ANX-I-ETY an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety
We all experience normal anxiety from time to time.
You know that nervous, jittery feeling in the pit of your belly? Maybe it’s the night before a public speaking event and instead of sleeping, we find ourselves dead awake and obsessively worrying about all the things that could go wrong.
And, most of us are familiar with the sweaty palms and racing heart when we are about to walk into a job interview or take an important exam.
But, for some, the symptoms of anxiety are not only frequent but can be debilitating in their intensity.
Living with anxiety can sometimes mean being triggered, without warning, by the most ordinary events. It can feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. The worrying over “what if’ I have an anxiety attack” can be downright exhausting. And worst of all, the fear of having an anxiety attack can be strong enough to actually initiate the attack itself.
Fortunately, there are several practical, actionable steps that can significantly reduce, or even prevent, the symptoms of anxiety.
Just practicing any one of these techniques on a consistent basis will have a positive effect on your daily life. Incorporating all of them as part of your daily routine can significantly reduce your overall level of anxiety.
Let’s do this!
YOGA AND MEDITATION
Research indicates that yoga and meditation can significantly lower anxiety by lowering stress levels.
When we perceive an event as stressful, our bodies respond by going on high alert – just as though we are facing an actual physical threat. The daily practice of yoga and meditation turns the dial down on our body’s response to perceived stress.
The very early stages of yoga, especially in a group setting, can actually be a little anxiety-inducing because, like with any new skill, you may stress about “doing it right”.
But, it’s a small hurdle, and one worth overcoming. Because, yoga especially combined with meditation, brings together four essential anxiety reducing elements:
- controlled physical movements
- body awareness
- regulated breathing
- and mental relaxation
If you don’t want (or can’t afford) to pay for classes at a studio, or just prefer to practice in the comfort of your own home, there are some excellent videos online. Try a few different beginner videos, find one that resonates with you – and make it a part of your daily life.
Even if you feel awkward in the beginning, you will be happily surprised at how quickly you will become “addicted” to getting your daily yoga session in.
8-9 HOURS OF QUALITY SLEEP
Sleep patterns play a huge role in anxiety.
The less sleep you get at night, the more likely you are to feel anxious the next day.
It can be a bit of a vicious circle. Anxiety can contribute to insomnia or lack of quality sleep, and lack of quality sleep can exacerbate anxiety. Developing good sleep habits and making quality sleep a priority can help break that cycle. Research indicates that practicing good sleep habits can lower the “excessive worry and disabling fearful expectations” associated with anxiety.
For a more in-depth look at sleep and ideas to help you get more of it, check out Productivity and Sleep.
A NUTRIENT DENSE DIET
Most of us don’t associate diet with anxiety but nutrition plays a huge role.
A healthy diet of whole food high in B vitamins (especially b-6, b-3 and b-12) zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 is essential for reducing anxiety.
If you are dealing with chronic or prolonged stress, you will find information on creating an effective”anti-stress” diet in Stress Busting Energy Foods. Starting the day off with a breakfast of steel cut oats and protein is an excellent first step. Check out the Healthy Breakfast Collection for some delicious mood-boosting, anxiety reducing recipes.
LIMIT REFINED CARBS
You like pie? I like pie! Peach pie, pecan pie, key lime pie – oh my.
If you share my sweet tooth you’ll find this one hard, but the pie – and the cake, cookies ice cream and tarts – should be strictly controlled.
They may look and taste delicious, but there is a strong correlation between a reduced sugar diet and lowered anxiety.
And, when we do indulge in these treats, it’s important to not skip a meal to “make up” for the sugary calorie splurge. That’s a big no-no as well because that type of binge/fast eating pattern can induce feelings of anxiety.
You don’t have to say “no” to sweet treats completely, but you can significantly lower anxiety by reducing heavily processed foods, foods that are high in refined carbs and limiting intake of sugar.
And, just remember – when you do occasionally indulge – don’t forfeit a healthy meal to as a replacement.
GET EARLY MORNING SUNSHINE
Try to get at least a half hour a day outside in sunlight.
I know that can be a tough one in the winter! But bundle up and get out there!
Even better, try to get your daily dose of sunlight in the early morning, Natural light triggers your brain’s release of serotonin which has a calming effect.
Journaling is a very effective method of reducing anxiety.
Journaling is especially effective if you chose to do it the old-fashioned way – writing by hand, not typing. Just the act of physically writing has a calming effect on the brain.
Does it matter what you write? Not really. Write out your feelings. Try your hand at really bad poetry. Unleash your inner novelist. Start a gratitude journal and reinforce your brain’s ability to think positively. Even writing about what causes you to feel anxious can actually help you feel less anxious.
CREATE A TIDY ENVIRONMENT
Declutter your living space as much as possible.
You don’t have to dive head first into a minimalist lifestyle to benefit from a calm, uncluttered environment.
Even if you are not up for a whole house cleaning spree, you’ll benefit from creating a neat, tidy and peaceful environment in the room you spend the most time in.
A cluttered environment increases feelings of general anxiety because it sends a constant signal to your brain that “something needs to be done”.
30 MINUTES DAILY EXERCISE
Pick your exercise of choice – and just do it – even if it’s just going for a brisk walk.
I know, it seems like exercise is on every list of “feel better” tips! There’s a good reason for that. Excercise doesn’t just make you feel better in a vague “it’s good for you way” – studies show that it literally has a calming effect on the brain and reduces anxiety.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help
Feelings of anxiety are just part and parcel of life, especially during periods of stress. But, if you think you suffer from an anxiety disorder, the first step is to seek professional treatment from your physician or mental health provider.
Successful treatment, which can include medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be a game changer in improving the quality of your life.
suggested reading: Nutrition and Stress