Although stress and anxiety abound in the modern world some of us are more prone than others. Anxiety is the mind’s risk avoidance system – it tells us that we’re in danger and that we need to do something. It was our anxious ancestors who prepared better for winter and made plans to fight off neighbouring tribes. The relaxed, laid-back guys never made it.
These five things will help to reduce anxiety brought to you by the excellent Psyblog.
1. Exercise reduces anxiety
Generally, when people get a little exercise they feel less anxiety in their lives. As little as 20 minutes can make you feel calmer right now. The benefits of a little workout extend beyond the gym, though, into everyday life. One study has found that although simply resting reduces anxiety, it doesn’t help protect against stressful events (Smith, 2013). Exercise, though, seems to have a more lasting effect, helping to reduce anxiety when faced with stressful situations afterwards. Indeed, many think exercise should be prescribed for depression and anxiety instead of drugs.
2. Meditation reduces anxiety
On top of exercise and thinking differently, those experiencing anxiety can also try meditation. To pick just one of many recent studies, Zeidan et al. (2013) found that four 20-minute meditation classes were enough to reduce anxiety by up to 39%.
3. You may be more anxious due to your parents
Like many things, high anxiety is partly in the genes, but part of the reason anxious people are anxious is because of their parents’ behaviour. Children are more likely to be anxious when their parents direct criticism at them, display high levels of doubt and are emotionally cold (Budinger et al., 2012).
4. Anxious people jump to conclusions
One of the facts about anxiety is that highly anxious people jump to conclusions more quickly when judging facial expressions. A study by Fraley et al., (2006) suggests that anxious people may have problems in their relationships because they jump to conclusions too quickly about facial expressions.
Professor Fraley explained:
“This ‘hair trigger’ style of perceptual sensitivity may be one reason why highly anxious people experience greater conflict in their relationships. The irony is that they have the ability to make their judgments more accurately than less-anxious people, but, because they are so quick to make judgments about others’ emotions, they tend to mistakenly infer other people’s emotional states and intentions.”
5. You can reduce anxiety by thinking differently
One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to think about situations differently. It’s not an exam; it’s a fun little quiz. It’s not a scary presentation; it’s a little chat with a few colleagues. It’s not a job interview; it’s a chance to meet some new people. Most situations can be re-framed in this way and studies show that people who do this naturally–as opposed to trying to suppress their anxiety–feel less anxious in stressful social situations (Llewellyn et al., 2013).
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