In the United States, we have been on an 80-year trend toward increased anxiety, and it’s no wonder why. We live in a world that is obsessed with productivity. Our political situation seems to be in a constant state of upheaval. Fear-based messaging is prevalent in the media. In a world inundated with stressors, what can we do to ease our fears and decrease anxiety?
It can be helpful to understand how anxiety arises in the first place. Let’s look at the nervous system. At any given moment, our autonomic nervous system (ANS for short) is working to stay in balance and keep us alive. It controls unconscious functions like heartbeats, breaths, breathing and blood flow. One part of the ANS, known as the parasympathetic nervous system, oversees slowing things down and allowing us to “rest and digest.” The opposing part of the ANS is the sympathetic nervous system, which speeds things up and handles the “fight or flight” response. When these two parts of the nervous system to work together, it helps keep us healthy and safe.
Our fast-paced lives and screen-filled days stimulate that sympathetic response. While this is helpful when we’re in life-threatening situations, it’s not so helpful in everyday life. Additionally, the parasympathetic response becomes dampened, meaning it’s difficult to feel relaxed. The constant imbalance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems contributes to increased anxiety.
So, many of the best ways to feel less anxious promote the parasympathetic nervous system. Here’s a list of some simple things that can help:
If you need more targeted support for anxiety, some of the therapies below might be right for you.
Lastly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, choose one small step and focus on that. Schedule an appointment today to learn about anxiety treatments that might work best for you.
 Congress DLL. For 80 Years, Young Americans Have Been Getting More Anxious and Depressed. The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2016/03/for-80-years-young-americans-have-been-getting-more-anxious-and-depressed.html. Published March 13, 2016. Accessed January 30, 2018.
 Hartig T, Mitchell R, De vries S, Frumkin H. Nature and health. Annu Rev Public Health. 2014;35:207-28.