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Feeling Anxious? These 12 All-Natural Hacks Can Calm You.

2020 has been one ball of anxiety. These things can instantly calm you.

Wellness

Whew. 2020 has been the longest century ever, hasn't it? I'd venture to say that if there's been any season in your life that has tested how calm you can be in a storm, this year would have to be it. That's why it's important for me to say up front that, as I set out to tackle the topic of how to handle anxiety, I'm coming from the space of how to deal with mild or surface forms of worry, restlessness and stress. But if you happen to feel compounded symptoms such as rapid breathing, increased heart rate, constant fatigue, depression, loss of appetite, sweating or paralyzing fear—these signs point to you possibly battling with an anxiety disorder. It's absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about (currently around 40 million Americans do), yet it is something that you should speak with your doctor about, OK?

I just wanted to put that on record because the hacks that I'm about to share are for when you have anxious moments more than if you're experiencing full-on anxiety attacks. That said, if you do find moments when you feel like your life is an emotional roller coaster that you can't seem to get off of, here are some all-natural things that you can do to feel back in control again.

1. Schedule Your Day

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If a lot of us were honest with ourselves, we'd admit that a huge part of what causes us to feel anxious is we're overwhelmed. We're overwhelmed because we don't manage our time (and our priorities) as well as we should. The good news about this particular point is there is a very simple way to tackle this challenge. All you need to do is create a schedule for your day by creating a to-do list, starting with the most difficult and/or time-consuming things that need to get done.

Yes, a schedule is a bit regimented, but I'll be the first one to say that since I've started designating times to do certain things, not only has it made my day flow much smoother but it's given me a greater sense of accomplishment (like I haven't been jacking off my time) which has provided a sense of calm and tranquility in the process.

By the way, if you're someone who'd prefer the help of an app in this particular area, check out Lifehack's "18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2020 Updated)". It can help to point you into the right direction.

2. Meditate

Over here in xoNecole world, we're all about meditation (check out "7 Apps For Guided Meditation For The Woman Fighting To Find Peace Of Mind", "Here's How To Make Meditation Less...Well, Boring", "The Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign" and "What Exactly Is 'Orgasmic Meditation'?"). That's because many of the xoTribe can personally attest to how wonderful it can be to take a few moments out to get still, tune out busy thoughts and breathe deeply. In fact, there are many studies that directly connect meditation to relieving anxiety, depression and even pain. Seems like a good enough reason to devote at least 15 minutes of your day to meditation, don't you think?

3. Use Oat Milk As Your Milk Alternative

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Whenever someone asks me why I think dairy (especially milk) isn't the best for their health, I typically say something along the lines of, "Humans are the only mammals who will not only drink another mammal's milk but will do it well into adulthood." Yeah, you don't have the time and I don't have the print space to get into all of the reasons why dairy really isn't the best thing for you. For now, I'll just encourage you to consider that a lot of dairy is high in hormones (which can produce a lot of pus. YUCK!) and saturated fat, can actually trigger acne breakouts, is not even remotely as high in calcium as advertisers would like us to think and, the production of it isn't the best for the environment, either.

Thankfully, there are all sorts of alternatives that you can try; some that are actually really delicious too. While I used to be a huge almond milk girl, after I learned that it can take several cups of almonds to make a half carton of the milk (which also isn't great for the environment) and that some popular brands of almond milk only contain two percent almonds, I've switched over to oat milk. It's smooth, it's creamy and it provides benefits like lowering blood cholesterol levels, boosting immunity, raising iron levels and, oat milk is also soy, lactose and nut-free. Plus, it's the kind of milk that's loaded with Vitamin B12 (50 percent of what you need each day). B12 is a vitamin that not only keeps your red blood cells in good shape, it helps to keep your nervous system balanced too. The calmer your nervous system is, the calmer you will be overall.

4. Back Up Off of Stimulants

I know someone who has a low-grade anxiety disorder who is always talking about how they can never concentrate and get stuff done. 7 times out of 10, guess what they're drinking while they are telling me this? Freakin' coffee. Listen, if you already struggle with feeling anxious, the last thing that you need to do is take in a lot of stimulants and caffeine certainly tops that list. So, whether it's java, chocolate, cola, energy drinks (including energy water; read the back of the label to be sure) or even green tea, if you want to feel less anxious throughout the day, it's best to find alternatives for those things, just as soon as you possibly can.

5. Get Your Blood Sugar Up 

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Here's something that just might surprise you. Did you know that when your blood sugar level drops, it can actually cause you to feel more anxious?

By no means is this a pass to dig into a gallon of your favorite ice cream (because too much sugar can also make you anxious). But if you do feel a little stressed out or nervous, try snacking on some grapes, applesauce or even a banana. Those will kick your blood sugar up, but in a much healthier way.

6. Take a Passionflower Supplement

On the supplement tip, something that Native Americans have used for centuries to treat a variety of health issues is passionflower. It's great for soothing an upset stomach, healing stomach ulcers and making it easier to sleep at night. But what passionflower is probably best known for is being an all-natural way to treat anxiety, thanks to the sedative-like effect that it provides. Some people prefer to take it in supplement form while others prefer drinking passionflower tea. Both are cool, but do make sure to speak with your doctor before adding the supplement, consistently, to your health care regimen (especially if you're pregnant or breastfeeding). While passionflower is effective, it can sometimes be pretty potent too.

7. Breathe in Some Bergamot Oil

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I'm thinking that it's pretty common knowledge that lavender oil is awesome at helping to keep you calm. But did you know that bergamot (and bergamot orange) essential oil has a lot of benefits too? It fights acne, treats eczema and psoriasis, relieves headaches and is even a great all-natural remedy for food poisoning. Plus, it's also a great oil for treating anxiety because, when you breathe it in, it helps to lower the cortisol (your natural stress hormone) levels in your system. Dope.

8. Journal

Something else that we are quite fond of, over here in xoNecole land, is journaling. You can read articles on our site like "What Happened When I Challenged Myself To Journal More For Two Weeks", "How To Start A Bullet Journal (& Finally Get Your Life Together)" and "The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)" to gain some different perspectives on why getting a journal (and then actually writing in it) can really be one of the best gifts that you could ever give to yourself.

When it comes to handling moments of anxiety, journaling can help you to get to the bottom of what's causing you to feel the way that you do. Sometimes, when our emotions are all over the place, we get frustrated because we don't know what's "wrong" with us. Writing our feelings down can bring forth a sense of clarity. And when you're able to pinpoint what a root issue is, you're better equipped to come up with a viable remedy or solution.

9. Change Your Bedding

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You spend at least one-third of your day in your bed, right? Seems to me that your bedding should also encourage peace in your world (especially if insomnia is something that you struggle with). Well, according to a lot of interior decorators, hues that will help to alleviate stress include shades of blue, purple, green, brown and grey. The same applies to your bedroom walls if it's time to give your bedroom (or even your home office) a makeover.

10. UNPLUG (Sometimes)

No one—and I do mean absolutely no one—needs to be "plugged in" all of the time. That's why I wrote articles for the site like "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down." and "Social Media: How To Take Back Control Of What You're Consuming". I'm telling y'all, whenever people try and tell me about how much worse the world is getting, I first remind them of how the Good Book simply says that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and, thanks to the internet, we just know about a lot of what's transpiring…all at once. You are never going to get free from anxiety if you're always reading about what's happening. That's why it's a good idea to turn off your social media notifications (at least sometimes) and set some online hours. It requires some self-discipline but opting to read a book, take a bath or watch a (drama- and violent-free) movie instead of taking in so much of the world 24/7 will definitely help you to feel more at peace with yourself—and life, in general.

11. Create a Calming Mantra

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Remember how I shouted out meditating at the top of this? It's one way to center you. So is coming up with your own mantra. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that you can sing or chant to yourself to bring you peace and calm. Customizing a mantra of your own is one of the best "quickie hacks" if you've got an interview coming up, you're about to have a conversation that you're unsure about or you need to make a big decision that you're stressing over. Even something as simple as "Peace dwells here" can help to center you in ways you would never imagine. Try it.

12. Get 6-8 Hours of Sleep

Goodness, y'all. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 3 people aren't getting enough sleep. That's not good because symptoms associated with sleep deprivation include moodiness, fatigue, weight gain, lack of concentration, forgetfulness and yes, certain levels of anxiety. This is why, I say all of the time, that sleep—shoot, rest in general—cannot be seen as a luxury. For the sake of your overall health and well-being, it's important to get no less than 6-8 hours on a consistent basis. Sleep is a powerful way your body calms and heals itself. Sleep is also how you can take a break from all that concerns you. Sleep can be a simple remedy for worry, restlessness and stress. Get more of it. Watch what it does for those bouts of anxiety that you've been having. For real, for real.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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