Anxiety is probably one of the top complaints of most of the women I work with. The National Institute of Health estimates that 40 million adults experience anxiety daily. I get it as my anxiety has landed me in the hospital. This is how I learned some effective ways to reduce anxiety.
In my free and private community, we have daily activities to help us reduce stress and anxiety such as cultivating gratitude and intention setting.
Anxiety is an umbrella term for many symptoms or body messages such as stress, panic attacks, worry, tension, restlessness, and/or fear. Our body communicates with us through our symptoms and disease or as we call them here – body messages. Anxiety is just one of these body messages or symptoms.
What is Anxiety?
Technically, anxiety is apprehension over an upcoming event. We anticipate the future with sometimes scary predictions that don’t necessarily have any basis in truth. In everyday life, physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety can mean an increased heart rate, poor concentration at work and school, sleep problems, mood swings, food cravings, etc…
We can choose to think negative thoughts of fear, anger, jealousy, and worry about the upcoming event or we can choose to be positive and loving. When we chose fear, anger, jealousy, and/or worry, we send a message to our body that something bad is about to happen. Then the reaction to our message prepares the physical body to respond to that dangerous upcoming event.
Physiology of anxiety
Our autonomic nervous system primarily regulates our unconscious actions such as our heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. There are two divisions: the parasympathetic (aka rest and digest state) and sympathetic (aka fight or flight state). As you can imagine, anxiety is managed via the parasympathetic nervous division.
Being a long-term state of “fight or flight” can have a dramatic effect on our mental and physical health. Unless you find ways to reduce anxiety, it can affect various organs that can cause severe conditions with lifelong consequences: high blood pressure, weaken and poor immune function, heart conditions, skin conditions, adrenal fatigue, poor digestive health, gas, bloating, unexplained weight gain, poor sleep, inability to have intercourse, etc..
Why is anxiety so prevalent today?
There are two main reasons for the increased prevalence of anxiety – constant stimulation and a lack of mind awareness.
The average person doesn’t have enough time to cook their own food and move daily, therefore, quieting the mind so we can observe our thoughts is no longer part of our life. We no longer practice exercise that favors mind awareness such as deep breathing, meditation or tai chi so our mind is allowed to run free. We have the power to control what type of thoughts our mind produces… it just takes practice.
We are stimulated from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to sleep. We are being stimulated by waking up with an alarm, running to get the kids to school, traffic, a crazy inbox, a jam-packed schedule all day, driving back home to get the kids on time, cooking dinner, taking the kids back out for their activities, exercise, social media, etc… All this alongside a smart phone that consistently beeps/ rings and alerts us that we are missing something somewhere!! Now compound this with our desire to keep up with the Jones, unhealthy nutrition and very little time to relax, we have a formula for a very stressed and anxious body and mind.
I was there you know… in my case, it went as far as a panic attack. My body was completely shutting down my overwhelmed nervous system. I was overdoing everything: work, food, driving, talking, computers, etc…I didn’t listen to all the messages my body was sending me along the way. Don’t let it get to this point.
Ways to Reduce Anxiety: Your Action Plan
- Learn to breathe: A useful tool to prevent panic attacks. The breath is also a great marker of where your anxiety level is at throughout the day.
- Get enough sleep: Especially when feeling anxious, try to schedule a full seven to nine hours of snooze time and see what a few nights of sweet slumber do for those anxiety levels throughout the day.
- Eat right: You knew I was going to go there – lol! Eat food that contains nutrients such as Vitamin B and Omega-3s. Studies have linked Vitamin B with good mental health, and Omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Probiotic foods help regulate the good gut bacteria in your tummy which regulate levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that helps us remain calm. Even though our cravings tells us the opposite, ditching the caffeine and sugar is the right thing to do as both are just another stimulant for our nervous system.
- Unplug: very simply: disconnect from all modern technology every so often: smartphones, computers, iPads, tv, music, etc… and spend more time in silence or nature.
- Quality Supplements: if your diet is not on point and anxiety is taking over, you may need some support while you get your nutrition and lifestyle on track. Magnesium bis glycinate is my #1 go-to followed by passionflower and valerian root.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t come up with thoughts that produce stress or anxiety. But we’re human and inevitably worry about things. So when we do start to freak out, feel stressed, and/or be anxious, there are lots of ways to reduce anxiety so that we can change our thoughts, calm the brain, relax the body, and get back in the game. It starts by being aware, knowing what to do and making that choice!
Question: Now that you know my secrets, I’d like to hear from you. What are your own ways to reduce anxiety? Any tips and advice that worked for you?