This post was originally published in March 2020. It has been revised and republished with the best self-care exercises that reduce anxiety when you’re panicking.
If you’re someone who already struggles with anxiety, chances are that in the past few years it’s been extra hard not to panic. I understand. That’s why I’ve put together this beneficial list of 15 self-care exercises you can practice to reduce that stress.
Life can feel extra scary sometimes. There are days I just want to hide from my phone (and all the news it carries) and curl into a ball. However, as a blogger, the last thing I can do is avoid social media, so I’ve found other ways to cope with my panic. Some of these may seem simple or childlike, but I urge you to open your mind. Now isn’t the time to be haughty or particular about self-care. In fact, it’s the time to embrace any sense of juvenile wonder and excitement, focus on the special little moments, and if you’re blessed to be with friends and family that make you feel safe – cherish that!
I have medically-diagnosed anxiety, along with clinical depression and bipolar I disorder. I also have a chronic gastrointestinal disease. So sometimes I find myself leaning towards manic hysteria and panic on a regular basis. It can be really difficult to refocus and regularly practice self-care, but when I do, I notice a massive improvement in my overall demeanor and mood. These tried and true tips will help you too, no matter what level of anxiety you may be facing.
Practical Self-Care Exercises to Reduce Anxiety
I am clearly not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert on anxiety reduction. However, I do want to provide resources for anyone looking to incorporate more self-care into their daily lives. These are just a few of the ways I manage my anxiety. I also highly recommend seeking professional help, because you never know the positive impact it could have on your life!
Whenever I’m feeling anxious, I bring out a little jar of bubbles and watch them pop slowly. I see how big I can make them, or just poke them to hear the audible “pop!” Don’t have any bubbles on hand? Squeeze your dish soap container and watch as the tiny bubbles fly around the kitchen.
This was something I learned from a therapist years ago, and now it’s a go-to whenever I’m experiencing a panic attack or severe anxiety of any kind. I find the sourest candy I can handle (my favorites are the lemon Warheads – so sour) and once it lands on my tongue, I focus only on how sour it is until the sour sensation goes away. It takes your mind off your anxiety, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
drink red wine
Not in excess, mind you. Intoxication has never been a good solution to stress, as much as it can be tempting. However, red wine can soothe and calm, and even promote better sleep, but once you’ve hit tipsy, it’s not going to affect you in the same positive manner. In small doses (like one glass after dinner), red wine can reduce that anxious feeling – and it even aids in digestion.
snuggle a pet
I’ve always been a kitty person. For over eight years, my sweet girl, Luna, kept me company better than anyone else and helped soothe me during stressful times. Sometimes just petting her head or scratching her chin and hearing her purr was incredibly calming to me. Whether it’s your cat, dog, hamster, bird, etc. just give them a little extra love and watch them give it back to you.
take a steam shower
Turn your shower on super hot, close the bathroom door, and walk away. Come back 5 minutes later to a free sauna. Add a few drops of essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus and peppermint for a truly relaxing shower. You might want to turn the heat down a bit once you actually get into the water, or you can just sit on the floor of the bathroom and breathe in the steam.
read a fictional book
May I suggest a romantic comedy or fantasy novel? This is a great way to take your mind off of “real life” and escape into a story. It’s also beneficial for your mind, versus binging a television show. Read before bed and you’ll find yourself sleeping better too! Reading is the number one way I relieve stress.
online shop (for fun)
Rather than adding stress by buying groceries or purchasing necessities, how about shopping for your wardrobe? Or maybe there’s a new piece of decor or seasonal decoration you’ve been looking at! Indulge in a little retail therapy! Set a budget and then enjoy the “frivolity” of adding new things to your life!
paint your nails
You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg at the salon. Instead, get your own drying light and treat yourself to an at-home manicure. You get extra points if you clip your cuticles, apply vitamin oils, and give yourself a hand massage with your favorite lotion. I try to do this at least once a month. I’ll turn on a kdrama or listen to an audiobook and just paint away.
I often enjoy waking up early on a weekend morning and turning on some light jazz to listen to while I bake a coffee cake, molasses cookies, or cappuccino muffins. It’s also fun to try new recipes, especially when you get creative with the ingredients you already have in your home! Baking is a great way to completely immerse your mind in a task – and the best part? You have something delicious to enjoy after all your hard work is complete.
play a board game
My husband and I play board games frequently, and we’ve even had a routine game night with friends in the past. It’s a great way to de-stress and just have fun. If you’re anxious about spending time with a large group, here is one of our favorite 2-player games (we like to play it while watching the show it’s based on)!
go on a nature walk
Being out in nature is healing in so many ways. Get outside and just go for a walk. It can be at your favorite park or just around your neighborhood. Now that I live in the country, you can almost guarantee that first thing in the morning, I’ll be outside walking up and down my long driveway with a mug of steaming hot coffee. Getting that sunshine is the best, especially during the cooler seasons.
Face masks solve everything, right? I mean – at least they help your skin! And who says you need to wait for “self-care Sunday” to pour that glass of red wine I mentioned before and slap on a face mask? My favorite mask of all time is this one and I’ve been using it religiously for years. I notice my skin purging all the ick the next day, but then my pores shrink and my skin is smoother and clearer! It’s a great feeling.
crank up some throwback jams and dance
My husband and I will often look up 90s or 00s playlists on Spotify and belt our favorite hits from middle and high school at the top of our lungs. We’ll dance and sing while simultaneously reminiscing the good times. Singing and dancing increase the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) and literally just makes you feel better!
If you’re spooked by the gym right now, how about looking up a yoga routine on YouTube and practicing at home? I’ve been spending time on my mat every day for over 200 days now and it has made a massive difference in every area of my life. I highly recommend it – even if you think that yoga isn’t for you. If you want some extra cardio, try dancing it out with this “feel good” option.
Learn to make a new drink
Coffee lover? How about experimenting with different syrups or espressos or even iced versus hot? It’s fun to create new and unique beverages to enjoy by yourself or with a loved one. If you’re not a huge fan of coffee but enjoy warm and yummy drinks, give spiced mocha a try. Maybe mixology is more your thing! Get on Pinterest and search for some new alcoholic bevs to try out. I love creating fun, fandom-inspired cocktails with my friends.
I’ve said it a million times, and I won’t quit saying it until everyone has this app on their phone: Headspace is, hands down, the best meditation app there is. I’ve been using it for over 8 years, and it has quite literally saved my life more than once. It’s 100% worth paying for the subscription, and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of guided and unguided meditations to practice. You can even set it up to listen to ASMR story-telling that helps you fall asleep. I especially appreciate these because it helps turn my brain off at night!