Most people know what it feels like to be anxious. Whether they have chronic anxiety (like me) or have felt nerves during stressful situations, few are strangers to that stomach-sinking moment, that loss of breath, that trepidation. Even Kevin Love isn’t immune.
Depending on your level of anxiety, you may take medication (I do), but medication doesn’t erase anxiety from your consciousness. It’s not a Band-Aid — more a corner of a thousand-piece puzzle. Because of this, I’ve had to come up with some tricks to calm my mind, lower my heart rate, and reduce the feeling like the end of the world is imminent. Whether anxiety is part of your daily life or just here-and-there nerves for an interview, date, or basketball game (I got you, Kevin), here’s what puts my mind at ease.
Aromatherapy is so hot right now. And when I’m feeling stressed, I go right to the peppermint oil. (For me, it is truly essential.) I like to dab it on my temples or put some on my stomach, which remarkably relieves any nausea I’m feeling at the moment. At home, I keep a big bottle of Aura Cacia peppermint oil next to my bed. In my purse, it’s a Migrastick, which offers soothing peppermint tingles on the go.
More aromatherapy, this time in bath form. If you have a bathtub wherever you live, USE IT. If you get into a nice hot bath with lavender Epsom salts, you’ll not only immediately relax but also get supersoft skin. My grandmother told me she used to use Epsom salts to relieve aches and pains as a kid. I’m happy to say they’re very much back in style.
A lot of people tell me that I should exercise for my anxiety. But that seems like a lot of work for when I’m already feeling out of sorts. (Plus, there are so many people at the gym … will they be watching?) But to get my circulation going when I’m anxious, I foam-roll. This not only helps relieve stress pain in my neck and back, but it gives me something to concentrate on (not falling off the roller). If your foam roller hasn’t arrived yet, Lauren Weisman (of Mama Method and my anti-anxiety expert) says to lie down with your knees bent and feet firmly planted on the floor, then take some deep breaths. It will literally and physically ground you.
When I’m feeling really anxious, throwing myself into a complex baking project can often keep the nerves at bay. I have made the cinnamon buns from BraveTart many, many times. The act of kneading the dough, watching it rise, smelling it bake all cinnamony and buttery is enough to really calm me down. The satisfaction of successfully making something so delicious is just an added perk. Full disclosure: I actually work with Stella Parks, the author of the cookbook, and she is a genius, so I feel no guilt in this plug. But choose whatever cookbook you want. Just get off your screens and get in the kitchen.
Meditation reminds me that I actually have control over my brain, and that no matter how bad I’m feeling, there is always an end point. While there are a lot of great meditation apps out there, my favorite is Headspace. Andy Puddicombe’s sessions are designed for real people living in the modern world. His guided meditation recordings can last up to 20 minutes, and topics range from self-esteem and regret to quick one-off sessions titled “Burned Out,” “Losing Your Temper,” “Interviews,” and even “Commuting.” No matter what topic you choose, Andy reminds us that we’re never alone in our feelings; recognizing that is a major part of feeling better. It doesn’t hurt that his voice is super sexy, too.
Strategist editor Alexis Swerdloff keeps this Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment oil next to her computer, and dabs a little bit on her wrists when things get hairy. She writes: “Suddenly, I’m someone in an Architectural Digest spread wearing a long camel-colored cashmere cardigan, white pants, a pair of Tods loafers, walking through the atrium of my beachfront Bridgehampton estate to adjust a flower arrangement.”
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