When struggling with a mental illness like anxiety, sometimes traditional methods of relaxation simply don’t work in the way we want them to. You may be familiar with the times I’m talking about. You know, those times when exercise and mindfulness apps just don’t seem to cut it?
We know how difficult it can be to relax when anxiety is making you anything but calm.1 Sometimes, it feels like you’ve exhausted every relaxation technique in your coping arsenal, but still can’t find any relief. To give you some fresh ideas, we asked members of our mental health community to share the unexpected things that relax them when struggling with anxiety.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Driving helps me relax. I like the way I have to concentrate on the road, so I don’t retreat into my head.” — Jenny B.
2. “Listening to audio books and podcasts. [They] help me focus on a story and a voice and [they] relax my brain.” — Savannah K.
3. “Heavy metal music! [When] I close my eyes and listen, suddenly everything around me is moving as fast as the music, and faster than my thoughts. It helps me drown it all out.” — Tim F.
4. “I have a stuffed animal from my childhood that I carry around my house with me and pet when I feel anxious. It gives me something to do with my hands while my brain is racing.” — Erin S.
5. “Imagining myself surrounded by a white, reflective, protective light. I give it the intention to not let in any negativity energy, only positivity, love and light.” — Jen D.
6. “I cook to clear my mind. Some of my best creations in the kitchen stem from a busy mind… Being in the kitchen brings me back to center and brings me peace.” — Amanda L.
7. “Video games are my go-to, but when I can’t focus on those, cross stitch has become a very helpful hobby.” — Chazz S.
8. “I sing to myself, especially when in public places, like the grocery store. People find it odd, because they think it would increase my anxiety. Music has always been something soothing to me, and singing to myself helps keep [my] heart rate down, and gives me something to focus on in anxiety-inducing situations.” — Rebekah B.
9. “During a panic attack, I count the change in my pocket. The noise of the coins and counting grounds me.” — Kimberly D.
10. “Puzzles help me a lot because [they] give me something to focus on, something to work towards and a sense of completion afterwards.” — Keeli B.
11. “Cleaning. Mess and chaos make me more anxious, but once I start cleaning and getting a lot done, I feel very relaxed and like a big weight is off my shoulders.” — Jessica A.
12. “Drinking something very cold or very hot. The surprising temperature of the drink makes me be mindful of it and takes me out of the worry of the moment. It’s a little trick a therapist taught me once.” — Christina S.
13. “For me, it’s doing shoulder stands. I guess it’s just the feel of seeing everything in a different perspective that relaxes me.” — Cain W.
14. “Playing ‘The Sims.’ In a world where I have complete control, I can relax. For a few hours, I can be at peace and breathe. Because even though my life is spinning out of control, at least I can control something.” — Sara O.
15. “Going to work. I tend to have a bit of anxiety right before going, but once I’m there, it all fades away.” — Heather K.
16. “I watch Korean dramas when I want to relax. I totally get absorbed into them, and it gives me that break away from over analyzing and gives me time to get back to a calmer state of mind.” — Molly C.
17. “Having my eyebrows waxed! I love the gentle music [at] the beautician’s, [and] the fact that they don’t know who I am, apart from [being] the lady that goes in every three weeks to have her eyebrows waxed. I just lie there and relax for 10 minutes.” — Louise C.
18. “Holding a frozen orange. It’s very grounding and makes me focus on the ball of coldness in my hands. My heart rate goes down, and my thoughts slow down enough for me to reach out to my support team if I feel I need them.” — Sarah C.
19. “Counting in a random sequence. Like, 16, 4, 8, 22, etc. It makes your brain work harder to concentrate, which I find helpful to occupy my mind. This also helps calm racing thoughts when you can’t get to sleep at night.” — Grant J.
20. “Talking to my potted plants [on] the balcony, while observing every little pattern on different leaves, overturning little bits of moist soil — pretty soothing. Weird, but helps me divert. Sometimes, [I] forget what even got me anxious.” — Ananya S.
21. “For some reason, walking to the gas station for a fountain drink. When I didn’t live close to a gas station, it was walking to the grocery store. It just helps me feel better to take a walk, maybe listen to some music and get a drink. With no caffeine of course.” — Ian R.
22. “Doing my makeup even when I’ve got nowhere to go. It’s like doing art on my face, I can express my feelings and sometimes even end up looking nicer.” — Elaine K.
What would you add?
By Juliette Virzi. (This blog originally featured on The Mighty).