Quite a few people asked me recently how I deal with anxiety. I seem to be less anxious than people around me. First of all: I also have anxiety, just like anybody else. The recent company acquisition & reorganization, the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming general elections, or the Russian attack all make sure that once a problem is over, there is a new problem already to worry about. However, sport, music and spending less time reading the news all help to keep my anxiety at bay.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert. I just share my own experiences. I can only guess why these work for me, but I enjoy the results. Your mileage may vary.
Let’s start with a less obvious one: music. It seems to help both when music is just put in the background and also when listening to music without doing anything else.
When I play music in the background, it helps focusing on what I’m working on in multiple ways. It keeps noises out, so there are less distractions. It also keeps part of the mind busy, so my mind has less capacity to think about the problems, and thus anxiety is reduced.
I also like listening to music not as background noise, but as a focused activity. In the first few minutes, I still might think about problems, current events, but then music takes over. When focusing on music, I can always hear new details even in songs I listened to hundreds of times already. Listening to music also clears my mind. And it seems to have a long-lasting effect, as I feel refreshed even hours after listening to music.
Doing some kind of sport regularly also seems to reduce anxiety levels. Of course, I can rarely do some kind of sport each and every day, but I still try to exercise. Half an hour for five days a week seems to be an achievable goal. And you do not have to think about anything special or needing lots of preparation, just something like walking or biking for half an hour in the neighborhood. When it’s too cold or raining, just jump on the exercise bike. My favorite activity is hiking. It needs a bit more preparation: driving there and driving back. But this is also the most rewarding one, thanks to the fresh air far away from the city.
Doing sports regularly helps to improve anxiety-related problems, like blood pressure and heart rate. Better physical condition also seems to reduce anxiety. As an added bonus, all these activities help to control weight as well :-)
And a few more obvious tips
I am a news maniac. I was reading the news whenever I had a little time. Not anymore. I can follow the reactions of my body when reading the news from Ukraine and it is brutal. My blood pressure and heart rate improved drastically when I skipped reading the news completely for days. Just reading the headlines and even those just 2-3 times a day allowed my situation to improve. Going back to the old me and reading everything for two days canceled the effects of two weeks of slow improvements. Reading the news is not worth your health. Donating to a charity organization helping Ukrainian refugees instead can help your anxiety a bit, and also the people in need.
Leaving social media behind as much as possible can help as well. Up until a few weeks ago, we were surrounded by COVID experts. The unfortunate events in the Ukraine changed this. One of the most unpleasant experiences is when a friend whom you admire for his technical knowledge suddenly starts pushing Russian war propaganda. Luckily, the last US elections taught me to spend less time reading Facebook and Twitter. Instead of reading the feeds, I started to just sample them. I try to post hiking and flower photos to break the constant feed of terrible news, and I got plenty of feedback that it helps those people who still read most of the posts.
I hope that my tips and tricks helped you a bit. However, remember to see a doctor if you cannot handle your anxiety!