Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress. Everyone has the occasional bout of anxiety, such as when going for a job interview, having to make an important decision, or before taking a test. Small amounts of anxiety can even be helpful by focussing your attention, keeping you motivated, and enabling you to respond better in some situations. However, if the feelings of anxiety don’t go away it can become overwhelming and impact all aspects of your life.
Medication and psychotherapy are the two main forms of treatment for anxiety. Talk to your healthcare professional about which treatments are right for you. Here we’ve listed 7 tips you can also try to help manage your anxiety and stress naturally.
A regular exercise routine is beneficial not only for your physical health, but for your mental health as well. It is a good way to release any anxious energy and distract you from the stressful situation that is making you anxious.
Exercise stimulates the brain to release feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, and also increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. This temporarily lifts your mood and gives you an energy boost. Regularly participating in an exercise routine can also provide long-term benefits such as increased concentration and focus, improved memory recall, and improved quality of sleep. Exercise can also help with weight loss, which can boost your self-esteem and self-confidence.
2. Watch what you eat and drink
Studies have shown that a poor diet high in sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods may lead to the development of an anxiety disorder and worsening anxiety symptoms.
Eating a well-balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, fatty fish and olive oil, can help manage and reduce anxiety symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to be particularly beneficial to brain health and may reduce the severity of anxiety. Good sources of omega-3 include flax seeds, chia seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
Avoid sugary beverages such as soda, sport and energy drinks, and beverages with sweeteners as they only provide a temporary energy boost. Stay hydrated by drinking water instead.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep plays an important part in supporting good physical and mental health. Anxiety and poor sleep often go hand in hand. Thinking about the things that make you anxious can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. A lack of sleep can also make your anxiety symptoms worse and become a source of anxiety itself.
While anxiety can make it difficult to establish healthy sleep habits, making changes to your sleep habits and your environment can improve your sleep quality and the amount of sleep you get. Getting more and better sleep can help you feel refreshed and able to address what is making you stressed and anxious.
4. Limit caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain preventing drowsiness. For most people, consuming low to moderate levels of caffeine can provide a temporary increase in alertness, focus and elevate your mood.
However, some people are sensitive to the effects of caffeine and find that it causes them to feel anxious by making them feel jittery or nervous. Consuming a lot of caffeine can also impair sleep and bring on bouts of anxiety.
If you feel that caffeine affects your anxiety then it’s probably best to limit your caffeine intake or withdraw it from your diet completely. Try consuming decaf options, non-caffeinated herbal tea, or water in place of caffeinated beverages.
5. Limit alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant that can take the edge of your anxious feelings, making you feel more confident and relaxed. People suffering from anxiety sometimes use alcohol to mask their anxious feelings, particularly in social situations, but the effects are only temporary and you may feel even more anxious once the effects of the alcohol wear off.
Drinking alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain, which regulate your mood and emotions. The occasional drink might be fine, but as you drink more it has a negative effect on your mood.
Regularly using alcohol to help with the symptoms of anxiety can also make you reliant upon it and lead to alcohol addiction. Heavy drinking has a negative effect on your mental and physical health and can negatively impact your relationships with family and friends, your work performance, and your social life.
Research shows that limiting or eliminating alcohol from your diet is beneficial for improving your anxiety. You may find that anxiety symptoms increase temporarily when you reduce the amount you drink, but they’ll improve with time.
6. Mindfulness and meditation
Research has shown that mindfulness techniques such as meditation can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress. Meditation can also have long-term effects on your mood and wellbeing and can help encourage positive thinking.
Meditation is a mindfulness practice that focuses all your attention on one particular thing, such as your breathing, an idea or an image. It trains your mind to stay in the present moment without judging or reacting. Practicing meditation can give you a sense of calmness and happiness and help relieve anxious feelings.
Deep breathing can also be an immediate helpful tool. If you are having an anxious episode and are feeling overwhelmed, try taking some slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm or stomach area. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth, taking slightly more time to breathe out than in. This can help you to find some focus and calm in the moment.
Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy using essential oils and plant extracts to aid mind and body wellbeing. Limited research indicates that some essential oils may be beneficial as a short-term tool to manage anxiety symptoms by helping you relax and feel calm.
Essential oils can be directly inhaled from the bottle, or added to a steam diffuser or a warm bath. They can also be added to a carrier oil and used in aromatherapy massage.
Some essential oils that may help manage anxiety symptoms are:
- Clary sage
- Sweet orange
Do not apply oils directly to the skin as they can irritate it. Oils are also flammable so use care when handling them. Try out different oils to find the one that works best for you.
If you suffer from anxiety, the suggestions above may help you manage your anxiety symptoms naturally. Experiment with different combinations to find a remedy that suits you.
These ideas can be used to complement your other treatments for anxiety. Remember to consult your healthcare professional if you have concerns about your anxiety and to find out the best treatments for you.
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