Alleviate Stress and Anxiety with These 3 Important Steps

We can discover so many hints and learn so many tips from magazine articles, podcasts, and Google. And occasionally, something illuminating will pop into your mind and stay there. This is what happened to me while listening to a podcast. One of the hosts mentioned the phrase: “Action alleviates anxiety.” 

The word “anxiety” caught my attention. I am always looking for help with stress and anxiety.  In the past two years, both my stress and anxiety have increased substantially.  I wondered what actions could provide relief.

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Is it Stress? Or Anxiety? 

While I find stress easier to handle and usually short-lived, when I am anxious, it’s because I’m in a situation over which I don’t have control. There is constant dread, avoidance of conflict, then depressing defeat.

The National Institute of Mental Health says that there is a difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is related to external causes, while anxiety is a persistent, internal reaction to stress.

Experts tell us that stress can be good. If there is something important to us that is beyond our control, it activates that adrenaline. While you cannot control your body’s response, you can control how you react to it. For instance, worrying about a college exam spurs you to study more so that you pass the test. The pressure of a work project is alleviated when you complete the individual tasks on a schedule.

 Stress and anxiety are energy that needs to be released with positive action. However, unreleased, it can become toxic, causing emotional distress and physical illness. Here is where “action alleviates anxiety” comes in.  Ask yourself: “What’s one small action I can do that will address my worry?” Identify the action, then do it. It doesn’t matter how small or whether you completely solved your problem. It will release energy, and you can be on your way to feeling better.

Currently, I’m the caregiver of my 92-year-old mother, who lives with us. While the “care” part of having her in our home isn’t a heavy burden, her constant negativity and unhappiness are. It has created a tense, stressful, and anxious atmosphere in our typically laid-back home. For now, my situation cannot change. Still, I can choose how I manage the situation, using the advice mentioned above.

Respond positively, don’t react.

First, I learned ways to better handle the conflict that was causing my stress and anxiety. This was by changing how I responded to my mother when she was negative and argumentative. (Read my post: “How I Learned to Manage Conflict with a Negative Parent”).  

Self-care is required.

Secondly, taking time for self-care is a necessity for a caregiver to relieve stress.

I take my alone time around 4:00 PM when my mom retires for the day. She wakes up quite early (usually 3:00 or 4:00 AM), so by this time, she is in pajamas, in bed, and watching TV until she falls asleep. This allows me a couple of hours before dinner to do something for myself. Some days it’s reading for my book club, watching TV, taking a long shower, or giving myself a pedicure. On weekends, I’m in my craft room. Other times I take a well-deserved nap to recuperate some energy.

Another action of self-care is delegating. What can you do to save you some time and energy? A service I didn’t use until this January was curbside service at my grocery store. Before, I wanted to shop by myself to save money with coupons and choose my own produce. Now, I’ve learned to let that go. The convenience and time saved by picking up groceries in ten minutes instead of an hour and a half are worth giving up a couple extra dollars!

Take some literal action.

Besides learning new ways to respond to stress and anxiety, and including self-care in your schedule, we can’t forget physical action! Being physical can help you think, reassess and restart. Which of these could you try?

  • Head to the gym or take a quick walk around the neighborhood.
  • Finish some housework, such as washing the dishes or vacuuming.  
  • Clean a closet or complete another organizing task.
  • Journal your thoughts.
  • Take your dog to the park.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Light a candle, incense, or turn on an essential oil diffuser.
  • Do a random (or not) act of kindness for a friend or neighbor.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are struggling with more than regular stress or anxiety, know that you are not alone. Learn the signs. Seek help from your doctor for steps towards wellness.

If you are despondent, in distress, or want to harm yourself,
please get help NOW.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
at 1-800 273-TALK (8255) or 911.

Sources: Action Cures Anxiety, Ceely CounselingWhen Anxiety Tries to Take Over, Take Action Instead; and Understanding Stress – ADAA


3 responses to “Alleviate Stress and Anxiety with These 3 Important Steps”

  1. I realized I needed to take “me” time when I was caring for my mom. I knew she needed me but I needed to make sure I was in good mental health to be there for her also. Stress and anxiety are not a good mix. Great post!

  2. Love this. Thank you for your detailed post with lots of information and a vulnerability that people can relate to. I love that you are able to focus on the positive even when around negative (that is HARD!) and that you have found ways to take care of you! “Allowing” yourself to get curbside pick up, even if it's just for a while, is a huge step.Thank you for sharing this!

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