 

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It’s a technique that has been used in yoga for thousands of years and yes, it focuses on breathing through the nose. Hillary Clinton gave it a shout out in her autobiography, What Happened in 2017. It was one of the things she said she used to recover from losing the American election to Donald Trump in 2016.

And, hey, if it’s good enough for Hillary…

It’s a very simple trick to master and you can use it anywhere – once you get the hang of it.

HOW TO PRACTICE ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING:

Step One:

Sit in a comfortable position if you can. On the floor on in a chair with your back straight and feet planted on the ground.

Step Two:

Using your right thumb, gently close your right nostril and inhale slowly through your left nostril.

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Step Three:

Gently close your left nostril by pressing on it with your ring (third) finger. As you do so, open your right nostril and slowly exhale out of it.

Step Four:

Still in this position, inhale through your right nostril, then close it, before opening your left nostril and slowly exhaling thought it. Then inhaling once again.

And that’s basically it! You can repeat the moves five to ten times and the technique will get smoother after a few goes.

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Taking deep slow breaths in this way could help you find your way out of feeling anxious or stressed. Fans of alternate nostril breathing also reckon it helps with focus, lowers the heart rate and makes you more alert too. 

POSTS YOU WILL ENJOY:

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Understanding Our FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT RESPONSES

Do you feel like anxiety runs point in your day? Do you wonder what in the world is going on with you that you have these stressed-out reactions that feel disproportionate to the reality of what’s at hand?

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The truth is that your reactions can get triggered in response to a real or imagined event. The part of you that overrides reality and kicks up a sometimes-surprising physical response does not know the difference between what’s actually taking place and what’s not real. That can be baffling because it can make you do things that don’t make sense. And no one likes to be the foolio or feel hijacked by their fight-or-flight response.

Let’s discuss: say you’re at a campground with friends, and you hear a loud noise that scares you. You then find you’ve hightailed it across the campground into your tent before you’ve had time to even sort through if that noise is actually a real and present danger. Stay with me—here’s what has happened. Your subconscious mind hijacked your conscious mind (the part that feels like you). You heard the noise. Your subconscious, which stores all your memories, downloaded a memory of a threat (i.e. a bear growl) that it had stored in its complex hard drive; your imagination envisioned a bear in your immediate environment. It then sent a message to your autonomic nervous system, which houses all hormones (like adrenaline, which makes you move fast), your senses became hyper-alert, and your heart rate increased—all for your survival. Before you could check to see if there indeed was a bear about to eat you, your body drove you to seek safety—all in seconds. But then what if your friends, while you were cowering, began to laugh at your folly, as one of them had merely opened the zipper on their bag, and that was the sound your subconscious deemed dangerous that caused you to run for shelter? It would undoubtedly feel like a bodily betrayal.

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But you have to give thanks for the fight-or-flight response, because it has literally kept humankind alive for thousands of years of evolution as a species. It’s not as necessary day to day now because we aren’t being hunted by lions as we once were. We aren’t always fighting for our survival, and yet, our body still gets flooded with messages to flee or fight back. Makes you question how often you have automatically reacted in that irrational mode because of an unconscious download, then responded in kind, with an over-the-top, inappropriate response because you felt threatened—and that wasn’t actually the case. Anxiety disorders come into focus when that response becomes triggered easily and often, and the brain learns to perceive the world as more dangerous than it actually is. It becomes the norm, and that’s taxing on your whole system and your quality of life.

The more you can realize when the fight-or-flight is happening, the more you can be present with the reality of what’s truly unfolding. You can then allow your life to be directed by responding instead of reacting to daily events that pose no real threat. You start to see where your anxiety has you by the nose, where you consistently allow yourself to fly off the handle to attack, defend, or find yourself running from conflict. All are good indicators that these are areas where you can work on being more mindful, more present, more conscious. Breathing through automatic responses of fight-or-flight to stabilize your anxiety levels is helpful. It allows you to feel more in control and, ultimately, happier as a result. And your flight-or-flight response can show up for you in instances where it’s actually useful, when there’s a real need for its gift.

How to Know If It’s Anxiety or Just Stress

I say it all the time: “This is giving me anxiety.” What I often mean, however, is something slightly different: “This is stressing me out.” As someone who has actually been diagnosed with chronic anxiety, I should probably know better than to conflate the two. And yet, I know just in conversing with my friends and co-workers on a daily basis that among my generation, using the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably has become the norm.

While it might seem like a matter of semantics, in reality, it’s a problematic habit. For one thing, using “anxiety” as a replacement term for “stress” diminishes the very real symptoms that those who suffer from anxiety have to negotiate on a daily basis. For another, it might prevent someone who has undiagnosed anxiety from seeking the correct kind of treatment because they can’t differentiate those symptoms from that of regular, day-to-day stress.

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Psychology Today

“Both stress and anxiety can bedevil anyone’s psychological and physical health,” says Heather Silvestri, PhD, a New York City–based psychologist. “However, while often related, they are distinct phenomena.” Below, she helps us clear up the difference between the two—and how to manage both.

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WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANXIETY AND STRESS?

Let’s start with stress, which typically refers to a situational experience. “It’s a physiological and psychological response to a stressor, which is often obvious and explicitly identified,” says Silvestri. A crazy day at work, a traffic jam, a looming presentation—these can all be sources of stress and can all cause your cortisol levels (also known as the “stress hormone”) to spike. You probably know the symptoms of stress pretty well: anything from sweaty palms to a racing heart to butterflies in your stomach.

But here’s the key thing about stress: When the source of your stress is resolved, those symptoms tend to go away. That’s not the case with anxiety.

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“With anxiety, the internal disquiet stubbornly persists, without heeding the actual conditions,” explains Silvestri. In other words, those who suffer from generalized anxiety experience those same stress-like symptoms on a chronic basis, no matter the external circumstances. That’s why anxiety often feels inexplicable or “out of proportion” to what’s going on in our lives.

“Stress responses are hard-wired into our nervous system because we need them to survive,” says Silvestri. “Anxiety can be seen as the lingering upheaval that doesn’t necessarily quiet down when the situation improves. In this way, anxiety is the horse that ran away from the stable.”

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WHY ARE THEY USED SO INTERCHANGEABLY?

Silvestri suspects a few factors, not the least of which is our current political landscape and the breakneck pace of the digital age—both valid sources of stress and fear. It’s our new norm, which certainly impacts the way we talk about it. “Our modern lexicon has absorbed this idea and it now trades in terms connoting fear, anxiety, and neurotic apprehension,” she says. “You might even go so far as to argue that there has been a glorification of internal unrest insofar as proclaiming, ‘I’m so stressed out!’ or ‘I’m freaking out!’ have a certain cache, as if such frenetic nervous system activity means someone is doing something important or notable.”

This, she says, has led to misuse of both terms, as well as a lapse in distinction between the two. “This is lamentable because stress and anxiety can be sources of substantial suffering, and they are best treated with nuance and precision about what they are and how they operate,” she adds. “Nowadays we also run the risk that someone may be delayed or miss out entirely on getting needed help because they mistake their clinically treatable anxiety disorder for a more normalized and watered-down idea of being ‘stressed out.'”

CAN ONE LEAD TO THE OTHER?

“Chronic stress can absolutely give way to anxiety,” says Silvestri. “We need rebound time to recover. When we experience chronic stress, we lose our ability to recover, and elevated physiological arousal becomes the new normal.” If you’re perpetually stressed, turning off that “switch” and finding relief becomes more difficult.

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That’s why with anxiety, we tend to scan for things that might be worrying us when there aren’t any obvious stressors at a given moment—kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the good news is that there are many ways to manage both chronic stress and generalized anxiety.

HOW CAN I NIP STRESS IN THE BUD?

Honestly, a lot of it is reflecting and figuring out what works for you. If you know that nothing clears your head like a sweaty jog, make time for that. If you notice that stress feels much more manageable when you get a good night’s sleep (as tends to be the case for most of us), be sure to get plenty of shut-eye when you know you’re about to be put in a stressful situation. Being both self-aware and proactive is key.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE ANXIETY, AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

“If someone continues to feel preoccupied after a stressor has resolved or if the course of the worry doesn’t really track external events, this can be a sign that something more significant than generic stress is going on,” says Silvestri. This recognition is the first step. “By acknowledging your anxiety, you can be more mindful of triggers and more purposeful about your choices,” she says.

Also, know that it’ll be much easier and more efficient to treat your anxiety if you can approach it with curiosity instead of judgment. Then, you can start to play around with different rituals to manage it: Silvestri suggests starting with common aids like yogamindfulness, and journaling. “Really, any activity of self-care that lends a sense of agency to your lifestyle,” she says, since anxiety can rob us of our sense of control.

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But if those initial steps aren’t offering any relief, then it’s probably time to seek help elsewhere. “For the first line treatment, I would recommend either cognitive behavioral or insight-oriented psychotherapy, depending on how interested someone is in delving into historical causes or sticking with a focus on symptoms, especially the triad of thoughts, feelings, behavior,” she says. You and your doctor or therapist can then discuss the best treatment plan for you.

Either way, know that you have options—and knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is a solid first step to feeling better.

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CALMING REMEDIES

Vitruvi Stone Diffuser ($119)

Vitruvi Stone Diffuser

Aromatherapy can help. There are some essential oils that have a calming effect, like lavender and bergamot. A diffuser is an easy way to use essential oils.

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Bath Salts ($65)

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Bath Salts

A bath is probably one of the best forms of self-care. This CBD soak also contains Epsom salt, pink Himalayan salt, calendula petals, and essential oils.

Hum Nutrition Big Chill ($20)

Hum Nutrition Big Chill

These supplements from Hum are formulated to help you stay calm and focused thanks to the adaptogenic plant, rhodiola. Take one capsule with food when you need it.

Moon Juice Magnesi-Om Berry Unstressing Drink ($42)

Moon Juice Magnesi-Om Berry Unstressing Drink

Add a teaspoon of this powder to your water before you go to bed, or whenever you need to de-stress. It contains magnesium and L-theanine to calm, improve move, and promote healthy digestion.

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This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.