How to Reduce Extreme Mental Stress and Anxiety

by Annie Mueller

There are lots of reasons we get stressed out, and sometimes we don't even know what they are. But when the problems pile up and the anxiety becomes extreme, our lives are affected in a very negative way. We need to find ways to deal with the stress before it causes a breakdown.

For Immediate Relief

Step 1

Start by finding a way to communicate. In order to identify the source of extreme mental stress, talk about your problems, whether with a family member, trusted friend, licensed counselor or spiritual adviser. You can't effectively deal with extreme stress until you know the underlying causes.

Step 2

Record your problems, fears and worries in a journal or blog. It's another way to get the issues into the open where they can be seen, identified and dealt with. Talking or writing can't solve all of the problems causing your anxiety; in fact, nothing may change. But it changes your perspective. Putting emotions and circumstances into words starts to make them less fuzzy, frightening and overpowering, and more tangible and understandable. When you begin to understand the source of your extreme mental stress, you can effectively deal with it.

Step 3

Simplify something right now. Thoreau knew his stuff: "Our life is frittered away on details," he said. "Simplify, simplify." An article from concurs. Simplifying life, from cutting back on social obligations to getting rid of material possessions, can help reduce the symptoms of stress and even eliminate the source of the anxiety. In order to deal with the extreme stress you're under right now, pick something, even something small, and simplify. Try one of these: Give away a box of stuff--clutter, old clothes. Cancel a social obligation you really don't want to attend. Sort through the pile of mail and toss everything but the essential information. Cancel a membership that's not useful or enjoyable anymore.

Step 4

Be assertive. Linda Mintle, a psychotherapist, states that the benefit of becoming more assertive is reducing stress. Much of our stress comes from a failure to stand up for ourselves, say no, and take control of what happens in our lives. As Mintle reminds us, we are the only ones who can be assertive appropriately in order to make sure our needs are met. Extreme stress often comes from a combination of outward pressure and failure to practice self-care. Deal with both by deliberately saying "no" to an outward pressure, and deliberately saying "yes" (being assertive for yourself) to something that will be nourishing to you mentally, physically and/or spiritually.

Step 5

Do something physical. An article from the Franklin Institute recommends physical activity as a means of dealing with mental stress. For extreme anxiety, physical movement creates an immediate distraction and relief. You are forced to focus on the movements of your body rather than the stress of your mind. You breathe more deeply, and your body becomes more energized. So stop and stretch, go the gym and lift weights, take a break and run up a flight of stairs, or get by yourself and dance to some upbeat music.

Long-Term Management

Step 1

Get a pet. states that having a pet helps reduce stress-induced symptoms and increases relaxation. Petting a cat, playing "fetch" with your dog, or even quietly watching a few fish swim around can relieve muscle tension, help slow breathing and help you let go of some of that extreme anxiety. This can create a lifestyle that discourages the buildup of so much mental stress.

Step 2

Take daily action to simplify something in your life. Doing so will help you feel more in control and better able to deal with the normal levels of stress as well as extreme anxiety that can build up over time. You will slowly transform your life to encourage less stress and more calm. Clean out your kitchen, spend less, stay at home more, cut out some of those endless to-dos and spend more time on the simple things: time with your family, planting a garden, walking, breathing deeply. Feel the stress lose its power as you make choices to simplify.

Step 3

Make a regular practice of using Mintle's 5-step method of assertiveness. First, evaluate what's going on and decide if you need to speak up. Second, find the best time for the conversation. You may need to think about what you want to say before you start talking, or choose a time when the person you need to confront can pay attention to you without distraction. Third, be specific in identifying the problem. Give it a name and say exactly what it is. Fourth, communicate how you feel about the problem. Finally, specifically state your desired outcome. Don't just name a problem and leave it hanging there. Present the resolution you want; you may need to negotiate or compromise to figure out something you can both agree to, but make your position clear.

Step 4

Deal with continual work stress--which can easily become extreme anxiety--by creating an after-work routine that incorporates physical activity. Doing so will help you unwind from the day and release the tension of work-related pressure. Stop by the gym on the way home, walk instead of taking the bus, or spend a half hour outside in the garden or playing with the kids.

About the Author

Annie Mueller is a professional writer and blogger. Since 2003 she has written extensively on small business, finances, parenting, education and personal growth, and has been published on Financial Edge and many other websites. Mueller attended Missouri Baptist College and earned her Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, in English from Mississippi State University.

Photo Credits

  • :Jacqueline: on Flickr.