Woman curled up on the couch gathering her thoughts

Stay-Calm Checklist

Got something on your mind? Whether you’re worried about your health, your financial stability, family dynamics or all of the above, stress and anxiety can make it difficult to enjoy life. To make matters worse, you may not be able to turn to your tried-and-true methods for dealing with uncertainty these days. Meeting with friends to vent over coffee, grabbing a sweat session at the Pilates studio or indulging in some retail therapy now seem like relics of a previous, more innocent era.

So how do you get through the anxiety? Follow our stay-calm checklist to get a handle on your racing thoughts—and to keep physical symptoms of stress in check.


What Is the Difference Between “Worrying,” “Stress” and “Anxiety”?

The most chill, Type B person in the world may be walking around with furrowed eyebrows these days, given the uncertainty we’ve all been facing. So how do you know whether you’re simply worried, stressed…or experiencing full-blown anxiety?

“Worry, stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand,” explained Dr. Kathy Wilson, a clinical corporate trainer for Life Extension with a PhD in psychology. She differentiated between the three different feelings:

  • Worry—This is when you have repeating thoughts because you are concerned, according to Dr. Wilson, like, “Did I leave the stove on?”
  • StressLike worrying, stress is a natural response to a concern, but it’s taken up a notch and can impact our wellness. “When there is a constant stressor or multiple overwhelming stressors, this can overload the body’s systems and start to have impacts to our health and mental well-being,” Dr. Wilson explained.
  • AnxietyThis state is also something everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and it comes from prolonged feelings of worry and stress. Dr. Wilson noted that sleeplessness and exacerbation of existing medical problems and other health ramifications can come from anxiety.


The Mind-Body Connection: Physical Effects of Anxiety

If stress and even anxiety are “normal,” do we need to worry…about worrying? Indeed, there are some physical responses to stress that we should be aware of:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite—or, in some cases, overeating
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Loss of libido
  • Chest tightness or heart palpitations
  • Sweating or shaking
  • You may even see dental symptoms, such as grinding your teeth

“Stress and anxiety can cause a lot of physical signs and they are different to each person,” said Dr. Wilson. “Our specific stress response really is based on our genetic make-up, our gender and experiences.”

The good news? By managing your anxiety, you’ll likely see an improvement in these physical symptoms, too. Despite the impact stress has on your body, managing these emotions is largely a head game—and something you may be able to accomplish without even leaving your home!

Stay-Calm Checklist: 6 Natural Ways to Manage Stress

You’ll definitely want to contact your doctor about repeated physical symptoms that you think may be due to your anxiety, but you may be able to manage the anxious feelings themselves with some simple lifestyle changes.

Here are Dr. Wilson’s top 6 natural methods for handling anxiety.


    De-stress with yoga
    Exercise is a healthy way to deal with stress.
  1. Exercise away the demons. “Movement,” said Dr. Wilson,is “fabulous when you are stressed.” Why? It transforms that nervous energy into a self-soothing ritual.

    “Exercise allows the body to naturally deal with the chemical release,” she explained. “The body’s natural response to stress is to move—known as ‘fight or flight.’ When you exercise, you help dissipate those stress chemicals which allows our body to return to a more normalized state more quickly.”


    Fight stress by eating healthy
    To fight anxiety, challenge yourself to pass on the donuts and eat nutritious foods instead.
  3. Nourish your body instead of eating your feelings. If doomsday scenarios have you reaching for the donuts, you’re not alone, said Dr. Wilson. But you should stop.

    “Many times, when people are stressed, they may want to grab a glass of wine or a piece of cake to help, but those types of foods can actually make the feelings worse,” she explained, noting that caffeine can also be a go-to. As much as you’re not feeling a fresh chopped salad right now, you’ll do a better job managing your anxiety if you focus on healthy food choices like nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits.

    Additionally, certain nutrients like green tea, lemon balm extract and L-theanine, as well as ashwagandha, can enhance your sense of well-being and keep cortisol levels healthy.


    Breathing will help calm the body
    Practice deep breathing exercises to help manage stress.
  5. Just breathe.“Slowing and steadying your breath will help calm your body when you are overly stressed,” said Dr. Wilson.

    She recommends this simple “4 by 4” technique:

    • Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4
    • Hold your breath for the count of 4
    • Exhale for the count of 4

    Ready to take your breathing to the next level? Find an app that offers guided breathing exercises, or learn how to meditate on your own.


    Smell the flowers and de-stress
    Focusing on the beauty of your surroundings is a good way to manage stress.
  7. Stop and smell the roses. (Or whatever beautiful flowers are growing near you.) The next time you find your mind spiraling about bills or whatever other concerns are keeping you up at night, take a minute to let your mind wander…“Oh wait, is that a puppy?” is the kind of ordinary observation that can halt anxious thinking in its tracks.

    Take a walk and notice what’s outside—and if you can’t do that, gaze around at your immediate surroundings. “By stopping your thoughts and focusing on the color, flavors, odors, or textures of things around you, you can help to refocus your attention and decrease your stress response,” Dr. Wilson said.


  9. Listen to soothing sounds. Some of us are soothed by ocean sounds; some of us find comfort in listening to familiar songs from our childhood or teen years—some of us may even feel release when listening to heavy metal. Dr. Wilson advised finding music that helps put your nerves at ease. If you don’t know where to start, “there are different playlists that are specifically designed to help calm you,” she advised.


  11. Don’t be afraid to get professional help. If all of this exercising and breathing and rose-smelling isn’t helping, you should reach out to a therapist or counselor for advice. Doing so doesn’t mean you are “crazy”—it means you’re smart enough to take charge of your own wellness.

    “Many people still stigmatize therapy, but this is a wonderful resource for when you are going through something and need help getting a grasp on the situation,” Dr. Wilson said. “These wonderful people are educated specifically to help you through a difficult situation or feeling. Nearly everyone will have at least one instance in their life where they could utilize some support from an outside professional resource.”

    Notice we include this option on our “Stay Calm From Home Checklist”—that’s because you don’t need to leave your house to get guidance from an expert. Many therapists now offer virtual appointments and you can also find apps that allow you to connect with a professional over text. If you’re not surewhere to start, you can contact Life Extension’s Wellness Specialists as a starting place; these experts can point you in the right direction, at no cost to you.

    Whatever you do, don’t ignore anxiety. Ironically, your stress and anxiety can be made worse by pushing those feelings to the side and allowing them to fester.

    “Long-term increases in anxiety and stress can have a greater impact on things like blood pressure, digestion and your immune system function,” Dr. Wilson said.


Dr. Kathy Wilson Ph.D., Psychology, NHD

Dr. Kathy Wilson earned her master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy from Walden University. She also earned a Doctor of Natural Health degree in Nutrition and Lifestyle from Clayton College of Natural Health, as well as a master’s degree in Health Education from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a dedicated educator with over 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry.

About the Author: Jorie Mark earned an English degree from University of Pennsylvania before getting a master's degree in creative writing from American University. She is a content and social media expert with 20 years of experience in social media, editorial content, digital marketing, events, public relations and food and lifestyle writing. She is also a published author.