Anxiety: Worry dogs you constantly for no logical reason, and you imagine terrible things happening to you. Or maybe you’re fearful about taking trips or going to parties or meetings.
If so, you might have generalised anxiety disorder. People with GAD experience “uncontrollable worrying,” says Dr. Peter Norton, director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic at the University of Houston. Symptoms include chronic nervousness, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.
This heavenly therapy slows the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are linked to anxiety, says Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Her research found that a month of weekly 20-minute massages lowers cortisol levels—”a very good objective index of anxiety,” she says—by 31 per cent. Massage also causes a relaxation response, which eases anxiety.
“Exercise makes you pay attention to its sensations, such as breathing faster, and the things around you,” says Jasper A. J. Smits, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “It helps you disengage from worry.” In one study, he found that exercise slashed anxiety in half.
In anxious people, “we see a deactivation in areas of the brain that govern thought,” so worries can spiral out of control, says Fadel Zeidan, a research fellow at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Mindfulness meditation helps you stop the cycle of worry. In Dr. Zeidan’s study, anxiety levels of meditators eased by up to 39 per cent.