Anxiety that feeling we are all too familiar with. It can either make you or break you! A lot of us go through life struggling with it. It makes us go crazy at times. We start to sweat, breathe hard, we experience chest and stomach pain and that’s not including the constant intrusive thoughts. But enough is enough, if you are tired of living with anxiety then this article is for you. Here I will explain what exactly anxiety is and how to manage it. It’s the ultimate survival guide.
Now let’s get to the bottom of this. What exactly is anxiety? Any idea? Well, it’s a bodily reaction to potential threats and stressful situations. People describe it as feeling uneasy, nervous, jittery, or edgy. It’s important to note that anxiety is normal and everyone will feel anxious at different points in their life. For example, during a job interview or visiting the doctor. Anxiety isn’t all bad, it is necessary to motivate us to get things done. But, we need to be careful because there is a fine line between healthy and pathological anxiety. When that line is crossed, people can end up developing anxiety disorders. There are signs that help you pinpoint when your anxiety is starting to become pathological. For instance, if you are excessively preoccupied with intrusive thoughts that affect you constantly then it’s getting bad. And in some cases, people can be so used to having anxiety, that they don’t realize they have a problem.
How Does Anxiety Affects the Brain & Body?
Anxiety has way too many symptoms to list, because everyone of us can experience different symptoms. But these are the most common are:
- Upset stomach and other gastrointestinal problems
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep changes
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dread
- Difficulty concentrating
- Constant worry
We need to be careful when we constantly worry because we can wire our brain to be anxious. This is when anxiety disorders start to kick in. Anxiety triggers neurotransmitters; such as serotonin, GABA and norepinephrine which are hormones that let your brain know how you think and feel. Too much of these hormones will affect you.
Additionally, anxiety triggers the body’s “flight or fight” response. When this signal is not turned off the amygdala is compromised. It then sends signals to the hypothalamus, which regulates the central nervous system.This alone can cause your blood pressure to rise. Not only that, but it stimulates the release of a hormone called cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.This is how anxiety overpowers you.
What To Do About Anxiety?
Luckily there are many things you can do to help alleviate your anxiety. The following is a list of activities you can do, but remember we are all different so some of these activities might or might not help you.
- Exercise: Exercising has its physical benefits, but most importantly it helps fight anxiety. It also improves your concentration and overall cognitive functioning. Exercising releases endorphins a chemical in the brain that reduces anxiety.
- Meditation: Meditation helps by silencing the overactive mind for a while by focusing on a single point. For example, your breathing, sensations throughout the body and focusing on a key word. If you don’t know who to meditate you can use meditation apps or watch YouTube videos that can guide you through it.
- Yoga: Yoga helps my moderating our body’s response to anxiety. Not only that, but it lowers blood pressure and chronic pain.
- Kiss Someone You Love: Yep! This does alleviate anxiety, by releasing happy chemicals.
- Sing: It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, just blast your favorite song, and sing like crazy. I enjoy going for a car ride and singing like no one is watching.
- Talk it out: Talking to a trustful friend, family member, teacher or therapist helps immensely. This also is beneficial because other people can tell you their points of views.
- Breathing techniques: If you learn to focus on your breathing, I guarantee you will feel a whole lot better. Calm breathing will ease your body and mind. It will also decrease your blood pressure and regulate your heart beat. There are two kinds of breathing, upper chest (thoracic) and lower chest (diaphragmatic). Anxious people tend to breath with their upper chest using rapid breathing. In order to calm down use abdominal breathing by gently inhaling through your nose, filing up your lower lungs and then exhaling slowly. Tip: put one hand on your chest and the other on the stomach. If you are doing this correctly the hand on the chest should stay still with the other rises.
- Cooking & Baking: Did you know the smell of delicious foods calm down anxiety? Yes, it does! This is because the smell of food triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, relieving anxiety. Not only that, but by cooking you keep yourself busy and at the end you will have a delightful meal.
- At home Spa: If you are having a difficult day due to anxiety then incorporate aromatherapy using essential oils or candles at home. Take a bubble bath or a hot shower with soothing music in the background. Anxiety produces muscle tension, especially on your shoulders, neck and back. By doing this you are allowing your muscles to relax.
- Hobby: It’s important that you have a hobby as a means of winding down. It can by anything from art, to playing an instrument, to practicing a sport, martial arts, yoga class, cooking, reading, watching movies, hiking, anything the suits you really.
- Laughter: Watch funny videos, or stand up comedies and movies. This works by reducing stress hormones, and inducing the release of endorphins, also known as the feel-good chemical. As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine”.
- Religion: If you are a religious person, then you can join a religious community. There you can receive the support you need to feel less anxious.
- Sleep better: Sleep deprivation affects areas in the brain associated with emotional processing. Through sleep your brain regulates thought and emotion neurons, by not sleeping well you will overwork your brain and yes you guessed it, anxiety will be of consequence.
- Time management: Do not leave things for the last minute. Take time to prepare for the next day. Make a to do list of everything you need to do, and the night before pick out your clothing, pack your bag and lunch. If you are student and / or work, then you must have deadlines. Try to divide your assignments and work in sections. Before you know it you will be done on time and your brain will be thankful.
- Declutter: Clean out your room and house. Anything you no longer need, throw out or if it’s still in good condition donate it. This includes clothes, shoes, books, movies, makeup, electronics, toys, anything and everything taking up space that you no longer care for. Be honest with yourself, if you haven’t touch it in over a year and a half you will most likely not use it. A cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. Don’t forget social media, take out pages or people who post garbage in your feed. If you do this I guarantee there will less anxiety to deal with.
- Eliminate Toxic People: People drain you, pick them wisely! Apart of the fact that they are exhausting, they are completely unreliable. Toxic people will always be one-sided and will not contribute anything into your life. These individuals will manipulate, make you feel bad if necessary leading you to anxiety. It’s not worth it. Keep in mind they act as “friends” telling you what you want to hear, instead of telling you the truth.
- Learn to say no: A lot of times people ask for favors, if you don’t want to do it then don’t. And remember you do not need to explain yourself. If you say yes to everything, then you’re asking for anxiety.
- Medical Exam: If you feel you are experiencing increased anxiety that isn’t triggered by anything obvious then you should have a lab test done. Believe it or not anxiety in many cases can be caused by different medical conditions, including hormonal or chemical imbalances.
An anxiety box is an amazing idea, especially for those of you who may be prone to anxiety attacks. You can buy an anxiety box subscription from different companies or you can make your own. The purpose of this is to have a box full of items that will help you reduce your anxiety levels at hand. You can do this by buying a box from a store, or recycling a used box and decorating it whichever way you want. Here is a list of items you can add to your box:
- Play dough
- Stress ball
- Essential oils
- Protein bars
- Scented Candle
- Hard Candy
- Cards with affirmations on them
- Sketch Pad with coloring material
- Favorite movie or games
- Coloring pad
- MP3 player full of music that calm you
- Music CD’s
- Bubble wrap
- Coloring book
- Rubik’s cube
- A good book
- Fidgety toys
- Bubble bath soap
- Mini massager
What to Eat?
Now, let’s talk about food. I bet you are tired of hearing, “You become what you eat”. I used to get annoyed by that too, but after years of battling with anxiety, I decided to change my diet and it has worked wonders. It wasn’t till I started to eat better that I noticed a change in my thinking. There are all kinds of delicious foods that you can incorporate in your diet to help alleviate your anxiety. These foods are:
- Chocolate, especially dark chocolate (Yup, you don’t need to sacrifice it)
- Acai Berries
- Foods with complex carbohydrates
- Pumpkin seeds
- Peanuts & peanut butter
- Protein, such as egg, yogurt & lean chicken
- Leafy greens
- Tea: chamomile, passion flower, peppermint, green & rose
- Omega-3 fats, such as salmon and anchovies
- Foods rich with antioxidants, magnesium & B vitamins
Here are the foods and drinks you should avoid:
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Simple carbohydrates, such as sweetened beverages & candy
- White bread
- Foods that contain a lot of preservatives
Remember anxiety can be your best friend and help you push through in life as long as you know how to control it. Don’t feel bad if you need a lending hand, asking for help doesn’t make you weak. If you try out these techniques and tips provided in this article and still can’t find peace of mind, then therapy could be the way to go for you. What are your opinions on this article? Know any other ways to help alleviate anxiety? If so let me know on the comments below.
Note from our Founder: If you guys like, we made a video of some of the things people with anxiety go through and would like others to know.