5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety
Anxiety can feel like someone is controlling your body without your permission. Unlike nervousness, anxiety doesn’t usually go away easily, even after a stressful situation has ended. It tends to persist and, as a result, can affect daily life in many ways. Anxiety can make people feel like there is no way out, and it may create worrying feelings that you cannot control, even making you feel like you are starting to lose control of your life. This can be extremely harmful to our mental health, and leaving these feelings untreated can make people feel frustrated, stressed, and emotionally drained.
We know, it sounds pretty bleak. But here’s the good news: there's actually a lot you can do to reduce anxiety! Learning strategies to deal with anxiety and prevent its onset can make a major difference in how it affects your life. Here are five simple ways to help you cope. By applying these tips to your lifestyle, anxiety can become more manageable, and you can learn to slowly release yourself from its related emotional spiral.
1. Eat Well
The way our physical body feels can have an effect on our mood and emotions, and that’s why when you eat well, you’re more likely to feel better. So much so, in fact, that our guts are even referred to by some as our “second brain”, and some studies suggest that eating certain foods tends to reduce anxiety. The consumption of fermented foods like yogurt and kefir may reduce social anxiety, as these foods contain probiotics – healthy bacteria that can make your digestive processes feel happier, and in turn, communicate less negative thoughts to your brain. Eating dark chocolate may also help to enhance the mood as it contains dopamine and serotonin, which are also known as the “happy hormones”. Not only can these hormones help us generate more positive feelings, research has also suggested that they can help us become more emotionally resilient and calm under pressure. Drinking more water may be another way to curb anxiety: some studies have found that there is a strong association between water consumption and mood, and that dehydration tends to be related to higher levels of anxiety and tension.
2. Sleep Well
Anxiety can manifest physically. It can make you sweat more than usual, occupy your mind with worrying thoughts, and raise your heart rate even when you’re not exercising. There are many more curious effects that anxiety can exhibit in our bodies, including muscle tension, skin tingling or numbness, and headaches. Getting enough rest is extremely important for our capacity to manage anxiety, as it can heavily influence the way we react to stressful events, not to mention our general state of well-being. One study suggested that sleep has so much to do with emotional regulation as it can help restore our basic daily functioning. People with sufficient sleep are more likely to remain emotionally stable throughout the day, while those deprived of it aren’t getting enough of a “reboot” or recharge, so to speak. As a result, they tend to be more easily overwhelmed and sensitive to their surroundings. Make sure to get the right amount of sleep, and listen to how much your body needs. If possible, try to wake up naturally more often. Switching off your mind while allowing your body to rest can ease your nerves. If anxiety is what’s standing between you and better sleep, consider listening to relaxing music before bedtime or trying other ways to improve your sleep hygiene.
3. Get Active
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to deal with anxiety, and it offers many health benefits both physically and psychologically. Numerous research studies suggest that exercise can decrease stress hormones and enhance the release of happy hormones such as endorphins. Hormones can be a powerful influence on how the body functions and how we feel. Exercise can also help because anxiety tends to thrive when we have a lot of pent-up energy. Getting moving can help to release it, helping to reroute overthinking or ruminating about worrying thoughts by channeling this nervous energy elsewhere. And remember, signing up for a gym membership is not the only way to stay active: there are many other ways that you can add exercise to your daily routine. Simply taking a twenty-minute stroll, going for a run, taking your dog out for a walk, or even dancing in your living room can be good ways to cope with anxiety.
4. Be Mindful
To be mindful means living in the present moment. Oftentimes, anxiety can occupy your mind with worrying thoughts about the future. Practicing mindfulness can help shift your attention back to the present, giving your brain a break so you can feel more relaxed. You can start by exploring how anxiety can cause a change in your body. When you feel anxious, sit back, close your eyes, and lean into feeling your bodily sensations. Identify the physical area where you can feel a build-up of anxiety and tension. Focus on that spot, and slowly breathe into it. Through this method, you may soon find that your anxiety will slowly be released. There are various mindfulness practices that can help deal with anxiety and worrying thoughts. For instance, meditation can help you develop an awareness of the present moment. Sound healing is another modality that incorporates different sounds that can quiet your mind. If you have a packed schedule with little time, you can still practice more mindfulness simply by developing good habits in your daily life. A simple, even short, bedtime meditation session before you sleep, or making sure you put the phone to appreciate the beauty of nature when you’re out and about, are some easily-accessible ways to become more mindful一which, in turn, can help relieve your anxiety.
5. See a Therapist
While there are various different ways to ease anxiety, not all strategies will work equally well ー or be quite as viable ー for everyone. Some people may have already tried out different recommendations to manage their anxiety, but find that still, nothing gives! When you feel like you’ve tried everything but the situation is not getting better ー or possibly even worse ー consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Getting help from a therapist is like having someone in your corner. Not only can they offer you professional techniques for reducing anxiety, they can also help you discover the root cause of your anxious feelings, teaching you practical skills to cope with it. A therapist may provide advice specifically customized to your needs, and help you choose the approach that best fits your lifestyle. If you are new to therapy and don’t know where to start, the first thing to remember is that there’s no shame in seeking help either: after all, we consult experts for the other challenges we face in life, so why wouldn’t we do the same for something as important as the mind? If you’re in need of guidance and a specific strategy for dealing with your anxiety, a qualified therapist could help you create a winning game plan!
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Fermented Foods, Neuroticism, and Social Anxiety: An Interaction Model; 41 “Dark Chocolate as an Antidepressant”; Emotion, Emotion Regulation and Sleep: An Intimate Relationship; The Many Health and Sleep Benefits of Music; How Exercise Reduces Stress and Anxiety; Release of Endomorphin Hormone and Its Effects on Our Body and Moods: A Review.
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