Are you dealing with stress, anxiety, or mental overdrive? You are not alone. Between bills, work, family, and the evening news, anxieties can seem endless. There is hope, though. With some simple life management tools, it is possible to manage and reduce your anxiety. Below is a list of 10 easy changes you can make right now to take control of your life and leave anxiety behind.
Sleep is one of the most crucial parts of stress management. It is absolutely essential to let your mind get the amount of rest it needs. Sleep deprivation will not only increase current anxiety but also increase the risk of developing a full anxiety disorder.
The best way to get the sleep you need is to have a regular bedtime routine that leaves you feeling relaxed and ready for bed at the same hour each night. Aim for at least 8 or 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but also be aware that you may personally need less or more.
One way to gauge if you’re getting enough sleep is if your alarm clock is still startling you awake. Ideally, you want to wake up naturally, just before your alarm goes off. Some people naturally only need 7 hours of sleep, while others may struggle with anything less than 9. There is no right or wrong answer to how much you need, and it may take a bit of experimenting to find your own personal sleep time. Commit to a proper sleep schedule and increased metal health will be the result.
Next to sleep, diet is the second most crucial factor in anxiety and stress management. Just like sleep, your diet plays a huge role in reducing or increasing anxiety symptoms. Although it is sometimes tempting to skip meals, doing so can trigger or greatly increase anxious feelings and panic symptoms. Blood sugar drops increase stress hormones and can cause panic mimicking symptoms such as dizziness and shakiness. Try to eat a low glucose index diet of mostly whole foods and limit intake of high sugary foods or caffeinated beverages.
3. Limit caffeine
On the topic of diet, reducing caffeine and alcohol will have a positive effect on reducing anxiety. When we think of caffeine, we often only think of coffee, but teas, colas, and even many chocolates can contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant drug, and because of this, it adds to the burden of an already overstimulated and anxious nervous system.
If you do choose to cut off of caffeine, please do not try to go cold turkey. Stopping caffeine too suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms and make your anxiety worse. For safe and long term results, cut down slowly, by one cup less per day per week. Also, for healthy sleep, limit caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.
4. Drink enough water
Staying hydrated is such a simple thing that it is often ignored. Dehydration can make your anxiety much worse and also trigger panic symptoms like heart palpitations. Just as not skipping meals during the day can make a large difference, so can making an effort to drink water regularly. Habits like these may seem small, but when done regularly, can have a huge effect on mental and physical health.
No advice on anxiety management would be complete without the mention of exercise. Exercise increases certain neurotransmitters in the brain that cause a feeling of relaxation and increased mood. Exercise also burns off excess nervousness, which can help with both immediate anxiety relief as well as help with sleep later on.
A goal to try for is 30 min of moderate activity three times a week, but activity can also be used for immediate relief. Break the anxiety cycle by getting up and dancing to your favorite song or doing a quick 10 minutes aerobic routine. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of even 10 minutes of physical exertion.
6. Go outside regularly
Nature is naturally soothing for the nervous system. Even a ten-minute walk through the park or on a nature trail can significantly reduce anxiety. Try to be outside and in nature for 20 minutes a day. Not only will the fresh hair and sunlight help your body physically, but being away from computers and external stimuli will also calm the mind.
Meditation works along with exercise to calm the nervous system. Meditative breathing naturally slows down the heart rate, causing a sense of calm and relaxation. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing a day can significantly reduce any overall feelings of stress or anxiety. This feeling of relaxation works both in the immediate, as you do it, as well over the long term if done regularly. If you find staying still and quiet difficult, you may enjoy one of the many apps available that offer simple guided meditations. Listening to another voice may help you stay engaged. For the most effectiveness, aim for a short meditation practice each day.
8. Oil and supplements
CBD oil has also recently become very popular for anxiety treatment. Although CBD oil is made from the marijuana plant, the oil itself is not psychoactive, meaning it does not create a feeling of being “high” like smoking marijuana does. CBD oil is currently available in a variety of edible and capsule forms. If you do decide to look into CBD oil or any other supplement, do remember that these are not FDA approved or regulated and can often have side effects. With any alternative health option, it is very much buyer beware. Do your own research first and then be safe by starting with the lowest dose of any supplement.
9. Write it down
Journaling is an often overlooked but very effective treatment for acute anxiety. Anxious thoughts and triggers can happen so suddenly that you may not even be aware of why you are suddenly feeling anxious. When this happens, sitting down and writing out your thoughts into a concrete, tangible form can make them less scary and more manageable. Sometimes the biggest fear is just the unknown.
10. Have an exit strategy
Social anxiety and other anxieties caused by going to a specific function or location is very common. This is often exacerbated if you feel you will be trapped there and unable to leave whenever you want to. What can help is to create an exit plan before going. Plan a way to leave if you need to, or already have an excuse ready. Often, just knowing you can leave whenever you want will reduce the amount of anxiety you feel. In general, the more control a person has, the less anxious they will feel.
As you see, with some pro-active behavior, anxiety can be managed. By making an effort to create a lifestyle focused on proper sleep, exercise, nutrition, and a few other easy life skills, you can successfully manage your anxiety. Whether following these tips on your own or using them in conjunction with doctor-supervised medication, you can finally find relief from your anxiety.