These days, it’s very common for people to struggle with anxiety which may be triggered by various sources, from work stress and finances to dwindling health and relationship issues. Besides negatively impacting the quality of your life, severe anxiety can have far-reaching consequences and cause serious illnesses like heart attacks and stroke.
Anxiety affects everyone differently, so what will help one person manage their stress may not work for someone else. If you struggle with anxiety and are unsure what to do to manage it, continue reading for some popular coping mechanisms. Often, it’s helpful to use a combination of these strategies and adopt them as lifestyle changes instead of simply something you do when anxiety hits.
Tweak Your Diet
The word ‘diet’ is typically not well received. When folks are advised to eat a healthy diet, they often think of unappealing, bland foods. Many people adopt diets that they deem healthy, but because they are super restrictive, they are not sustainable, so people tend to go back to poor eating habits.
Eating a healthy diet is not just good for your physical well-being but also your mental health. While you should not cut out all the foods you enjoy eating, try to make 80% of your meals balanced and healthy. Your diet should consist of lots of vegetables and fruit, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Try to eat foods as close to their original state as possible.
Make an effort to cut back on alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods, and highly processed foods. Besides being unhealthy, these may also trigger anxiety.
Build Exercise into Your Routine
Like nutrition, exercise is just as good for your mental well-being as for your physical health, so you must make it a habit. Understandably, you may skip your workout after a long day, but this should be the exception rather than a regular occurrence.
You’ve probably noticed that after you work out, your mood is elevated, and you feel energized. It’s because physical activity causes the brain to release feel-good hormones called endorphins.
To ensure that you work out consistently, choose an exercise you enjoy. This way, you will be less likely to give it a miss since it’s something you like. While many people go to the gym, there are many other ways to exercise – you can play a sport, run, cycle, swim, or join an exercise class or boot camp. If you prefer working out at home, there are many online classes that you can follow for free that require no equipment.
Another method that works for many people is to exercise with a friend. This way, they’re less likely to cancel since they’re accountable to their friend and don’t want to let them down. Exercising with a friend is also a great, healthy way to socialize.
Make Time for Things that Spark Joy
As busy as life may be, it’s important to make time to do things that bring you happiness. Ask a child what they like doing, and they’re likely to give you a laundry list of activities, but ask an adult, and many will be stumped. It’s usually because people’s lives are so consumed with work, family, and other responsibilities that they forget the things that spark joy within themselves.
If this resonates with you, think about what interested you when you were younger. Or maybe you do have hobbies, but it’s been a while since you’ve spent any time on them.
Whatever your situation may be, make time to do something that makes you happy, whether painting, going to the theater, taking a class, or going on guided retreats. When you are focused on something you enjoy, your mind is taken off your anxiety, making it easier to manage.
Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep
Many people will agree that there are not enough hours in the day! With longer work hours, side hustles, learning new skills, and family responsibilities, many people are forced to wake up before dawn and burn the midnight oil to fit all their obligations into a day.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation comes with a price and can significantly contribute to your anxiety. Not getting enough sleep can cause a hormonal imbalance that may increase feelings of anxiety.
On average, adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep every night. While sleeping for at least seven hours may seem impossible to fit into your schedule, prioritizing sleep will help you to function more effectively and help with your anxiety.
Practice Deep Breathing
When we feel anxious or stressed, we often take shallow breaths, which means our lungs aren’t getting enough oxygen. Even in everyday life, in a seemingly relaxed state, it’s common not to breathe deeply. When you don’t have sufficient oxygen, your brain releases stress hormones into your bloodstream, which can cause you to feel more anxious.
Taking deep breaths reduces the number of stress hormones in your bloodstream, helping you to calm down and think clearly.
Deep breathing is a valuable technique to utilize in high-stress situations or when you feel anxious, but it’s also an excellent exercise to practice daily. You can practice deep breathing anytime, but it’s particularly beneficial at night. Practicing deep breathing for about ten minutes before bedtime calms your mind and may help you to fall asleep.
Anxiety can be harmful to your health and may impact the quality of your life, so if you suffer from it, you must find healthy coping strategies. In most cases, coping with anxiety requires lifestyle changes. It would help if you ate a nutritious diet, exercised regularly, and got enough sleep. It’s also helpful to do breathing exercises which help to keep you calm. Lastly, you must make time for the things that make you happy – when you’re doing something you love, you’re less likely to be consumed by your troubles, making it easier to cope with your anxiety.
- Healthline: Do You Live with Anxiety? Here Are 13 Ways to Cope
- Beyondblue: Anxiety Management Strategies
- Mayoclinichealthsystem: 11 Tips for Coping with an Anxiety Disorder
- Medicalnewstoday: What are some Foods to Ease Anxiety?
- Bannerhealth: Can Certain Foods Increase Stress and Anxiety?
- Anxiety: 13 tips on getting the sleep you need for good mental health