7 Tips to Simmer Down the Negative Impact of Anxiety
Did you know that a staggering 90% of the population struggles with anxiety on some level?
It is undeniable that stress and some level of anxiety is an inevitable part of being human, and everyone experiences one or both of these conditions in one way or another, but it doesn’t help that we are living in especially uncertain times. For many people, navigating life through a pandemic has been incredibly anxiety-inducing.
But the real kicker is that anxiety is not all bad. In fact, it is fundamental for survival and a natural coping mechanism that humans have evolved with over time. It’s a part of who we are. So, while we might not be able to eradicate anxiety from our lives entirely, the fact is that we shouldn’t want to. Rather than suffer under the weight of it or try desperately to rid ourselves of it, there are healthy strategies we can implement in our day-to-day lives to help us cope and recover more quickly.
Here are 7 helpful tips to reduce the negative impact of anxiety and help us to change the way we respond to it.
- Set yourself up for success
The best way to reduce recurring anxiety is to have a set evening and morning routines that you can both stick to and enjoy. Too often anxiety creeps in from feelings of running out of time, of losing control, or of trying to take on too much without priming yourself to do so. So rather than have time run away from you, introduce healthy routines that help you to achieve more by enabling you to think clearly instead of stumbling through your day on the backfoot.
Below is an example of a 30-minute morning routine that has proven highly successful:
- Set alarm 30-minutes earlier
- Wake up and drink a glass of water you have left ready next to bed
- Breathe deeply for 5 repetitions, inhaling and exhaling slowly
- Read several pages from the book next to your bed
- Write down 3 – 5 things you are grateful for in the journal next to your bed
- Perform 5 – 10 minutes of meditation to set your mind up for the day
- Get out of bed and do a short set of exercises i.e. 10 x push-ups, 10 x sit-ups, 10 x squats and repeat 3 times to get your body ready for the day
From there you may continue with your day as usual. All it takes is a bit of discipline, and your routines will naturally turn into habits that will set you up for success.
- Treat yourself to good nutrition
Diet plays an important role in managing anxiety and maintaining good mental health. Eating well-balanced meals, containing vegetables, organic, grass-fed protein, and good quality fats as well as limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption can significantly reduce anxiety. The reason for this is because a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut; hence, the gut-brain axis is critically important when it comes to our mental health.
Consider making the following “feel good” foods part of your anti-anxiety diet:
- Foods rich in magnesium such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and avocados
- Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish
- Probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir
- Foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds
- Prioritize sleep
Getting enough sleep and rest, particularly when we are in a hyper-stressed state, can be the ultimate tool to help us cope with anxiety better. As mentioned above, one should limit alcohol and caffeine for a number of health-related reasons, but one of them is that both alcohol and caffeine have been linked to poor sleep quality and duration. Furthermore, as much as we recommend having a morning routine, setting up an easy-to-maintain evening routine can drastically improve sleep quality:
- Avoid caffeine past 12pm
- Have your last meal roughly one hour before bed
- Limit exposure to blue light one hour before bed (no laptop, TV, or phone)
- Have a relaxing bath or shower before bed
- Drink a glass of water or non-caffeinated herbal tea in bed
- Read, meditate, journal or talk to your partner once in bed
- Keep hydrated with good quality water
85% of our brain tissue is made up of water; hence our brains rely on water to function effectively. When we are dehydrated, our mental health suffers. Research has linked dehydration to depression and anxiety, as mental health is driven primarily by our brain’s activity. The short of it is that dehydration causes brain functioning to slow down and not function properly. To illustrate this, imagine a well-hydrated brain, one where communication is able to flow freely and efficiently due to proper lubrication. Then picture a dehydrated brain, where signals to the brain are forced to trudge through a non-lubricated sludge-like environment to get to the right locations. It just doesn’t work as well and the direct result is that we tend to be slower and sluggish. That is why it is important to drink water throughout the day – to stay on top of our game!
After drinking your first glass of water, the next best thing you can do is to breathe deep and steady. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body.
Take one big inhale, one big exhale and repeat for five repetitions.
Of course, you can’t truly relax and reap the benefits of deep breathing if you are stressed and running late, so it is here we would refer back to the first point of “setting yourself up for success”. Set your alarm a little earlier to accommodate for your morning routine, and especially your breath work.
- Take the time to care for yourself
Whether it’s practicing yoga, listening to music, meditating, getting a massage, or learning relaxation techniques, stepping back from the problem and doing something you enjoy helps clear your head. Take extra time to take care of yourself:
- Continue to socialize and notice when you’re isolating
- Reach out for support from friends and family
- Practice mindfulness
- Listen to relaxing music
- Do breathing exercises
- Exercise outdoors in the fresh air
- Enjoy some sun outside
- Change the way you talk to yourself
Upgrade your self-talk and make a concerted effort to replace negative thoughts and internal conversations with more positive ones. Even throw some humour in there – a good laugh really goes a long way!
If you find that these simple tips are not enough to alleviate the negative anxiety, or perhaps you feel you cannot implement these changes on your own, consider getting in touch with a professional.
It can be a struggle to find the right anxiety and depression counselling specialist to meet your needs – but it is certainly worth the effort. With professional help, you can start to uncover what triggers your anxiety: is it work, family, school, or something else you have yet to identify. A simple tool our Kitchener therapists recommend is writing in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and then looking back through your journal entries to try and see a pattern.
Interested in finding out more about our anxiety and depression counselling?
During anxiety and depression counselling in Kitchener, our Kitchener therapists will explore the following key areas:
- How your emotions impact your perspective about different situations, and as a result, impact how you behave
- Understanding that emotions do not equal facts
- Looking at the impact that current relationships have on your mood
- Looking at the impact your behaviours have on your relationships.
- Behaviour activation (feet first, feelings follow)
- Distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills