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9 Simple Strategies to Stop Worrying

Anxious, stressed, overwhelmed? Check out these scientifically backed ways to boost mood and worry less.

Medically reviewed in September 2019

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Anxious, stressed, overwhelmed—maybe all three? Too much worry is an emotional load that wreaks havoc on your happiness and physical health. Check out these scientifically backed ways to combat stress and worry less.

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#1. Step Away From Social Media

Research shows that social media can make us unhappy and feeling inadequate from constant comparison—yet we keep coming back. In a study, 55% of people reported feeling "worried or uncomfortable" when they were away from Facebook or email. Still, taking time away from social media will help you worry less in general—once you get used to less connectedness. Start cutting today.

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#2. Write Down Your Worries

You don’t have to be Shakespeare for your writing to make an impact. You can calm your nerves and boost well-being with a quick writing session. A 2011 study had students write down their anxieties for ten minutes before a big test. The research found that this practice helped fight test anxiety and even improve exam scores. It can work for you, too: Spend ten minutes putting your anxiety on paper (or on your iPad or other device) to ease worries and release negative emotions. 

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#3. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is a state of awareness of moment-to-moment experiences, and it can be as simple as appreciating the warmth of the sun on your skin on a spring day. When you’re mindful, you experience life as you live it. This awareness helps lower stress, control overthinking and improve focus. A study from Lund University in Sweden found that practicing mindfulness in a group therapy program can be as effective at treating stress and anxiety as cognitive behavioral therapy

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#4. Fit in Some Fitness

Aside from the physical health benefits, a regular workout can help combat mental stresses too. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients who exercised regularly reported a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to those who didn’t exercise. For an extra mood booster, take your workout outside. Research shows that five minutes doing light outdoors activity—think gardening or walking—is all it takes to sap your stress.

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#5. Meditate

Science shows that meditation activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex – two areas that keep worrying and anxiety in check. How does the magic happen exactly? Each deep breath you take generates brainwaves that let you relax and mentally move away from things that are bothering you. New at meditation? Check out this 4-step meditation plan to get started.

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#6. Get to Bed Earlier

Aside from feeling groggy and cranky from too few ZZZs, a sleepless night can also make you more vulnerable to anxiety and vice versa. In fact, research shows that just one bad night of sleep can significantly worsen feelings of anxiety, depression and anger.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recommends you start hitting the sack earlier than usual and make it a routine, even on the weekends. Remove all distractions, avoid stimulants before bed (chocolate counts) and ensure your room is dark, cool and quiet. 

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#7. Turn on the Tunes

If you feel frazzled, listening to some music can help release stress, according to a review of 400 studies. Music can also boost your mood and even help alleviate physical pain. Upbeat tunes can make you feel more optimistic, while a slower tempo can quiet your mind and help relax you. The ADAA recommends the latter choice, especially before bed. 

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#8. Laugh out Loud

Research shows that a good belly laugh can relax your blood vessels, up endorphin production and even lower cortisol, a stress hormone that suppresses the immune system. All of this helps tame tension and reduce stress. So next time you feel overwhelmed, turn on a funny movie or head to the Internet for a quick, funny video. Even better: Get together with a good group of friends you’re sure to laugh with.

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#9. Crack Open a Coloring Book

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore: Research shows that adults can get some therapeutic value from them, too. “Coloring can be a pathway to experiencing flow, which is the merging of action and awareness in a focused way that leaves no room for worries and concerns outside of the immediate activity,” says psychotherapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD. Not interested in coloring? Dr. Hanks explains that any repetitive, creative activity—like knitting, for example—can help calm the body and lower stress.  

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