Lifestyle Changes That Will Reduce Anxiety
How is my lifestyle affecting my anxiety levels?
Over millions of years, we've evolved to develop systems that allow us to flee danger. One is the 'fight or flight response,' which encourages our bodies to release the adrenaline that shapes quick decision making and fast movements. The other is cortisol production, which is a stress hormone that helps encourage your body to tap into its sugar stores. Again, this is useful in certain stressful situations.
While both of these systems serve a purpose, it's unhealthy to be exposed to continuously elevated cortisol or adrenaline levels. In some cases, the stresses that trigger them are difficult to escape; such as workplace stressors. However, the way you behave may play a role too.
By recognizing which lifestyle factors can reduce anxiety, you may not cure it entirely, but you could achieve a healthier state of mind.
Cutting Out Substances That Increase Your Anxiety Levels
Which substances should I avoid if I want to reduce anxiety?
Drinking too much coffee increases your blood pressure, which exacerbates the physical symptoms that accompany anxiety. For example, high blood pressure.
Similarly, alcohol lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain. So, while it temporarily numbs your feelings of anxiety, you're depleting your happy hormones.
Finally, if you're eating too much sugar, your energy levels will rise rapidly, only for you to crash again. Enjoy a treat, but in moderation.
Other Lifestyle Factors that Leave You Feeling Anxious
Now that you know which substances you need to cut down on, it's time to take a look at the other lifestyle factors that could leave you feeling anxious. In some cases, you may not realize they're the source of your stress.
You're not socializing enough
We're all leading hectic lives, but making time to see friends and family is important. Social isolation is a leading cause of depression and anxiety. Schedule one evening a week to see your friends, attend a community meeting, or indulge in a new activity that places you around others.
You're not exercising enough
One of the easiest ways to burn off adrenaline and cortisol is to exercise. Again, being busy may leave you feeling as though you don't have enough time to do this. However, dedicating just one-percent of your day to a workout that makes your heart beat faster means you're spending 15 minutes on ditching anxiety.
Your work-life balance isn't great
Okay, so this is a bit of an obvious one. We all know that working too much isn't the route to happiness. But, if you just accept your heavy workload and don't at least try to make alterations, you could find yourself dipping into extreme levels of anxiety.
Addressing your work-life balance could mean:
- Delegating more tasks
- Accepting less overtime
- Aiming for a different job, if your current one makes you unhappy
- Building better relationships with your colleagues
Also, schedule breaks and stick to them. Wherever possible, avoid taking your work home with you. Finding the right work-life balance isn't an instant process, but until you actively try to make changes, your stress levels will remain the same.
You have no creative outlets
Creativity allows you to discover new skills, which then increases dopamine levels in your brain and enhances your ability to focus. Plus, if you find a creative outlet that's fun, your serotonin levels will rise.
You engage in self-sabotaging behavior
We all need to blow off steam from time-to-time, but how you choose to do that could make your anxiety better or worse. For example, if your response to feeling anxious is to chain smoke, drink, or take illicit substances, you're self-sabotaging rather than making matters better. Similarly, spending lots of money in a bid to satisfy your brain's reward center will only result in temporary feelings of gratification.
To determine whether you're self-sabotaging, create an anxiety diary and write about what you do to resolve it. Then, reflect on whether your actions are helpful or lead to further worries. When you notice a pattern, break it and move on.
Prophylactic Measures for Reducing Anxiety
You don't always have to reduce anxiety by responding to stressful situations as they arise. Instead, make certain prophylactic actions part of your daily routine. For example, set a few minutes aside to practice mindfulness, meditate, or try a yoga sequence in the morning. In doing so, you reduce your stress levels before an anxiety-triggering event happens.
Another prophylactic measure: The benefits of creating a gratitude list
Writing a gratitude list may not relieve your anxiety immediately. However, by producing one, you give your brain the chance to focus on the happier elements of your life that reduce anxiety, rather than the negative ones that increase it.
Like your daily meditation practice, your gratitude list should include the things you're grateful for. This could mean a skill, the fact that you're able to breathe, the people you're able to interact with, or even how you're trying to tackle your anxiety head-on. Try to make the list varied each day. As it grows, you'll find more reasons to feel happy.
Ways to Develop Your Own Happiness Project
Talking and Writing can Work Wonders
Do you have someone to talk to? Whether it's a friend who's happy to listen to you rant or a sympathetic family member, turn to them. They don't always have to have an answer; simply listening is therapeutic in itself.
Or, if you're not the talking type, write your feelings and worries down. Creating a daily worry journal and burning or deleting the contents is cathartic. If you do choose to burn, though, do so in a safe place. Nobody appreciates arson-related disasters.
9 Simple Tips for Reducing Anxiety That I Haven't Mentioned Yet
- Try a crossword; I know this one sounds dull, but it's another one of those dopamine-producing activities that will boost your focus.
- Get outside more often; Whether it's a walk in the forest or a trip to the beach, you'll snag enough Vitamin D to help combat depression.
- Cry; Yep, that's right, it's good to cry. There's evidence to suggest that crying releases toxins that contribute to anxiety, so if you feel the urge just give into it.
- Write gratitude lists; Each day when you wake up, write down three things you're grateful for.
- Read a self-help book; Not every self-help book will work for you, but if you find one with useful tips you'll develop coping mechanisms that release some of your anxieties.
- Find a therapist; If doing so is within your budget, finding a therapist is infinitely helpful. As complete strangers, they've heard it all and you won't feel judged when you release your feelings to them.
- Switch off your phone; From the faux-perfection of Instagram to the temptation to check up on a spouse, your phone is toxic. Veer away from it if it's making you anxious.
- Set a timer and give into your emotions; Ignoring your emotions isn't healthy. But, neither is ruminating excessively. If you feel anxious on a daily basis, set a timer and dedicate that slot to acknowledging your emotions.
- Make one small change each day; Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't deconstruct your anxiety that way either. Instead, think of one small change you can make each day and stick to it. That could mean spending less time with a negative person, cutting down on a bad habit, or getting ten minutes more sleep. Every little step helps!
Always remember, there's no shame in seeking medical advice
Medics aren't just there to dish out pills and push you through the door. Anxiety is a term that covers a broad spectrum. Visit your doctor and they'll listen and point you in the direction of a treatment that's ideal for your particular situation.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Robyn Parr