Everyone experiences anxiety at times, but if worry and fear begin to affect your daily life you may need to look at ways to reduce your negative thoughts. Anxiety and depression levels have increased dramatically in recent months, and some studies suggest that technology and social media are making the problem worse. Severe anxiety disorders can include physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating and trembling.
Anxiety can take many forms. Excessive worrying is one of the most common, and it can lead to more serious problems if not recognized and addressed. Feeling restless, irritable and having difficulty concentrating are other signs of anxiety issues. If you experience any of these feelings, the following tips will help you to take control of your anxiety.
Focus on the moment
Anxious thoughts usually relate to what may be about to happen, so concentrating on the present is a simple way to ground yourself. Focusing on a specific task such as making a cup of coffee or reading a book for ten minutes could be all the time out you need to bring your thoughts under control. Writing your thoughts in a journal can also be an effective way of clearing your head and taking stock. Worrying about important future events like job interviews is natural, but it’s a habit that can take over your life if not controlled.
Meditation and mindfulness are a great place to start when trying to manage anxiety and depression. Techniques include focusing on your breathing to eliminate negative thoughts and spending time sitting in silence to become aware of your emotional state. Yoga and Tai Chi can include elements of mindfulness. If you can’t find local classes, there are guided meditations online. As well as mental benefits, studies suggest mindfulness can reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels over time.
Take regular exercise
It’s long been recognized that exercise is good for mental as well as physical wellbeing. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety. Outdoor activities such as walking, hiking and running are particularly good for relieving stress and worry. The body releases endorphins during exercise, and these act as natural painkillers and improve mood. The social aspect of some forms of exercise can also help to control anxiety. Making new friends, feeling part of a team and developing a sense of pride and achievement are great for mental wellbeing.
Get quality sleep
Sleep deprivation is a symptom of modern life and many experts are concerned about the long-term effects. Insomnia is closely linked with anxiety, so maintaining a healthy sleep pattern is very important. Establishing a routine can help if you’re struggling to switch off at night and stay asleep for the hours you need. Avoid large meals, caffeine and nicotine as bedtime approaches. Break the habit of using your phone or tablet in bed, and don’t watch television in the bedroom. Anything that stimulates the mind or body makes it harder to get to sleep. A sleep tracker can be useful for monitoring how many hours of sleep you have at night.
Review your diet
In addition to lifestyle changes, good nutrition is essential. Reviewing your diet is a natural way to manage anxiety. Try to reduce your sugar intake by replacing processed foods with real whole foods. Add more healthy fats such as avocados, organic butter, organic eggs, coconut oil and raw nuts. Fruits and vegetables are known to lower anxiety and depression, while whole grains and protein have benefits for brain health. Studies suggest that foods containing selenium, such as brazil nuts, mushrooms and soybeans, can reduce mood disorders such as anxiety. Research also links vitamin D deficiency with depression and anxiety. Fatty fish, egg yolks and red meat are all great natural sources of vitamin D.
Try this breathing technique for acute anxiety or during a panic attack:
- Inhale slowly through the nose for a count of four
- Exhale from the mouth slowly for a count of four
- Repeat this sequence until the attack subsides.
If mental health issues are affecting all aspects of your daily life you may need to seek professional help, but mild stress and anxiety can be managed effectively using the techniques described in this article.