Sometimes situations arise that elicit feelings of nervousness or panic, as well as physical symptoms of rapid breathing and increased heart rate. These could be reactions to having to speak in front of a large group to experiencing a sudden life-changing event such as illness or job loss. Anxiety can affect individuals of all ages and especially in times of uncertainty, anxiety can affect even the most calm and balanced individuals.
Whether you’re experiencing anxiety for short or longer periods of time, a variety of techniques can help you manage your symptoms.
Self-manage your symptoms of anxiety with the following techniques:
Exercise can not only improve your physique and immune system but it can also help to reduce stress. Maintaining a regular exercise regimen can reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and enhance overall cognitive function, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Exercise also causes your brain to release endorphins, which are hormones responsible for feelings of pleasure and excitement, improving sleep, and reducing stress.
According to the ADAA, just five minutes of aerobic exercise can yield anti-anxiety effects, and a 10-minute walk can de-stress the body almost as effectively as a 45-minute workout.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Often, anxiety and a lack of sleep go hand in hand. Even when your head hits the pillow with the hope of escaping your worries for the night, your brain may still be “fight or flight” mode, harping on your insecurities about the present or future, according to The American Institute of Stress.
Be proactive and give your body its best chance at achieving a good night's sleep:
- Turn off all screens (computer, television, tablet, phone) 30 minutes to one hour before you anticipate going to sleep.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool.
- Avoid caffeine and large meals before bed.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Although changing your diet can’t cure your anxiety, eating healthy and nutritious foods can help you cope. Try to eat a breakfast that includes protein, and consume complex carbs such as quinoa. Drink the daily recommended eight, 8-ounce glasses of water, and include balanced portions of fruits, vegetables, and proteins throughout the day.
Harvard Medical School’s media and publishing division Harvard Health Publishing recommends increasing your intake of foods high in antioxidants such as beans, apples, prunes, plums, strawberries, walnuts, kale, spinach, beets, and broccoli.
Studies found chamomile can ease anxiety symptoms so perhaps a nice cup of tea in the evening can help you to relax and prepare for a quality night's slumber.
4. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
As a stimulant, caffeine simulates anxiety symptoms including increased heart and breathing rates. According to the American Psychology Association, five or more cups of coffee daily can worsen symptoms of anxiety and leave you agitated.
5. Avoid Alcohol & Smoking
When taking your first few sips of alcohol, you may feel de-stressed. However, alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, increases anxiety in the long term.
Alcohol consumption changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, worsening your anxiety for several hours. A 2017 systematic review examined 63 people who reduced their alcohol intake. Participants showed improvements in their depression and anxiety, and an increase in their mental quality of life.
Although some may grab a cigarette when they’re feeling stressed, smoking cigarettes is just a quick fix and is simply not good for your health. Smoking can worsen anxiety over long periods of time, too. A 2013 review of studies found cigarette smoking increased the risk of anxiety symptoms and disorders.
6. Practice Mental Fitness
When feeling anxious, your mind quickly begins to think of every worst-case scenario possible. It’s important to utilize mental exercises to relieve negative thoughts, changing them to positive.
To transform your thought process, write down a list of negative thoughts and then a list of positives to replace them. Try to picture yourself conquering a fear. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, create to-do lists to organize your tasks. Keep a diary detailing when you experience anxiety so you can identify triggers and patterns. Find a creative outlet that helps to puts your mind at ease.
To self-manage your anxiety, try to use deep breathing techniques, which relax your body and ward off panic attacks. Online psychology research magazine Psychology Today offers three, simple, deep-breathing exercises: belly-breathing, one-minute breathing, and alternate-nostril breathing.
Mindfulness meditation has also shown to be a successful coping strategy. A review of 47 trials concluded “meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress.”
Similar to breathing techniques and meditation, aromatherapy—the use of essential oils to promote health and well being—can lessen anxious feelings. These can be inhaled directly or added to a bath or diffuser.
8. Seek Support
Ensure you always have someone you can confide in, whether a family member, friend, or therapist. You can also join a support group to surround yourself with others who understand what you’re going through.
The Northport Wellness Center has a professional team of experts who share a like-minded goal of helping their patients and clients achieve optimal health for their body, mind and soul. Please explore our services and our programs to discover opportunities live your life to its fullest.