Five scientific ways to help reduce feelings of anxiety

Eating salmon may help your body build neurotransmitters that ease anxiety

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WHEN anxiety hits, how can you calm your whirring brain? For some people, worrying thoughts interfere with their daily lives, affecting their health and reducing their ability to maintain relationships. In these cases, the standard treatments are medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or a talking therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Alongside these, there are other techniques that may help. Here are five strategies that have the best evidence behind them.

Confront your demons

Exposure therapy, a variation of CBT, encourages people to confront the sources of their anxiety. To cope with their worries, many people practise “avoidance“, which reduces short-term discomfort, but prevents them from learning how to deal with their fears. If a socially anxious person always backs out of engagements, for example, they will continue to believe that conversation with strangers is frightening, whereas if they attend, they might find that making small talk is easier than expected.

Virtual reality can help kick-start the process in a controlled environment. A meta-analysis of 22 studies involving 703 people showed that VR exposure therapy led to a significant reduction in anxiety for people with social anxiety disorder, and that this effect was still seen a year later. However, in-person exposure therapy had a stronger impact over the longer term. Multiple studies show that it is effective for many people with anxiety-related conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Get moving

A wealth of research…