We all experience normal anxiety from time to time.
Maybe it’s the night before a public speaking event and instead of sleeping, we find ourselves dead awake and worrying about all the things that could go wrong. And, most of us are familiar with the physical symptoms of anxiety sweaty palms, racing heart before a job interview or an important exam.
But, for some, the symptoms of anxiety are a frequent, sometimes debilitating occurrence.
Living with anxiety can mean being triggered, without warning, by the most ordinary events. It can feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. The worrying over “what if’s” 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.
Research indicates that yoga and meditation can significantly lower anxiety. 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. But, the daily practice of yoga and meditation modulates 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 worry 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.
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.
Research indicates that practicing good sleep habits can lower the “excessive worry and disabling fearful expectations” associated with anxiety.
Most of us don’t associate diet with anxiety but nutrition plays a huge role.
A healthy diet of whole foods 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.
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 limit these treats, it’s important to not skip a meal to “make up” for the sugary. 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, when you do occasionally indulge – don’t forfeit a healthy meal to make up the calories.
Try to get at least a half hour a day outside in sunlight – I know it’s tough 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 very effective in reducing anxiety, especially writing by hand, not typing.
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.
Just the act of physically writing has a calming effect on the brain.
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 environment.
A cluttered environment increases feelings of general anxiety because it sends a constant signal to your brain that “something needs to be done”.
Pick your exercise of choice – and just do it – even if it’s just going for a brisk walk.
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.