Anxiety has a way of making us feel overwhelmed and out of control. It’s a cycle of worry, fear and uncertainty. Worry about the unknown, fear about the what ifs and uncertain if you’ll ever feel in control again. This anxiety challenge gives you a way of doing one thing a day to take back control, be in the present and do something that will address how you’re feeling. The last thing you want is to feel defeated about not being able to accomplish everything you set out to do. This challenge makes it easier for you by allowing you to feel successful each and every day. Just do one thing a day. Just one…Let’s begin.
Day #1) Acknowledge your feelings
It’s important to practice acceptance and the first thing to accept is your feelings. They are what they are. You can’t change them and there’s no use in fighting them. It’s ok to feel whatever it is you’re feeling; whether it be fear, worry, anger, sadness, guilt etc… Your feelings are yours. They’re not bad and they’re not good. They’re just feelings and they will pass.
Day #2) Practice mindfulness
In mindfulness therapy, you focus on how you are feeling physically when you are anxious. It’s a mind-body approach. Instead of trying to escape from your feelings, you remain present and mindful of them. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations so that you are able to manage them.
Day #3) Create a to-do list
Start by making a list of what your goals are and then break them down into a smaller to-do list. It may be easier to break the list up into categories such as: personal, relationship, job/school, family. That list may end up being long, which for people with anxiety, can be overwhelming. After your to-do list is done, prioritize items on the list. Each week, choose three items from your to-do list to tackle. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t complete each item. It’s okay to carry it over to the next week.
Day #4) Exercise
Even if it’s just 10 minutes, moderate exercise releases endorphins which not only reduces anxiety, but it also helps you cope with some of the symptoms of anxiety: exercise improves mood, concentration, confidence, body image, sleep, muscle tension and more.
Day #5) Practice 10 minutes of guided meditation
Download an app like Headspace, Calm or Breethe and practice some guided meditation. We are living in chaotic times and meditation is known to deactivate the fight-flight-freeze response by relaxing the mind and body. How does it do that? When thoughts enter your mind, meditation trains you to just let the thought go. No overthinking, no analyzing and no ruminating. Acknowledge the thought as just a thought. And let it go.
Be grateful. When we’re anxious, we tend to be more negative. It can be hard to see past our feelings and worries. But there are always things to be happy about. Write down three things that you are grateful for. “I’m grateful for my morning cup of coffee.” “I’m grateful that the sun is shining.” Focus on being happy for the little things in life; they come around a lot more often than you realize.
Day #7) Declutter a space in your home
Clutter can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can increase feelings of anxiety. Messy spaces can leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed. When our space is disorganized, our minds tend to get overstimulated and it makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
Day #8) Watch something funny on TV
Watch a comedy or a stand-up comedian on tv. Laughing releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. It also acts as a good distraction.
Day #9) Call a friend
Reach out to a friend. If you are connected to others you will likely find yourself having improved self-esteem and confidence and lower levels of anxiety and stress. Your friends and connections encourage you, support you, pull you up and cheer you on.
Day #10) Practice box breathing
Box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, is a simple, yet effective technique that you can do anywhere and anytime that you are feeling anxious and stressed out. According to the Mayo Clinic, focused breathing calms the nerves and relieves stress by helping to regulate and calm the autonomic nervous system. This system can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of peace and calm.
Day #11) Skip social media for one day
This speaks for itself. There’s a lot of pressure that goes along with being on social media. We are often bombarded with unrealistic images and posts that lead to feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, body image issues and feelings of inadequacy. It’s good to take a rest every now and again by taking a step back.
Day #12) Practice Yoga for 10 minutes
Yoga helps with anxiety by focusing on deep breathing and stretching the body. Like mindfulness, it’s a mind-body practice that helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate.
Day #13) Develop a nighttime routine
If there’s something on your mind from the day that is frustrating you or upsetting you, take a few minutes to write in your journal. Get plenty of sleep. Aim for somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Too much or too little sleep can both have a negative impact on your mind and body. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and make sure you give yourself time to unwind in bed.
Day #14) Do something nice for yourself; practice self-care and do something that brings you joy
To calm your mind and cut stress, try working some self-care into your daily routine. Listen to some soothing music, color, doodle or read, take a bath….
Be proud of each step you’ve taken and each accomplishment you’ve had. When thinking about what we’d like to accomplish, it can feel so overwhelming. Remember, all small steps lead to big change. One goal, one step, one achievement at a time. One by one until you’ve reached your end goal. What have you done that you’re proud of?
Day #16) Write down three things that you like about yourself
Be kind to yourself. Humans tend to be negative and self-critical. Take the time to think about the qualities you like in yourself. Are you funny? Are you generous? Are you a hard worker?
Day #17) Reevaluate your diet
While changing your diet does not cure your anxiety, it can certainly help ease it. There are certain foods to avoid as they can trigger anxiety and certain foods that have a calming effect. Foods to avoid: caffeine, fried food, processed meat. Foods that calm anxiety: Chamomile, yogurt, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds.
Day #18) Write down 3 negative thoughts and turn them into something positive by challenging them
Being able to identify negative self-talk is not only helpful, but it is an essential part of the process needed to change how you think, feel and behave. Identifying what your inner voice is telling you, takes practice and time. Give yourself some time to become aware of what your thoughts are, record them and challenge them.
Choose an affirmation and say it to yourself regularly throughout the day. Speaking positively to yourself is a way of reminding yourself that things are not always what they seem. You can acknowledge that you feel anxious and can recognize the negative thoughts, but you don’t let them control you. Examples of affirmations are “I am calm,” “life is good” or “I am in control.”
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is an anxiety reducing technique that involves alternating tensing and relaxing all of your body’s main muscle groups. If you suffer from anxiety, your muscles are likely tense much of the time and this technique will give you greater control over how your body responds to your thoughts and feelings.
Day #21) Volunteer
Volunteering provides mental and physical health benefits. By helping others, you will feel more connected to as well as feeling appreciated and worthy. This sense of purpose can help reduce anxiety and keep you mentally stimulated. It feels good to help and give back. It gets you out there helping and meeting new people.
Day #22) Write down 3 people that make you smile and why
It’s important to acknowledge the goodness in your life. Who makes you smile? Why? Recognize the people that have made a difference in your life.
This is it! These are your challenges. Now it’s time for you to take the first step to beating your anxiety! The next 22 days will take you out of your comfort zone. But remember, in between your comfort zone and your end goal, is where your best life begins.