7 Best Ways to Attack Anxiety Today
Anxiety is a common emotion that affects us all. Whenever we feel threatened or stressed, our bodies release chemicals into our bloodstream in what is called the “Fight or Flight” response. There are those of us who experience anxiety more acutely than others, though. For those of us who face feelings of anxiousness on a daily basis, we have a few tips that you can start today to reduce its impact in your life.
First, understanding how anxiety works is an important step. The primary hormone that prepares the body for that “Fight or Flight” response is Cortisol. Cortisol gives us a biochemical boost to either face the situation head on or to run away. This response served us well early on when our anxiety provoking situations were life or death: accidentally encountering a bear in the forest, for example. However, in the modern world we rarely come up against that kind of challenge. Today, our anxieties center around things like having difficult conversations with an authority, or anticipating an upcoming deadline, or ruminating on a mistake made days ago. These are hardly life threatening, but our brain hasn’t caught up with the way we live our lives. It treats an upcoming deadline with the same intensity and threat as the bear. But back in the day, we’d say “whew” and sit down by the campfire with an exciting story to share. Today, that deadline looms over us, prolonging the stress for days. To help us in the modern world, here are the 7 best ways to attack anxiety today.
How it works: Breathing is normally something we do without thinking (and a good thing too, otherwise we’d all suffocate as soon as we fell asleep). However, we can bring a host of good results by taking back this unconscious behavior. By controlling our oxygen intake, we regulate our heartrate which is vital in managing panic feelings.
What to do: Put your hands on your stomach. Inhale on a count of 4 until your hands move out with your stomach. Exhale to the same count of 4.
How it works: Anxiety thrives on trepidation and fear. Laughter is an expression of joy and pleasant surprise. Not only can laughter combat stress, but hospital studies have shown that regular laughter can boost the immune system and reduce pain. Laughter affects multiple parts of the brain and influences us mentally, emotionally and socially.
What to do: Invite a friend over and watch a comedian On Demand or streaming. Why invite a friend? We are 30 times more likely to laugh in a social setting than alone.
How it works: Wait. I thought this was about how to avoid worry. Allow me a correction; it’s about how to handle unproductive worry. Allowing ourselves to worry in a directed and productive way keeps us in control.
What to do: Set a specific amount to time to intentionally worry about the subject at hand. I’d suggest increasing the time based on the level of stress you feel about the situation. During that time, come up with a plan. Where do you have areas of influence? How can you use that influence to create a solution? Once your allotted time is up, pursue a distraction to get your mind off the issue.
How it works: The easiest to understand, exercise deals directly with the biochemical effects of anxiety. Our biology pumps hormones into our blood to help us “Fight or Flight” and exercise gives anxiety exactly what it wants...to move!
What to do: Research shows that 30 minutes of low impact exercise can influence Cortisol levels. To gain the benefits of endorphins, exercise 30 minutes at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.
5. Eat Right
How it works: Omega-3, vitamins B6 and B12, vitamins C and E, zinc, iron and folates have all shown to have an influence on mental health. Foods like spinach, avocado, lentils, broccoli, salmon, swiss and mozzarella cheeses are all great sources of these vitamins. Do an internet search to find the foods you like that will give you a healthy boost.
What to do: There’s nothing new in the studies: eat more veggies, limit meat and cut out junk food.
6. Remember your brain is tricking you
How it works: Remember the bear in the forest vs. the difficult conversation you need to have? Our brains, as advanced as they are, can’t distinguish between the two. We respond biologically the same way in both situations. But we can change the way we feel with intentional thought.
What to do: Consider an upcoming stressful situation, like in the Worry exercise listed above. For ten minutes write about what you’d like to feel about the situation. Not how you actually feel, but what you wish you could feel. Next, spend some time affirming the situation with the feelings you’d prefer to have.
7. Herbal Remedies
How it works: Using supplements can be a natural and effective way to tip the scales for anxiety. The most common herbs to combat anxiety are Ashwagandha, GABA, Kava Kava, and L-theanine. They can be found individually or often packaged together in an anti-anxiety supplement.
What to do: Consult your physician if you’re already taking medications in case of any unforeseen interactions. Try out a vitamin shop and discover what works best for you.
Stress and anxiety have a powerful effect on our brains and bodies. Knowing how to affect both the emotional and physical aspects of anxiety will improve our outlook and our sense of hope. Laughing, constructive worry, and resisting the brain’s tricks influence the emotions directly. Breathing, exercise, eating right and natural herbs can impact the physical response of stress. Taking control and having a plan can be the first step to a different experience. This is the time to start, pick the most convenient remedy and start right now!