Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults, according to the ADAA.
Many of us have information overload with our cell phones in arms reach and access to the internet wherever we are. The constant inbound flow of information can have negative effects on your well-being and mental state.
Anxiety can also be intensified with a stressful job, a challenging relationship, or life events. It impacts us all differently. The symptoms of anxiety can be felt in different parts of the body. Sometimes it’s shallow breathing, rapid heart-rate, and a heavy chest. For others, it’s a burning throat, tingling limbs or a pounding head. It might be a steady feeling or it might come in intense waves. Maybe it’s all of the above.
Regardless of your particular symptoms or severity, there are ways to help manage your anxiety and to cope with the symptoms. While there isn’t a magic solution to make the anxiety go away today, the following healthy habits can help you improve over time.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is critical to managing anxiety. Sleep allows your brain to take out the garbage and process everything that happened in the day. The time allows the brain to make needed connections between thoughts and experiences throughout the day and to form lasting memories. Sleep in itself can help limit feelings of anxiety and stress. On top of that, when we’re under-rested we tend to overcompensate with sugar and/or caffeine which can worsen anxiety and make it even harder to get a good night’s sleep.
The amount of sleep you need to get varies from person to person, but most need 7-8 hours of sleep. Listen to your body when it comes to sleep. Do you struggle to get out of bed every morning? Sticking to a routine in the evenings can help you wind down and get to bed at a reasonable hour every night.
We all know how important exercise is for the body, but it’s also great for the brain. Studies have shown the increased blood flow during exercise can improve mood and decrease anxiety and depression.
Going on a run or getting to the gym may not sound appealing beforehand, but your body will thank you after. Continual exercise will lead to more energy, focus, and a stronger mind (and body).
Find an active hobby or sport that you enjoy. Even better if it’s something you can enjoy with a friend. For instance, you could go on a hike to a nearby lake, ride your bike around the neighborhood, or play golf with friends.
Improve Your Diet
You’ll be surprised how much a healthy diet can improve anxiety. Try to limit excess sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. In excess, these can all increase your struggle with anxiety. The more natural, unprocessed foods you consume the better.
There are a number of foods that are known to help you stay calm and balanced. For instance, blueberries are great for their antioxidants and phytonutrients, some of which can be beneficial for fighting stress. Almonds are a great snack with healthy fats and they are also high in zinc, which can help balance mood. Foods rich in magnesium can also be great for reducing anxiety. Avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, and whole grains are all rich in magnesium.
Consider starting a daily meditation practice. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce stress, improve memory, and increase levels of happiness. Apps such as Calm and Headspace can be a great place to start.
Practicing gratitude can also lead to positive results to your well-being. Try writing down three things you are grateful for each day. A daily gratitude practice can increase happiness, improve sleep, and reduce stress.