Anxiety disorders are treatable. The key is to find the right treatment that works for you and stick with it. Two common treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medication, but there are also many lifestyle changes that may help you find relief. Here are seven tips to help quiet your anxiety and ease your symptoms.
Meditation is a mind and body practice that has been used to increase calmness and physical relaxation. The practice of meditation typically involves five elements:
- a quiet location with few distractions
- a comfortable posture
- a focus on breathing
- a focus of attention
- an open attitude, letting distractions come and go naturally
You can perform meditation alone or in a group setting. Try starting with just a few minutes at first, such as 5 to 10 minutes. Sit quietly taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose, then blowing it out through your mouth. Feel your breath as it goes in and out, focusing only on your breathing. Don’t feel bad if your mind starts to wander. That’s not uncommon. Just come back and return your focus to your breathing. As you get more comfortable with focusing your attention, gradually increase the amount of time you meditate.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help. Positive affect journaling can help release pent-up emotions, and thereby relieve anxiety. This type of journaling focuses on writing about positive aspects of life. Journal about pleasant events or experiences can lower their mental distress, anxiety, and stress levels.
Exercise has obvious physical benefits, but it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression as well. Physically active people have lower levels of anxiety and depression than people who are not physically active. Exercise combats anxiety by producing endorphins. These are brain chemicals that act as natural painkillers. Exercise can also reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and improve sleep, which reduces stress. You don’t have to exercise for an hour to relieve stress and anxiety. About 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to ease anxiety, and a short 10-minute walk can be just as good as a 45-minute workout at relieving anxiety and depression.
Getting enough sleep
Here are several ways to help you get a good night’s rest:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime). An afternoon workout is ideal.
- Keep naps short — less than an hour — and avoid napping after 3 p.m.
- Avoid alcohol, large meals, foods that induce heartburn and drinking a lot of fluid for several hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
- Avoid using an electronic device to read in bed; the light from the screen can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime.
- Read, listen to music, or relax before bed with a hot bath or deep breathing.
Caffeine is a stimulant that’s found in many foods and drink, including coffee, teas and soft drinks. It takes effect in about 30 minutes but can remain in the system for hours. While there are some benefits to caffeine, such as improving energy and alertness, caffeine can also cause anxiety symptoms. Cutting back on caffeine can be challenging, but the following tips can help:
- Start slowly. Try drinking one less can of soda per day or a smaller cup of coffee in the morning.
- Choose decaf. Most decaffeinated beverages taste just like their caffeinated counterparts.
- Shorten the brew time. When making tea, brew it for a shorter period of time. This will reduce the amount of caffeine.
Changing your eating habits may not completely get rid of your anxiety, but making the following changes can help ease your symptoms:
- Eat complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Complex carbs include oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-grain breads.
- Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Not only can alcohol interfere with sleep, but it can also increase irritability.
- Pay attention to food sensitivities. Certain foods or ingredients may increase anxiety or irritability, so pay attention to your mood after meals and snacks.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “deep breathing” or “belly breathing,” may help lower your anxiety and stress levels. This type of breath work involves engaging the belly, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles when breathing. To do diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand below your rib cage and the other on your upper chest. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm as you breathe. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Feel your stomach expand and move out against the hand below your rib cage. Make sure the hand on your upper chest remains as still as possible. When you’re first starting out, it may be easier to do these movements lying down on a flat surface with your knees bent and your head elevated.