Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion we all experience from time to time. It’s natural to feel stressed out before an upcoming performance, or during a particularly busy or overstimulating period, like the holidays. However, if you experience a stretch of anxiety that you can’t seem to kick, a closer examination of your habits may be in order. Taking the following measures can help reduce your anxiety level, both in the heat of the moment and on a long-term basis.

Eliminate anxiety-inducing foods from your diet. It sounds almost too simple, but changing what you ingest on a daily basis can have a huge impact on your anxiety level. Rethink your consumption of the following common anxiety provokers:

  • Coffee. The most popular “energy drink” of all time may also be one of the leading causes of anxiety. [1] If you drink coffee every morning, try switching to decaffeinated tea or just water for a few weeks. It may be hard to give up, but chances are you’ll see a reduction in your stress levels over this period of time.
     
  • Sugar and starch. People often see eating sugary and starchy treats as an option for stress reduction, since comfort foods like ice cream and cookies provide a momentary sense of, well, comfort. However, the rise and fall of blood sugar that occurs after eating these foods can actually make your emotions yo-yo even more. Try replacing these foods with fruits and vegetables to avoid sugar highs and lows.
     
  • Alcohol. After a stressful day at work, many unwind over a few drinks. Alcohol makes stress feel far away in the moment, but the after-effect cancels out the temporary sense of relaxation. Since alcohol is a depressant, it ends up having a negative effect on your mood in the long run. Drink sparingly, and when you do drink, make sure to hydrate to reduce the chance of getting a very stressful hangover. [2]
     
 
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    Incorporate mood-enhancing foods into your diet. Keeping yourself healthy with a balanced diet can go a long way toward stabilizing your mood. If you’re getting the right nutrients, your body will be better able to ward off anxiety during stressful situations. Consider incorporating more of the following foods:

    • Foods high in antioxidants, such as bluberries. Acai berries also have high levels of antioxidants. [3]
       
    • Foods high in minerals like magnesium and potassium, such as bran, dark chocolate, and almonds. Most people do not get the recommended amount of magnesium, which results in a variety of symptoms, including anxiety.
       
     
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    Try exercises that relieve anxiety. Studies have shown that regular exercise relieves symptoms of everyday anxiety and also helps to treat anxiety disorders. It improves feelings of wellbeing both in the moment and for hours afterward.

    • Cardiovascular exercises such as running or biking, as well as weight training and other muscle-building exercises, all serve the purpose of reducing anxiety.
       
    • Consider giving yoga a try. The soothing atmosphere of yoga studios, and the chance to be quiet and internally-focused for an hour or so, make this physical activity particularly conducive to calming anxiety.
       
    • If the thought of exercising itself makes you anxious, try incorporating low-impact physical activity into your routines. You don’t have to play a team sport or join a gym to get enough exercise; simply walking around your neighborhood can go a long way toward boosting your mood every day. [4]
       
     
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    Learn how to breathe correctly. Breathing deeply and slowly has immediate effects on your stress level. Most people practice shallow chest breathing, drawing breath into the upper portions of their lungs and exhaling at a rapid rate. When we’re feeling stressed, we tend to breathe even more quickly, which stresses us out even more. Instead, focus on bringing air into the lower portion of your lungs, breathing as deeply as possible. This helps decrease your blood pressure, relax your muscles, and calm you down.

    • Try to be mindful of your breathing even when you aren’t feeling anxious. Deep breathing is important no matter what your state of mind.
       
     

Method Two: Mental Remedies

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    Confront sources of anxiety you can control. There are many different situations that induce anxiety, and it’s helpful to pinpoint exactly what might be making you anxious and take steps to confront it. If you’re behind on doing your taxes, for example, you may feel like you’ve got a yoke around your shoulders until the chore is finally done.

    • Keep a journal to help you figure out what exactly is making your mood dip. Writing down your thoughts can often reveal sources of stress you hadn’t yet acknowledged to yourself.
       
    • Even if a particular source of anxiety feels as though it is out of your control, you may be able to change something about the situation to make it feel less stressful to you. For example, if you feel anxious about the holidays months before the time to visit with family actually rolls around, figure out a way to approach the situation differently. Try hosting your extended family at your house so you won’t have to travel, or holding your celebration at a restaurant so you don’t have to host. Look at the flexible side of stressful situations.
       
     
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    Avoid sources of anxiety you can’t control. If a certain type of situation makes you feel anxious, it’s OK to simply avoid it. If you hate flying, and don’t feel this fear is every going to abate, it’s OK to drive. Know your limits, and practice self preservation.

     
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    Practice meditation. Relaxation and meditation routines are very effective at lowering anxiety levels. There are many different types of meditation, so it’s best to experiment with a few different methods and choose the one that makes you feel the most comfortable and relaxed.

    • Guided meditation is a good option for beginners. A guided meditation can be practiced in person, but it may be easier to buy a meditation CD or watch a meditation video on YouTube to start. You’ll learn techniques on how calm yourself down when your heart starts to race or when you feel you are not in control of your thoughts. Many guided meditations incorporate soothing music or nature sounds to help calm your spirit. See http://www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations for access to free guided meditation audio clips.
       
    • Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on a particular thought or pattern of thoughts that make you anxious, allowing your mind to dwell on them until they fade away and your mind is cleared. This practice can be as simple as finding a quiet space to think for five minutes at the beginning of each day, but it is an ancient practice that has many helpful components if you want to delve deeper. See How to Do Mindful Meditation for more information.
       
     
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    Ask for help. For many people, talking about anxiety is a very helpful release. If you need to vent, ask your spouse or a friend for advice and tell them how you feel. Sometimes just putting your feelings into words can take a lot of stress away.

    • If you lean on the same person for advice too often, your problems may overburden someone else. If you have a lot of anxiety to work through, consider seeing a therapist. You’ll be free to discuss your problems as much as you need to in the knowledge that a trained professional is there to help.
       
    • Know when it’s time to get a doctor involved. If you are experiencing chronic anxiety and feel you may have an anxiety disorder, make an appointment with a psychologist or a psychiatrist. It’s very difficult to treat anxiety disorders without the help of a doctor, and the sooner you see one, the faster you’ll feel better.
       
     

Method Three: Medicinal Remedies

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    Try a natural remedy. Certain herbs, teas, and supplements are said to decrease symptoms of anxiety. Try the following options:

    • The chamomile flower is traditionally used to treat anxiety, stress, and an upset stomach. It has properties that are similar to anti-depressant drugs. It can be brewed into tea or taken as a supplement. [5]
       
    • Ginsing is said to help the body reduce stress.
       
    • Kava kava is a Polynesian plant said to have a sedative effect that relieves anxiety.
       
    • Valerian root is popular in Europe for its sedative properties.
       
     
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    Consider anti-anxiety drugs. If you experience prolonged anxiety that affects your ability to sleep and go about your day for an extended period of time, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a doctor. Panic attacks, extreme social anxiety, and other symptoms can be effectively treated with a prescription drug that suits your needs.

    Edit Tips

    • Realize that your anxiety will not disappear instantly. It takes a long time to retrain your body and mind to cope with the feelings of anxiety.
    • Be kind to yourself. Anxiety is a very common emotion, and you do not have to face it alone.

     

    Edit Warnings

    • Severe anxiety and depression should be treated by a health professional. Please see your doctor if you are worried about your condition.
    • Consult with your doctor first prior to engaging in any physical activity. This is more important if you have not exercised before or have been laid up for a while.
    • Don’t take herbal supplements without first talking to your doctor.

     

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