There are many tips out there to help with anxiety. Some cost money, some feel overwhelming, and some are vague and leave you wondering if they helped at all. Here at New Leaf Counseling, we are going to be talking about three easy steps that are proven to help with anxiety that you can start today!
Get More Sleep
There can be several things that contribute to your anxiety. One is lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can play a negative role in emotional processing. The ability to manage your emotions healthily is essential to keeping anxiety at bay. Sleep can affect your body and mood. The part of your brain that is responsible for protecting and helping you identify dangers is called the amygdala. It communicates threats to the prefrontal cortex, which then determines whether flight or fight is necessary. The amygdala and the prefrontal cortex typically work pretty well together.
However, when your brain is stimulated by lack of sleep, and you're under a period of distress, the emotional centers of the brain can take over. This cycle can lead to difficulty concentrating, increased irritation, slower reflexes, and higher anxiety levels.
There are some practices you can try that can contribute to more natural sleep and less insomnia if you have these issues. For example, avoid exercise before bed, as this can stimulate you. Try working out five or six hours before you want to go to bed. Also, when you eat your meals can contribute to your sleep. Spread out your meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid intense hunger or spikes in blood sugar and try not to eat three hours before bed. Spread out your meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent extreme hunger or spikes in blood sugar. These habits can help ease you into slumber when bedtime arrives.
When you settle in for the evening, set up your surroundings in a soothing way. Make your bedroom your nighttime sanctuary. Diffuse essential oils with calming scents like lavender, and play soft music or white noise- these will all calm your brain. Make sure your routine before sleep isn't stimulating, turn off your phone or put it in sleep mode about a half-hour ahead of time. If you can't sleep once you lie down, get up and read or drink some tea because tossing and turning can lead to more anxiety.
Peaceful sleep is always good for your body, mind, and soul. So give these suggestions a try if you're experiencing high levels of anxiety.
In addition to more sleep, less caffeine can be a great aid in diminishing anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant, so it makes sense that it could aggravate your already strong feelings of restlessness and agitation. The stimulant effects of caffeine can make anyone feel nervous, shaky, or anxious. These effects are especially true if you're not used to consuming it.
If you already have an anxiety disorder or are prone to the emotion, drinking excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages and such could throw you into a panic attack.
This substance in caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, speeding up bodily functions like metabolism. Some people can be very sensitive to caffeine. That ordinary small jump in heart rate that some people experience when they have a bit of caffeine can send someone that suffers from anxiety reeling. If you notice a jittery feeling, headache, intense fear, or any other negative sensations when you drink caffeine, try removing it from your diet. You may experience withdrawal symptoms but try to wait them out and notice if your anxiety lessens over time.
If you drink a lot of caffeine regularly, it's probably a good plan to lessen your daily caffeine intake slowly, rather than quitting cold turkey. Take notes daily detailing how you feel as you remove it from your system. These notes can be motivating when you see evidence that things are improving. If you find yourself wanting a coffee in the middle of the day, try a cold drink of water or eating an apple. You will be surprised how much those two things can take you out of an afternoon slump.
Anxiety can have several physical symptoms, and it can wreak havoc on all areas of your life. Your mind plays an influential role in how anxiety starts and how it plays out. A lot of anxiety causes and intensifiers take place in the brain. Therefore, you can use mental strategies to control and tame this terrible beast. Our last tip on how to fight anxiety is to practice gratitude. There are many benefits of gratitude on the body and the mind.
Expressing gratitude can not only decrease physical pain and improve sleep, but it can lead to more optimistic thoughts, which influence more positive behaviors.
The connection between thoughts and the resulting actions or behaviors is strong. Gratitude has been proven to stimulate the hypothalamus. This region of the brain controls functions like metabolism, stress, and sleep. Also, being grateful can trigger parts of the brain that produce the feel-good neurochemical, dopamine. Positive behaviors can lead you to feel better about yourself and more productive. Forming a habit of gratitude begins a cycle that changes your perspective, causing you to feel more optimistic and thankful, which can lead to less negative emotions and anxiety.
Practicing gratitude is a habit that gets easier with practice. Once you start, you'll probably notice yourself looking on the bright side and feeling thankful for what you have far more frequently than you did in the past. One of the easiest ways to feel grateful is to thank someone. You could personally acknowledge when someone does something for you, or you could write a heartfelt note to a meaningful friend or loved one. Another strategy is to examine your week and take note of at least three things that went well.
When you make an effort to turn negative thinking around by recognizing the positive things, too, you'll see things aren't as bad as you initially thought. One last suggestion is to demonstrate acts of kindness. Take notes of who you can help this week. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, but helping others has a way of showing us just how many good things we possess. Who knew something as simple as being grateful could have such an effect on lessening anxiety?
Getting more sleep, eliminating caffeine, and practicing gratitude may not come quickly right away, but it's definitely worth the effort. If you continuously practice these things, you will soon notice a change in your anxiety levels. If you feel these tips are not helping, and your anxiety continues to increase, it might be time to seek professional help. Here at New Leaf Counseling; we're always here to help.