Ignoring anxiety won’t make it go away. Luckily, a few simple tips can help you reduce anxiety right now and even improve long-term stress management.
Everyone feels stressed or anxious from time to time. While it can be uncomfortable, these feelings are a natural reaction to certain situations. However, when anxious feelings and thoughts start to impact your quality of life, it’s time to try something new. Read on and learn more about anxiety plus 15 tips for managing and reducing anxiety in your everyday life.
Stress, Anxiety, and the Fight-or-Flight Response
Both stress and anxiety are emotional responses caused by some sort of external trigger. It could be running late for work, relationship troubles, chronic illness, or an accident of some kind. In ALL of these situations, your body may undergo a stress response known as the fight-or-flight response (or acute stress response).
This evolutionary response helped early humans survive harsher living conditions. However, just because we’re not hunting or physically fighting doesn’t mean that response has just gone away. Even something like watching the news could set it off depending on the level of stress your body and mind can comfortably handle.
When you experience stressful stimuli, your body undergoes a cascade of physiological activity to prepare your body to fight or flee. That can include the release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc.), increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and you may even notice your muscles tensing.
Once the stimulus is gone, however, your body should slowly return to homeostasis (adrenaline levels will return to normal, heart rate will slow down, etc.). The tricky part is that regularly activating this response can lead to chronic stress and then to anxiety. Neither are good for your body or mental well-being.
Chronic stress, for example, can lead to high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, sleep issues, concentration impairment, and even weight gain. It also puts you at greater risk of developing generalized anxiety or more specific anxiety disorders.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor.” Luckily, many of the same strategies that help people manage acute stress are also helpful for both chronic stress and anxiety.
5 Tips to Naturally Relieve Anxiety Right NOW
When you’re experiencing an acute stress response or even a panic attack, it’s important to have a variety of stress management tools at hand. While different techniques work for different people, the purpose is to find something that helps you calm anxiety attacks or anxious thoughts so you can function efficiently in that moment and regain control.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Management
Mindfulness is a practice or technique designed to focus awareness on the present moment. This is particularly helpful if you find yourself anxious about something in the future, situations you can’t change, or if you’re having a panic attack. Here are several different mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques you can try right now:
The 3-3-3 Rule
Simply list 3 things you can see, 3 things you can hear, and then relax 3 different parts of your body. Not only will this force you to focus on something other than your anxiety, it will help you realize which parts of your body are holding lots of stress (jaw, shoulders, back, etc.). You can do this over and over again until you feel more in control.
There are several different breathing exercises designed to help lower your heart rate, slow your breathing, and bring your awareness back to the present moment. For example, box breathing is a deep breathing exercise that distracts your mind, calms your nervous system, and decreases bodily stress. On the other hand, 4-7-8 breathing involves breathing in a very controlled manner to help people overcome evening anxiety and promote sleep.
Reduce Your Stimuli
This is particularly important if you’re having a panic attack. If your nervous system is already convinced there’s some type of threat, make it easier for your nervous system to calm down by reducing any stimuli. That could mean going somewhere quiet, turning the lights down low, or even just closing your eyes. Plus, this gives you an opportunity for another acute stress management technique…
Recognize that You’re Experiencing Anxiety or a Panic Attack
It may seem silly, but simply being aware that you’re experiencing anxiety or a panic attack is very helpful. By confirming that it’s just anxiety (not a heart attack or some other emergency), you’ll remember that those feelings are temporary and they won’t last forever. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel can make difficult things much easier to bear.
Move Your Body
You don’t have to leave your house and go mountain climbing, but sometimes stress hormones can make it impossible to sit still. If you find it difficult to relax and wind down from stress, it can be helpful to “burn off” that adrenaline by going for a walk or doing some light stretching. While doing so, focus on the movement of your body and on your breathing. This will help distract your mind from anxious thoughts and promote mindfulness.
5 Tips to Naturally Reduce Anxiety Over Time
If you regularly struggle with anxiety, it may be a good idea to implement daily stress-relieving practices. Even if you’re not currently anxious, think of it like a “workout” for your nervous system. These tips will make it easier for your body and mind to handle stressful situations in the future.
You may find that some work better than others, and that’s fine! You may use a combination of these, or come up with your own. The point is that you’re trying different techniques to help you feel better mentally and physically.
Meditate or Journal
Technically, this is another form of mindfulness. It’s a way for you to take stock of your emotions and thoughts so you can examine them with a bit more perspective. Mindful meditation and journaling have been known to ease anxiety and mental stress. However, it’s not always practical to whip out your journal or meditate when you’re in the middle of a panic attack. That’s why we put this tip here instead of in the previous list.
Regular Exercise Routine
Not only is a regular exercise routine just plain good for your body, it has some serious mental health benefits as well. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America says, “Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.”
Regular Sleep Schedule
When we sleep, our brains clear out damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. This improves brain function (alertness, attention, mood, etc.) when we’re awake. That also explains why our brains don’t function as well on little sleep. Several studies have also found a link between poor sleep and poor mental health. So, if you need tips for better, deeper sleep, we’ve got you covered.
Stimulate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
Believe it or not, but some types of self-care can promote a relaxation response. Basically, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) will help lower blood pressure, aid digestion, improve mood, balance energy levels, and more. Calming imagery, specifically of nature, can help trigger this response along with stimulating the parasympathetic fibers running through your lips.
Don’t believe us? Take five minutes and look at a relaxing image while slowly sipping your favorite beverage. By the time that five minutes is over, you’ll feel MUCH calmer.
Laugh and Play
Adults are quick to put playtime on the backburner in the face of other obligations. While that’s usually the responsible thing to do, our brains NEED to engage in lighthearted activity on a regular basis. The UW School of Medicine and Public Health says, “play helps relieve stress, boosts creativity, improves our mood and outlook and keeps our minds sharp. It also improves our relationships with others.” It also helps release important neurochemicals like serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.
This may look different for everyone, but consider taking a few hours each week to relax, laugh, and play (game night, playing with a pet, craft projects, group sports, etc.).
5 Nutrition Tips to Manage Anxiety and Promote Mental Wellness
Yes, “food and nutrition” belong in the “reduce anxiety over time” category. However, food and nutrition play such a big role that it really deserves it’s own section. The gut-brain axis is a communication pathway between your brain and your gut (no surprise there). What is surprising, however, is that the health of your gut can influence your mental state and vice-versa.
For example, have you ever noticed a fluttering, nauseating feeling when you’re nervous or stressed? Well, it turns out that these “butterflies” are just your gut-brain axis in motion. It’s the same thing when you eat spicy foods before bedtime and then have strange or scary dreams. Essentially, the way you feed yourself can have a big impact on your mental health. Conversely, your mental health can have a big impact on your digestion.
Here are five food and nutrition tips to help manage anxiety and promote mental wellness:
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet with Plenty of Vitamins and Minerals
While a “well-balanced diet” might look different for everyone, opting for whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is healthier than processed foods with lots of simple carbohydrates. Additionally, you may consider consuming foods with vitamins and minerals known to aid in cognitive function and reduce anxiety. Magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and fermented foods with probiotics all have mental health benefits.
Keep Blood-Sugar Levels Balanced
When we go long periods of time without eating, our blood sugar naturally lowers. That’s why we tend to feel lethargic until we eat again. Well, it turns out that the rapid drop of blood sugar (which is common for diabetics, or those who don’t eat regularly) causes our bodies to attempt to raise it again by releasing adrenaline and sometimes even cortisol. This can cause mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. So, it’s important to keep your blood-glucose levels as balanced as possible throughout the day.
That could mean having snacks on hand, or just eating meals with complex carbs for breakfast. Harvard Health says, “…complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.” Foods with beta-glucan are particularly good at maintaining blood-glucose levels and even keeping you feeling full for longer.
Take Nutrition Supplements
If you have a hard time meeting your nutritional needs just with food, then you may consider a supplement. Convenient, once-a-day supplements are a great way to bridge any nutritional gaps there may be in your diet. Our Glucan85Plus has 600mg of bioavailable beta-glucan plus other essential vitamins and nutrients. Need more Omega-3s for mental health? GLX3 is an all-natural, highly concentrated Omega-3 supplement with EPA, DHA and 30 other Fatty Acids.
We all know that staying hydrated is essential for physical and mental wellness, but most of us still aren’t drinking enough water. Several studies have even shown how drinking water is associated with reduced risk of anxiety and depression. So, even if you’re drinking other beverages, consider keeping a water bottle around to sip on throughout the day.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Too much caffeine can overstimulate you and actually end up causing anxiety. While everyone’s caffeine tolerance is different, consider cutting back on the caffeine until you’re sure it’s not causing issues. Additionally, while small amounts of alcohol can increase GABA and feelings of relaxation, too much can actually reduce overall GABA levels and lead to feelings of restlessness and anxiety.
Regain Control Today with Simple Anxiety Management Tips
Remember that mental health isn’t a race. There’s no winning and losing, there’s just your journey and how you choose to manage it. It’s our sincerest hope that these tips provide you with the tools you need to manage anxiety and regain control.
However, feel free to reach out to your doctor if your stress and anxiety becomes severe. Speaking with a licensed counselor, therapist, or medical professional could be precisely what you need to relieve anxiety. You don’t have to live in fear, and you deserve help.
Every body is different, but everybody deserves health and wellness.
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