4 Ways to Reduce Anxiety on Your Coffee Break

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect roughly 40 million people over the age of 18 in the United States. Though these disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those with anxiety seek treatment. Perhaps this is because of busy schedules or a lack of insurance that causes so many people with anxiety to suffer in silence.

But there are proven strategies you can do that don’t cost a penny and take little time. In fact, you could do any of the following strategies on your lunch or coffee break. Here are some ways to reduce your anxiety:

Breathe Deeply

According to a study published by the Journal of Emergency Medicine, 30% of people who go to the ER with complaints of chest pain and no evidence of coronary artery disease are actually suffering from a panic attack. Why is this so common?

When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to over-breathe or under-breathe. This can cause dizziness and hyperventilation. Deep breathing is a powerful way to gain control over your breath and reaction to a panic attack. Studies show taking slow, deep, breaths soothes our nervous system and increases brain activity. And you almost immediately feel a calm settle over you. Try it for yourself.

Here’s how: 1) Breathe slowly in as you focus on pulling the breath into your belly. 2) Breathe out through your mouth slowly as if breathing through a straw. The goal is a longer exhalation than your breath in, and you want to make it a smooth, even amount of air coming out throughout the exhalation. 3) Pause for a second before breathing in again so you don’t start to hyperventilate. 4) After you get the hang of these “belly breaths”, try releasing tension in your shoulders, neck, jaw and other areas of your body during the exhalation.

This should be a relaxing experience. If you are getting dizzy, you’re probably breathing too hard. Try doing it more gently without breathing in too much or breathing out too much. If you are getting more anxious, simply skip to something else. Picking out coping skills is like throwing mud up against the wall. You’re just looking for something to stick.

Try A Listening Meditation

One way to get your mind to settle down is to meditate. There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. Yes, there have been religious practices that include meditation, but meditation does not have to have a religious component. If it does for you, then it should match your religious inclinations.

Really, meditation is simply turning your attention to one thing. As your mind wanders (and it will! That’s it’s job.), you simply notice and without judgment, refocus back on that one thing. As you practice this, you will get better at it, but even daily meditators will have days of increased inattention and focus.

And one of the easiest ways to meditate is to practice listening meditation. This is exactly what is sounds like. Sit quietly, eyes closed, and begin to listen to the ambient sounds in the room. What do you hear? Buzzing lights? A fan? Did someone cough? Are there birds outside? A lawnmower?

Just be aware of all the sounds and try and expand that awareness to hear as much as possible. This form of meditation is fun and effective, because you cannot possibly listen–truly listen–and think at the same time. These breaks from your thoughts and emotions and body sensations allow you to be more observant of them.

Exercise

Nervous energy needs to go somewhere – it has to be burned. Taking a 15- minute walk around the block can be a great way to get rid of this energy while breathing deeply. As a bonus, your body releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins when you exercise.

While you walk, you can try the listening meditation described above to help keep your focus away from your worries. Or instead of focusing on the sounds, you can focus on the sights around you…or on the feeling of the movement in your body. Just try to make it a mind break, as well as a body break, if you can.

Don’t Drink Coffee

Yes, I am asking you not to drink coffee on your coffee break. Or soda. Caffeine and sugar can exacerbate anxiety by making us feel jittery and nervous. You are far better off sticking with water. What we eat and drink can have a huge impact on our stress levels. Being a little more intentional in what we consume can make a big difference in how stressed you feel on a daily basis.

I hope you will give these anxiety-busting strategies a try. If you feel they are not helping as much as you need and you would like to speak with someone, please get in touch with us. We’d be happy to speak about treatment options with you, and we offer free 15-minute consultations to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

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