Quick Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

We all get anxiety in some shape or form in our lives. This can include work stress, money issues, the frustration of traffic and so on. Sometimes, there is no trigger at all. It can feel as if a wild animal popped up in front of you. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweating, and you feel as if you could jump out of your skin. The problem is, no wild animal. This would most likely be a panic attack; which lands people in ERs daily because people fear they are having a heart attack. The result of adrenaline being pumped into your system resulting in a physical reaction. This is anxiety.

Symptoms can include: Feeling nervous, restless or tense, having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry, sleeping issues, experiencing stomach problems, difficulty controlling worry and having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

It is estimated that 40% of Americans suffer from anxiety (NAMI). Therapy and medication can be effective for diagnosed anxiety, but some quick lifestyle changes can sometimes make a big difference. When I have someone walk in my office for the first time, there are a lot of tricks that I have have to help. When anxiety crosses a line, it can feel terrifying and debilitating. This is enhanced by the fear that it might never end. One of the first things I try is going through a mental checklist of behaviors that could be contributing to anxiety.

Sleep:

Are you sleeping okay? Yes, sleep deprivation or simply poor quality of sleep can increase anxiety.

Medication

Changes in medication or stopping completely can cause anxiety. This includes over the counter and supplements. Think about any recent changes and check with the pharmacist to see if starting or stopping can cause temporary anxiety symptoms.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant. It often helps people fall asleep, but can often disrupt sleep. Hangovers can increase anxiety at well. Especially when mixed with meidcations.

Caffeine use

Caffeine is a stimulant and can actually simulate anxiety symptoms in some, which increases levels of panic and uneasiness.

Diet: Start paying attention to how certain foods make you feel. Not just right after you eat them, but the next day or two as well.

Social media and tv:

Social media is great for connecting with friends and staying informed. There is a dark side though. Just remember that every post is their final edit. How many pictures and filters went into that selfie? You can’t compare that to your blooper reel (AKA real life) to someone else’s final edit. Well and the news, need I say more. It can be incredibly anxiety producing. So if you love yourself put down your phone and turn that tv off.

If all else fails, try to a few activities that help a lot of people reduce anxiety.

Exercise:

Sometimes when we feel bad, everything falls off the wagon. Exercise actually make you feel better and hindsight is always 20-20. Going for a walk is a natural anxiety reducer because of the bilateral movement. Think of it as rocking and in essence soothing a baby.

Meditate:


If you are experiencing anxiety, try a few of these things to see what helps. Go for a walk. Slow down and take in the world with all of your five senses. Listen to a guided meditation. Anything that distracts you from your own thought can help. And if you think mediation is too hard and you can’t do it; more the reason to.

Reach Out:

Call a calm and safe friend. Pet an animal. If all else fails, or you really think it’s time. Contact your doctor or a therapist. These people are trained in anxiety and should know how to help. You could have a medical issue or simply have anxiety that needs more advanced treatment.

Write It Down

One way to get a hold of your anxiety is to write. The most common approach is to record what is causing you anxiety and while that is beneficial, a better way is to write down what you’re grateful for. Writing and reading your gratitude helps to relieve anxiety by focusing your mind on the positive things in your life.

While all these things listed can help you to control your anxiety on your own, it is important to remember that reaching out for help if you need it is perfectly okay too. The things listed in this post are not to say that medication or therapy can’t or won’t help. They are more a list of helpful tools to keep in your back pocket.

By: Karen Capone, LPC