Anxiety and panic disorders are complex, with both biological and psychosocial causes. Managing symptoms with these seven tips will help pave the way towards a thriving, anxious-free life.
1. Exercise regularly
If anybody could condense the benefits of exercise down into a single pill, it would very likely be the closest thing to a panacea for mental health. Several studies have shown that exercise is associated with reduced anxiety in clinical settings. Besides a whole host of physiological benefits (especially for the heart and immune system), It promotes the growth of new brain cells and releases feel-good endorphins. Thirty minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise for at least 5 days a week is a great regimen to reap the anxiety-fighting benefits.
2. Eat Healthy Whole Foods
Diets high in sugar and simple carbs promote rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar, ramping up anxiety and impairing stress coping abilities. This can leave you feeling irritable and lethargic throughout the day. Eating mostly plants is a great way to keep anxious symptoms in check. Starting the day right with a heavy protein and fat breakfast is also very effective in reducing anxiety and allows the body to slow-burn energy for the rest of the day at a stable rate. Additionally, recent studies show that the microbiome, the ecosystem of microorganisms that reside in the gut, influences our emotional state. 95% of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gut, and the gut-brain connection has been shown to be integral to overall health and wellbeing.
3. Regularise your sleep/wake cycles
Sleep and mental health are closely intertwined. Many sufferers of anxiety and panic disorders also have problems with sleep. In a recent brain imaging study of 18 volunteers, brain activity associated with sleep deprivation closely mimics the brain activity associated with anxiety. Keeping a consistent sleep/wake cycle by going to sleep and waking up at the same time can regularise your circadian rhythm and keep anxious symptoms at bay. Consistently sleeping 7-9 hours with restorative deep sleep will also help ensure you will wake up with less anxiety.
4. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
Frequent alcohol consumption can make symptoms of anxiety worse for those suffering from anxiety disorders. Alcohol is also associated with poorer REM sleep and will often lead to early morning awakenings, reducing restorative sleep that plays an important role in keeping our emotional systems in balance. Caffeine can enhance our “fight-or-flight” response, making symptoms of anxiety worse. It is best to keep caffeine intake to earlier in the day, or consider alternatives such as tea (herbal teas such as chamomile are especially great for anxiety sufferers) and decaffeinated coffee.
5. Try certain supplements
Magnesium deficiencies are one of the most common mineral deficiencies. Magnesium supplementation is a helpful natural remedy for anxiety and better sleep, helping muscles relax and calming the nervous system. Ashwagandha is also a promising adaptogenic herbal remedy for anxiety, with increasingly more studies backing up its anti-anxiety, anti-stress, and sleep-promoting benefits. L-theanine, a non-essential amino acid found naturally in green tea, can also be helpful for anxiety symptoms. If you do drink caffeinated beverages, L-theanine synergises well, helping smooth out some of the jittery and anxious effects that caffeine can produce.
6. Become aware of your thinking
Many times, anxious thoughts can spiral out of control, taking on a life of their own. Becoming mindful of when we are thinking anxiously and redirecting our thoughts towards more positive ones can be very effective. Learning about cognitive distortions, a cornerstone idea in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can also be very useful in understanding our negative thinking patterns and ultimately reducing them.
7. Stay socially connected
As social beings, social connection is a fundamental human need and an essential aspect of general health and wellbeing. Symptoms of anxiety and panic can oftentimes thwart efforts aimed towards socialising, creating a vicious cycle. However, making efforts to get socially involved, such as in community involvement and support groups, will vastly help reduce anxiety symptoms and boost positive emotion.