Anxiety is a common human experience, but when it becomes overwhelming and chronic, it can interfere with our daily lives.
Fortunately, there are various effective strategies to reduce and potentially eliminate persistent anxiety. These approaches encompass lifestyle changes, therapeutic techniques, and self-care practices.
Below we’ll explore some of the most valuable steps that can be implemented.
- Physical activity is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety.
- Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers, and help to reduce stress hormones in the body.
- Engaging in regular exercise can significantly lower anxiety levels over time. Activities like brisk walking, Pilates, swimming and resistance training can be highly beneficial and you only require as little as 20 minutes each session after warming up.
A daily routine is best with a rest day, but even doing physical activity three or four times a week is effective. An important help here is to focus on the exercise itself or to divert the mind in other ways, such as playing music or being aware of nature while doing exercises such as walking or jogging.
For those with physical limitations, even going outside to your yard and doing some simple stretching and breathing exercises are highly beneficial and can be both relaxing and invigorating, especially if fatigue or limited mobility is an issue.
Getting Sufficient Sleep
A lack of quality sleep can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Generally, 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night is optimal, yet this can be a challenge when we have a lot on our minds.
- So it’s important to establish a regular sleep schedule, by creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
- This could include playing soft music, reading a favourite book while drinking a warm cup of Chamomile tea, prayer and meditation while releasing internal worries and concerns.
- Doing guided visualization (covered below) is also very effective.
- Ensure your sleep environment is well-ventilated, comfortable and free from distractions.
- Wherever possible, turn off electronic devices and even wall sockets that are near your head before going to sleep as there is mounting evidence that increased exposure to EMF (electromagnetic fields) can disrupt sleep.
Remember, your bedroom is your sanctuary, not your office!
- Guided visualization exercises have proven to be very effective!
- Lie down, get comfortable and gently stretch out all your body’s tension while playing your favourite calming and relaxing instrumental music, picturing an image or location in your mind’s eye that is very relaxing.
- Picture it moving slowly from your head all the way down to your toes. You can then visualize a creative scenario where you release every anxious thought and sensation and see it dissipate. Allow 20-25 minutes to do this.
- You can also find guided visualization exercise audio tracks on popular audio and video streaming platforms. While this may sound silly to some, it is actually a very powerful and effective tool. Initially try to do this twice a day, first thing in the morning and at night before bedtime.
- You will find in time that as your anxiety levels return to normal you won’t need to do these visualizations as often.
- Deep breathing exercises can quickly lower anxiety symptoms. Practice techniques like diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) as opposed to shallow, upper chest breathing.
- An example would be to lie down on the floor, bed or couch on your back, placing your hands on your belly and breathing in slowly and for a slow count of four and then gently exhaling for a slow count of eight. This can also be done standing.
Engage in Relaxation Techniques and Find effective modalities that work
- Relaxation techniques like The Alexander technique have also been proven very useful for promoting relaxation through correct body posture.
- Other activities that have reported benefits are Tai Chi/Chi Gung, Pilates, Dynamic stretching and certain types of Yoga.
- Popular modalities include Aromatherapy, Relaxation massage (head, neck and shoulder or Full Body), Acupuncture/Acupressure, Reflexology and many more! Discover what works best for you and as always, make sure these modalities are delivered by qualified practitioners.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
- Nutrition plays a significant role.
- A well-balanced diet with adequate nutrients can help stabilize mood and reduce anxiety.
- Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated by drinking an adequate intake of fresh water. Limit caffeine and sugar intake, as they can trigger or worsen anxiety symptoms.
- Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, which have been shown to have a calming effect.
- Tryptophan-rich foods like Turkey are also good as tryptophan is used by the body as a precursor to serotonin.
- Steamed non-starchy vegetables are a healthy addition to these meals. For fruit, banana is an excellent and healthy way of satisfying a sweet craving, being a rich source of potassium and energy while helping to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
- A small quantity of blueberries is also good.
- For persistent anxiety conditions, avoid foods that spike blood sugar. These are foods containing simple carbs like white bread, cookies, chips, crackers, flour, pastries, pasta etc. and sugar-laded foods like ice cream, cakes, syrups, and fizzy flavoured sugary drinks (including energy drinks) and reduce or eliminate spicy or stodgy foods, including junk foods.
- Cutting back on alcohol and gradually eliminating it is also recommended.
Natural Supplements and beverages
One of the best and cheapest ingredients is Chamomile Tea! It has been used for centuries for its calming properties and helps to soothe the digestive tract.
- Passionflower and Lemon balm teas also have similar benefits.
- Look for a tea that combines all three and where the actual Passionflower and Chamomile flower are used.
An adaptogen herb can reduce symptoms of stress and has been shown to improve cortisol levels by resetting adrenal-associated stress, overall reducing your predisposition to anxiety.
- You can add a teaspoon or two of the powder to smoothies or other foods, it can be taken in capsules, 500-1000 mg twice daily, or in tincture form, 2-4 mL, twice daily.
- Can be taken before bed to help with sleep, including when worry is keeping you awake.
A mineral supplement that plays an important role in supporting brain and nervous system function with some studies suggesting it can play a role in reducing anxiety for some people.
- There have been studies showing a correlation between D3 deficiency and anxiety and depression. Consult with your doctor to have a blood test to see if you’re D3 deficient.
- Brief exposure to sunlight (15 minutes) as well as D3 supplements, high-quality fish oil and Salmon are among the best sources of vitamin D3.
B and C group vitamins
Are beneficial as these vitamins help with energy production helping you to cope with the daily demands of modern living. Be aware that while vitamin C is beneficial, high dosages of it can in some cases, trigger or worsen anxiety.
GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) and 5HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
- These supplements are available in tablet and for GABA, both tablet and powdered form.
- GABA helps to down-regulate the neurotransmitters associated with mood and stress and can help with sleep. 5HTP can be converted into serotonin and is often used to treat depression and anxiety.
- Depending on where you live, these supplements are usually available through naturopaths and some health food and sports supplement stores.
- Although there is good scientific evidence for the efficacy of GABA, the studies for 5HTP are not as established. It is generally recommended that GABA and 5HTP should not be used if taking medication for anxiety or depression.
- It’s best to seek advice from your Medical professional about using these supplements and their potential contraindications with certain medications.
Planning each day with your list of activities while setting Realistic Goals
It’s important to have some basic structure and plan your day. The easiest way to do this is to use a simple daily planner and fill it with scheduled activities, this way you are focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished, rather than focusing on the anxiety.
Ensure these tasks are manageable and realistic and will help reduce anxiety, as unrealistic expectations can lead to stress. Break your larger goals into smaller, achievable steps. This not only reduces anxiety but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you progress.
Limit Exposure to Stressors
- Identify sources of stress in your life and take steps to limit your exposure to them.
- This might involve setting boundaries with people, re-evaluating your commitments, or learning to say “no” when necessary. Actively reduce your dependency on social media and disconnect from “friends” or groups that cause unnecessary stress and tension in your life.
- Anxiety sufferers are often capable individuals who may find themselves in situations where they are stretched to capacity or overcommitted. Recognizing these stressors and reducing them can help decrease anxiety levels.
Maintain a Supportive Social Network and get into your favourite activities!
- Connecting with friends, family and colleagues can provide emotional support and regular healthy interactions are important and highly beneficial. Sometimes this might prove to be a challenge, but pushing through and regularly engaging with people in various settings will help to focus your attention on the people and things that matter.
- It’s good to share your feelings with loved ones as it’s important that they know and understand what you are dealing with and what you are going through, but try to resist the temptation to lean on them too much by seeking constant assurance where anxiety is the focus. This is an important step on the path to recovery.
- It is also important to find a regular hobby, pastime, or activity that you love and that you can get passionate about.
- This is crucial as it keeps the focus off the activity.
- Being fully and regularly engaged and immersed in your chosen hobby or activity requires your mind’s undivided attention to focus on that activity and not on the anxious feelings, thoughts, or sensations. Be creative with what hobbies or pastimes you could go for! Make sure it’s fun and rewarding and don’t be afraid to step out and try something new!
Seeking Professional Help
- If anxiety is severely impacting your life, it’s wise to seek help from a mental health professional. They can sit with you and explain to you what anxiety actually is and the different forms they can take, so you can better understand what it is that you’re dealing with.
- They can then offer a range of treatments, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based therapies that can provide personalized strategies and support tailored to your specific needs.
- It is important to know that you are not alone and that it is surprisingly, more common among the general population than what you might have first thought.
Doctors and Psychiatrists can prescribe medications that can be beneficial for short-term relief, but their benefits need to be weighed against their side effects, one of which is the potential for addiction and difficulties withdrawing from these medications after long-term use.
In conclusion, anxiety is a common part of life, but it doesn’t have to control or overwhelm you. By adopting a combination of these strategies, you can effectively reduce or even eliminate inappropriate persistent anxiety from your daily life.
Remember that what works best for you may vary, so be patient and persistent in finding the approaches that bring you the most relief. Whether through lifestyle changes, therapy, or self-care practices, taking charge of anxiety is a journey towards a more balanced and peaceful state of mind.
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