Are You Anxious All the Time? 10 Tips for Relief
There's no denying that we live in a busy time. With the technological advances in communication, our lives along quickly and the demands on us are seemingly always high. Today, more than 40 million Americans are reported to be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
According to health experts, it's normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if you live a stressful life. However, if you have ongoing anxiety that is interfering with your work, relationships and day-to-day activities, it's time to do something about it.
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Write down what is making you anxious. Many times when we are anxious about something, we keep it locked inside. This makes our body tense and our mind starts spinning and getting even more anxious. Sometimes just writing down what is worrying you can relieve a mountain of anxiety. Keep a journal specifically for your thoughts, feelings and concerns. Write it in whenever you feel anxious. Acknowledging your worries and concerns (even to yourself) can significantly reduce the level of your anxiety.
Breathe deeply. When people are anxious they tend to take shallow breaths, which can actually increase feelings of anxiety. Shallow breathing means less oxygen is getting to your brain and muscles, which increases your physical and mental tension. The next time you feel anxious, try breathing deeply. Inhale to the count of 5, hold for 2 counts, then exhale to the count of 8. Repeat this pattern for a few rounds.
Slow it down. When we are anxious, most of us try to do things faster. We tend to think that if we can get through things quickly, our anxiety will go away. The irony is that rushing through things makes the breath get shorter (and shallower) and, as mentioned above, only makes us more anxious. Next time you are anxious, instead of trying to sprint through tasks, do the opposite - slow it down. This will help mind, body and breath get back into balance.
Improve your posture. Slouching in your chair and/or slumping over the computer can lead to muscle tension and pain in your back, neck and shoulders - resulting in increased physical and mental anxiety and stress. To get some relief, sit so that your head and shoulders are upright; make sure not to crank your head and neck forward; and use your abdominal muscles to support you.
Do a physical activity. Physical activity helps loosen up tension in your body and mind, releases endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals, and produces increased levels of serotonin, proven to lower your stress levels and make you feel more at ease. Take a brisk walk, go for a run, dance, swim, or just shake your body loose for a few minutes. Do any physical activity that you enjoy to get relief from anxiety.
Take a yoga class. Yoga is an excellent way to get relief from anxiety. It helps you slow down, breathe deeply, and stretch out parts of your body that are holding onto tension and stress. Practicing yoga will help you relax both the mind and body. Yoga classes are offered at all levels for whatever physical condition you are in. Make sure to talk to the studio or gym manager to find out what class is right for you.
Get a massage. You don't have to break the bank to get a massage. There are many chain and local massage therapists offering professional massage at reasonable prices. Massage is a great way to get relief as it can help you release physical and emotional tension, slow down, breathe more deeply, and give you more natural energy (as opposed to anxious energy).
Spend time with a pet. Playing with, walking or just enjoying the company of a pet can be a great way to get relief from stress and anxiety. Spending time with a pet can take your mind off of your worries, and studies show that the unconditional love of a pet can be healing.
Connect with positive friends. Having a good laugh with your friends can do wonders to relieve anxiety. Laughter has been proven to reduce the levels of stress hormones including cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine. It has also been shown to increase the release or endorphins, the body's natural "feel-good" chemicals. An added bonus is that connecting with positive friends can give you a new perspective and take you out of your anxiety cycle so that your worries no longer are consuming you.
Eat regular, healthy meals. Skipping meals can intensify feelings of anxiety and stress, as well as cause headaches. Eat meals at regular times and try to avoid fatty, sugary and processed foods. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat meats is best. Be sure to avoid caffeine, as caffeine has been shown to agitate anxiety-prone people.
If you try these tips and find that your anxiety is still interfering with your work, relationships and day-to-day activities, contact your doctor. Since anxiety can lead to or worsen other mental and physical health conditions, it is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. 2008 Statistics. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Anxiety. Accessed Dec. 15, 2009.
Brown R.P., Gerbarg P.L. Sudarshan. Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model. J Altern Complement Med 2005; Feb, 11(1):189-201.
How Common is Anxiety? AnxietyMatters.com. http://www.anxietymatters.com/about_anxiety/how_common_is_anxiety.htm. Accessed Dec. 15, 2009.
Mayo Clinic Staff. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Information Page. MayoClinic.com. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/generalized-anxiety-disorder/DS00502. Accessed Dec. 15, 2009.
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