How to Lower Anxiety

Anxiety affects 40 million American adults, making it the most common mental illness in the United States. Yet, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, less than 40% of those suffering receive treatment.

That’s a staggering number of people who are left to fend for themselves when it comes to managing their mental health. Thankfully, through understanding the condition and how it affects the nervous system , we can begin to “take the edge off” and teach ourselves how to function.

First, let’s define anxiety. The website dictionary.com defines it as distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear or danger of misfortune. The psychiatric definition describes anxiety as a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms on mental disorders. Either way, we can all agree that anxiety is pretty darn uncomfortable.

We feel this distress both physically and emotionally. It’s a total body experience, which is why we when feel anxious, we often describe it as wanting to crawl out of our own skin.

And since we experience anxiety in both the mind and the body, the most effective solutions to alleviate the condition is to address it on both levels. 

Our suggestions to lower anxiety focus on activities that condition the nervous system to create less anxiety, or the lowest amount possible.

If our nervous system had its preference, we would live in a totally defined world, with little to no risk of harm or injury. No surprises, in other words. It would also request plenty of “soul nourishment” aimed at helping us to feel happy and whole.

Our nervous system plays an active role in every thought, feeling and function that we have. When we experience something new, our nervous system creates new nerves in order to store, support, or avoid that specific event. This process is always happening, even if the new thought, feeling or function is a repeat thought, feeling or function. It’s like there’s a program quietly running in the background, collecting data and filing it away for future use through the creation of new nerves.

This becomes truly powerful when we come to fully understand and embrace that whatever we think about generates new nerves. Essentially, what we focus on grows internally in our nervous system.

How to Lower Anxiety

 

Change Your Perspective. Understand that whatever you think about grows. If you keep changing your perspective to focus on the positive, the positive will grow. 

Take a time-out daily to entrain your nervous system to work the way you want. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. While doing these things, intentionally focus on non-anxiety thoughts and feelings. For example, as you do any of the activities listed above, concentrate on how you feel internally and celebrate that you can do what it is you are doing safely. Appreciate yourself for doing these things for yourself. Enjoy how nice it is.  

Eat well-balanced meals. Try different nutritional plans and eating sequences. Keep track of what works for you and what doesn’t. Know that some foods will actually cause anxiety. Figure out what they are, and avoid them. Pay attention to how you and your system react. 

Limit alcohol and caffeine. Both can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.

Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.

Exercise daily. A daily workout will help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.

Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.

Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.

Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.

Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?

Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.

Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.

Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.

Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.

Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress

 

For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.

5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.

Set small daily goals. Aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.  

Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.

Entertain yourself. Use an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.

Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague. 

Be patient. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier. Show yourself grace when starting a new exercise program.

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