Anxiety is our body’s natural fight or flight instinct, and it’s a natural response to threats. But for people struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, every day can become peppered with symptoms ranging from palpitations and panic attacks to trouble concentrating and sleep difficulties.
There are various treatments that can help alleviate your condition to make it more manageable, including therapy, medication or a combination of the two. But another way to help minimize the impact anxiety has on your life day to day is through carefully considered lifestyle changes. From nutrition and exercise to better sleep hygiene, here are a few ways you can make changes to relieve some of your anxiety symptoms.
We all know we should factor in regular exercise to our schedules each week, but did you know that it can actually boost your mood and minimize anxiety symptoms? Over time, regular exercise can reduce stress and tension, improve sleep and raise your mood, but it also helps to distract you from anxiety by giving your mind a different focus.
Certain mindful exercises, in particular, have been shown to help anxiety sufferers combat their symptoms, such as yoga which helps to calm the mind. Even just a daily 30-minute walk can make all the difference.
Using alcohol to manage your anxiety can actually increase your symptoms and can also lead to a number of other health issues, as well as having a negative interaction with anxiety medications.
For people with social anxiety, alcohol can become something they come to depend on, leading to unhealthy habits. It can contribute to and often worsen the side effects of anxiety, such as feeling irritable, stressed, and restless, as well as leading to blackouts and loss of memory if abused over time. Alcohol alters the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can make your anxiety worse, leaving you feeling even more anxious once the alcohol has worn off.
When you’re anxious, it can be all too easy to rely on convenience foods, takeaways, and sweetened beverages as a way of comforting yourself. But these foods do more harm than good, elevating your blood sugar levels and provoking anxiety symptoms further. Meals centered around whole foods and nutrient-dense ingredients will nourish your body and mind, promoting better health and balancing your mood.
When we’re tired, it can be harder to manage stressors and anxiety, but anxiety can often impact the quality of sleep which causes a vicious cycle.
If your symptoms keep you up throughout the night, it can make it difficult to get good quality rest, which then leads to sleep deprivation and a worsening of your symptoms. Sleep hygiene is the process of making changes to your sleep environment to improve your sleep habits, such as sticking to a regular bedtime, avoiding stimulants such as coffee or nicotine before bed, removing digital devices from your bedroom, and keeping the temperature on the cooler side.
Anxiety is difficult to manage alone, and it can lead to a feeling of isolation and loneliness over time. It’s important when you’re struggling to reach out to people you can trust and depend on, whether that’s family members, friends or colleagues.
It can be tempting to hide away when we feel anxious but make the time to maintain regular contact with loved ones, consider joining a club or group to give you focus each week, or sign up for a volunteering group to help others and make friends outside of your job or regular friend group.
Meditation and breathing techniques have been proven to steady the mind, reduce stress, and calm anxiety. And even just a few minutes a day to start off with can have a big impact on your mental health and your ability to manage your emotions. In addition to 3 to 5 minutes of mindful meditation, practicing diaphragmatic breathing is a great tool in your anxiety toolkit and it’s easy to learn the techniques.
Simply breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4 and then breathe out for 4, and repeat. When you’re feeling the threat of oncoming anxiety when you’re out and about, this breathing technique can help to calm you down.
Whether you’ve been dealing with anxiety for some time or it’s a new issue that has developed, finding ways to minimize your symptoms can make managing your mental health much easier. These lifestyle changes all focus on one thing – self-care.
So, take the time to put your health at the forefront of your daily routine, from eating nutrient-rich food, avoiding stimulants like coffee and alcohol, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of good quality sleep.
If you live in Alaska and anxiety is an issue for you, contact the Alaska Sleep Clinic to receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator or meet Dr. Angie Randazzo, a psychologist that specializes in sleep disorders for more information.