An estimated 4.05% of the world’s population has an anxiety disorder, which translates to 301 million people around the globe. According to research published May of 2023, the number of persons affected increased by more than 55% from 1990 to 2019 — and that was before the pandemic. In the first year of COVID-19, global anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
The prevalence of anxiety disorders has been rising for the last three decades, and today’s teens and young adults are the most anxious ever. Societal and lifestyle factors have had a lot of influence on the increase, including:
Your Brain Is Wired to Be Anxious
Your brain’s top priority is always keeping you safe and alive. Therefore, your brain is biologically wired to be jumpy and reactive. It feels safe and like it is doing its job well when you feel that anxious buzz. That feeling of anxiety has been fundamental to our species’ survival throughout evolution. However, it was meant to be short-lived and infrequent for humans to use in life or death situations.
Today, your brain activates the alarm several times a day when confronted with common, ordinary concerns. An unexpected bill sends your heart racing. A critical comment from your partner has you fuming. A rude driver has you feeling like you could actually resort to physical violence. Because your life isn’t frequently in danger these days, this stress response, which once was a good thing, over time, can lead to anxiety and depression.
Here’s How to Lessen Anxiety On-the-Spot
Stress and anxiety aren’t going away. They’re a necessary part of life. And sometimes, the fear response is warranted and still a good thing in situations where you do need to react for your safety, like a global pandemic. While some situations do warrant a response from your brain, you will benefit from knowing how to manage and dial down your brain’s stress response even when it’s valid.
To de-escalate anxiety in the moment, there are steps you probably have not heard of below and for more ideas on how to decrease anxiety long-term go here.
Roll your eyes up.
Seriously. Closing your eyes and looking up causes your brain to start producing alpha waves. Alpha waves are typically present in a relaxed state of awareness, like when you’re daydreaming. It’s the movement of the eyes that causes your brain to make alpha waves, so a quick glance at the ceiling could do wonders for your anxiety level. (Just make sure you’re not rolling your eyes at anyone in particular!)
Take a whiff of citrus.
Researchers studying depression have found that citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress and anxiety by upping your brain’s levels of norepinephrine, a mood-affecting hormone. You can get the real thing or use essential oils in a diffuser or burner.
Hold the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Doing this physically connects the two “master meridians” that control the others. Both master meridians begin in your perineum and run up the front and back of your body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are the channels through which your life energy, called “qi” or “chi,” flows. These meridians are the basis for acupuncture. Science is still debating the validity of acupuncture. However, I can tell you that acupuncture has worked wonders for me in many different ways.
Squeeze the flesh between your thumb and forefinger.
The fleshy part of your hand between your index finger and thumb is called the “hoku spot” in traditional Chinese medicine and is also known as the “hand valley point.” Reflexologists and massage therapists work on this point to relieve stress and tension in the body. Applying firm touch to this point may help with:
- Reducing stress
- Alleviating migraines, toothaches, shoulder tension, and neck pain
- Relieving nausea and stomach pain
- Helping with other digestive problems
You can try applying firm pressure here for 30 seconds to help reduce stress and tension in your body. If you start to feel overwhelmed and anxious, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breath. I couldn’t find scientific support for this one. However, it may work and it is also subject to the placebo effect. Like anything else, if you think it works, it does – even if just a little. Here’s a video explaining the technique.
Spice it up.
Eating foods containing capsicum activates your brain’s central opioid system and has an analgesic effect. Capsaicin is a chemical compound found in the fruits of plants in the Capsicum family, including: Bell peppers, Jalapeño peppers, Cayenne peppers, Habaneros, and Shishito peppers. Capsaicin binds to pain receptors on nerves in your mouth which send signals to your brain causing it to respond as if there’s something hot in there. In response to the sensation, your brain releases endorphins and dopamine. These chemicals create a feeling of peace and euphoria similar to “runner’s high”.
Get busy with someone or by yourself.
In addition to giving your immune system a boost, having an orgasm or sex can lower stress. There is no denying that a healthy brain and sex life are integrally connected. Each benefits the other. Science has shown that the relationship between sex and the brain is reciprocal. A healthy brain can boost your sex life, and a healthy sex life benefits your brain. Whether you’re with a partner or going it solo, orgasms increase endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. They also raise oxytocin which promotes trust, relaxation, better mood, and sound sleep.
Take a technology break.
Constant electronic buzzes and notifications give your brain little bursts of adrenaline, keeping it on high alert. Not only is this exhausting, but it also contributes to elevated stress and anxiety levels. Your brain was not meant to be “on” all the time when awake. It needs breaks. Turn your electronic gadgets off and really be present in your current environment and pay attention to friends and family. Take the mindful position of being an objective observer of the situation that has you so anxious, and you might be able to see it from a new perspective.
Tap it out.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping is a brain/body/emotions reprogramming technique where you tap gently on different parts of the body with your fingertips while you repeat a phrase out loud while focusing on your emotions. It’s similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it stimulates meridian points. Tapping is believed to increase the overall flow of chi by helping it to become unblocked at tapping locations. Again, there isn’t any hard science to back this up, but many people swear by it. Again, if you think it’s a helpful technique to relieve anxiety, it is.
Eat a mango.
You might already know that mangoes are good-for-you because they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But, I bet you didn’t know that mangoes contain a lot of the chemical tryptophan. Tryptophan is a required precursor of the hormone, serotonin and increases brain serotonin in humans. Some studies show it to be an effective mood stabilizer and depression remedy. Further, in healthy people with high trait irritability, it increases agreeableness and mood.Share this article!