For a large percentage of the population, anxiety is something that we encounter at some point in our lives. For some, it’s a daily experience; for others, it’s something that crops up now and again.
However, anyone that has experienced anxiety will know how debilitating it can be and how big of an impact it can have on your daily life. In this blog, we’ll look at some simple and natural ways to calm anxiety.
Getting your body moving and building up a sweat is one of the best natural ways to calm anxiety. Exercise reduces stress hormones and helps your mind to focus on something else besides unhelpful revolving thought patterns.
During an anxiety episode, your body goes into “fight or flight mode”, bringing on lots of anxiety symptoms that may not be helpful or a proportionate response to the situation you find yourself in. Another method for stress management is by getting up and moving around, your body releases a chemical called endorphins that helps reduce stress and pain, and you allow yourself to break away from the effects of anxiety and give your mind a chance to rest and focus on the task at hand.
Exercising can be anything from a stroll in the park to an intense Crossfit workout; all that matters is that you get yourself up and moving!
Diet can play a huge part in how anxiety affects us. Often when we’re feeling anxious, we lose our appetite and stop eating, which leads to low energy levels, which leads to more anxiety.
By monitoring what and when you eat, you can significantly reduce your anxiety levels and improve your overall health. A good place to start can be by cutting down on sugary foods and looking at eating a more balanced diet.
The phrase “eat better, feel better” certainly has some truth to it. When we eat healthy, nutritious foods, we feel better physically and mentally, due to having more energy.
Foods that could help with anxiety:
For most adults, caffeine is a part of our daily ritual, and it’s difficult to imagine starting a day without it. Unfortunately, caffeine can fuel anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness by blocking chemicals that make us tired, however it also enhances the production of chemicals that make us anxious. Along with a boost of energy, caffeine comes with an increased heart rate, mimicking anxiety symptoms and often causing some people to worry more.
You don’t have to cut out caffeine altogether, but by reducing how much caffeine you consume when you’re feeling anxious or you feel anxiety approaching, you can diminish anxiety symptoms.
Putting on your headphones and listening to some music or a podcast is a great way to reduce stress. It allows you to tune out the noise around you, and to detach yourself from the thoughts that are causing your anxiety. Many people find that by listening to their favourite music and podcasts, they can tap into good memories and lift themselves out of stress. In fact, music therapy is also used by people who have high blood pressure and cardiac problems to help bring down their heart rate.
You might feel like you’ve been told this a lot, but drinking plenty of water is excellent for both physical and mental health. When you’re dehydrated, your body becomes stressed and agitated, which saps the energy from your brain. As a result, you begin to panic and feel worried, leading to increased anxiety.
Sometimes even the act of standing up from where you’re sitting to get a glass of water can help alleviate anxiety, as it gives your brain a change of focus.
You’re probably already doing this (we hope so!), but if you’re feeling anxious, take a minute to catch your breath. When we feel anxious, our body gets ready to fight/flight, this means it prepares us to fight or run away from danger (even if it is imagined danger, like a worry). To prepare for this, you will take in deeper in-breaths. Experiencing a change in breathing can make some people worry more, making their experience of anxiety more intense.
Leaving the house or the office for a few moments to get some fresh air is a great and simple way to help reduce anxiety throughout your day.
Meditation has been used for millennia as a way to calm the mind, and for many has been an excellent way to reduce anxiety. When you engage in meditation, you allow yourself to become fully present in the moment and to take a step back from any worries or stresses that you have going on in your life.
Meditation also helps improve your breathing. By focusing on and slowing down your breath, you are letting your body know that you are not in danger, allowing it to then resume a relaxed state. This enhances the flow of oxygen to your brain, allowing it to move away from cyclical thoughts.
Having a friend or a family member to reach out and talk to when you’re feeling anxious can make a world of difference. Often, our thoughts become irrational when anxiety is kicking in, but by vocalising them and speaking to someone you trust, you can identify unhelpful thoughts and stop them in their tracks.
Anxiety is incredibly common, and you’ll often find that others you speak to about your anxiety can relate to how you are feeling. Most people experience anxiety at some stage in their life, and sometimes it can be good to chat and find out how other people deal with it.
It’s important to remember that it’s very natural to experience anxiety and it’s not shameful to ask for help and speak to someone.
In a world where the internet and social media dominate a large portion of most people’s lives, it’s a good idea to switch off occasionally. Watching or reading distressing stories on the news, or scrolling through social posts that appear to create an image of what an ideal life looks like, can trigger unhelpful thoughts and anxiety.
Many studies have reported that scrolling through social posts where we might perceive others as having lives that are better than ours in some way can trigger and reinforce insecurities and low self-esteem. It is important to remember and to remind your loved ones that the posts you see are very small snippets of people’s lives, and may not necessarily reflect their whole lives. Try to have some time away from social media, and notice how your anxiety reduces.
By taking yourself out of the digital world now and again, you free your mind from what’s out there. This is especially important for teenagers and young adults, who are often the ones who are affected most by what they see online. If you are a parent or know any young people showing signs of anxiety from spending too much time online, it might be a good idea to suggest to them to take a break, or to review who or what they are following and ask themselves if each following is helpful or unhelpful for them.
Similar to how exercise and meditation can help distract your mind from anxious thoughts, reading gives your mind something else to focus on and distracts you temporarily.
Reading fiction, in particular, encourages your mind to concentrate on a storyline and allows your imagination to flourish. As a result, your heart rate lowers, your stress levels decrease, and your mind is given a chance to rest.
With mental health awareness on the rise, there are a number of natural anxiety treatment therapies available if you’re looking to tackle your anxiety head-on.
CBT looks at the ways people interpret the world and how they respond to their environment. For example, if social situations trigger anxiety for you, CBT examines why this is the case by examining your thoughts, emotions and behaviour in response to social situations. A CBT therapist might ask questions such as:
CBT was developed in the 1960s and is a highly successful psychotherapy for treating people with anxiety.
Although ACT stems from CBT, its practice is quite different. Unlike CBT that focuses on reducing the frequency of distressing events by challenging unhelpful thoughts and emotions, ACT focuses on accepting thoughts and emotions as part of the human experience and increasing your involvement with valued activities in your life.
During sessions your therapists will learn how to apply the concepts of acceptance to your life, teach you techniques to create distance between yourself and your thoughts, practice mindfulness and even create a sense of yourself that is distinct from your thoughts and feelings.
We hope this blog helps any readers looking for natural solutions to overcoming anxiety. Here at Psymplicity, we know that there is no quick fix when dealing with anxiety, but there are ways to help alleviate and manage symptoms before they become too much.
If you want to know more about treating anxiety or you’re struggling to identify the symptoms, get in touch with our experts at Psymplicity Healthcare to find out more about the treatments we offer.
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