7 Lifestyle Tips to Lessen Anxiety
If you’re suffering from anxiety, you know how debilitating it can be. Anxious feelings can stop you from enjoying your life, limit you in your career, stop you sleeping and relaxing and can even cause actual physical symptoms resulting in illness. Prolonged stress, big life changes, health, work or relationship issues and/or past trauma can all contribute to anxiety.
In my work as a hypnotherapist & Rapid Transformational Therapy Practitioner, anxiety is one of the main issues I help clients with. My aim when working with a client suffering from anxiety is to find the root cause of this issue and help people to replace these unwanted feelings with more positive and helpful beliefs and thoughts. I also like to give some guidance and tips to clients so that they can alleviate anxiety on a day-to-day basis. There are some simple lifestyle factors that can make a big difference.
Here are my top anxiety self-help tips
1. Get moving to alleviate anxiety
Exercise is thought to mimic the effects of some of the more powerful anxiety medications! It releases feel-good endorphin hormones and burns up the stress hormone cortisol. A half hour brisk walk or run outside, a swim or a trip to the gym will do wonders for reducing anxiety. Any type of exercise that gets the heart beating faster and the lungs working harder will do, and combining this with some strength work (working your major muscles legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) is the best option.
(If you haven’t been exercising recently take it slowly and build up; always consult your GP if you have any doubts about your ability to exercise or have any health problems).
Intrusive thoughts can be a symptom of anxiety and can be really distressing as they can seem to come from nowhere. By scribbling your thoughts and feelings down you can get them out of your head and onto paper (your notes are private and for your eyes only) and you can dispose of them afterwards if you want. The main motive for journaling is to clear your head. It’s also important to realise that these thoughts are common symptoms of anxiety and not to be embarrassed or ashamed if you experience them.
Apparently, many of us are deficient in the mineral magnesium and at the same time, many more of us are suffering from anxiety. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer, calming the nervous system, helping to alleviate fear and irritability and improve our mood. Dark leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach and grains like quinoa are rich in magnesium. Also ensure that you get enough vitamin D and calcium as they are interdependent. Calcium can be found in dried fruit, many vegetables and legumes, dried fruits, bread, nuts, dairy products and seafood. Vitamin D is plentiful in mushrooms, fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and eggs. If you want to be sure that you’re getting enough minerals and vitamins, taking a good multivitamin and mineral supplement may be the answer.
Drink plenty of water to hydrate. When we are dehydrated our bodies don’t work properly. Hormones don’t get circulated to where they need to go and a lack of blood flow can cause muscles to tense up. Also, because the brain is made up of up to 80% water, it needs this level of hydration to function in a balanced way. Drink one and a half to two litres of water per day to keep optimum hydration in the body.
5. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can be viewed as assisting us to relax and if people suffer from social anxiety a drink or two is often a way to ease this tension and help us to enjoy social events more. However, because alcohol is a sedative it causes an imbalance in the brain and when the effects wear off we can experience a slight withdrawal. For many people, this is barely noticeable, but if you’re prone to anxiety and/or depression these feelings can be heightened as the effects of alcohol wear off, making you feel worse than before. Not to mention the physical effects of a hangover; just trying to function whilst dealing with a headache, dizziness and general feelings of dehydration can be difficult in itself!
6. Spend time with your friends and family
Being around people, especially those that we are comfortable and relaxed with, is a really good idea if you are suffering from anxiety. The temptation is to shut ourselves away from others but, for obvious reasons, this can take us into our negative feelings even more, whereas spending time with others can take us out of ourselves and help alleviate feelings of anxiety.
7. Focus on a goal
Choose one to two areas of your life; health and fitness, career, personal growth or relationships and come up with some goals to strive for. It could be entering yourself into a 10K, having a clear out of clutter or learning something new. It could be to achieve something worthwhile in your career or to improve your personal relationships. Focusing on a goal or two in any area of your life will really help you to take your mind off any anxious feelings and give you something to focus on and plan for.
Start with smaller/short term goals and you will experience a real sense of achievement when you have completed them. You can then restart the process with larger goals that you want to achieve in the long term and begin to plan steps towards them. Having goals and working towards them gives us a sense of control and purpose and this in itself can be very empowering (exactly the opposite of feelings of anxiety, which often involve feeling out of control and not being able to change a situation).