Anxiety is your body’s natural reaction to stress. Specifically, it’s a feeling of intense fear and impending doom. While it’s normal to experience anxiety every once in a while, like before a job interview or on the first day of school, some people experience anxiety more frequently. Usually, these individuals are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Whether you experience it occasionally or have been diagnosed with a disorder, you may have spent your time researching anxiety life hacks at one point. If so, today we’re sharing some habits to adopt for anxiety relief that can help.
6 Lifestyle Changes For Anxiety You Should Try
Depending on the type of disorder, anxiety can be caused by a combination of factors. There are also different types of anxiety disorders, each of which has its own causes. These disorders include social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Additionally, situational anxiety may occur, which is when you experience anxiety whenever you come across a particular situation, such as public speaking. Although this feeling usually subsides the more often someone is exposed to the situation, it can possibly progress into a phobia.
Whether you experience anxiety every once in a while or have a disorder, we can all agree that it isn't a fun feeling. You may have researched tons of life hacks or habits to reduce anxiety and to help you overcome your condition and get through certain challenges that induce this feeling but to no avail.
With all of the information out there about these conditions, it can be hard to find natural solutions for your anxiety disorder that work. Fortunately, we’re sharing some helpful tips on how to beat anxiety without medication and healthy habits you can develop to overcome anxiety.
#1 Break Up With Caffeine
If you have an anxiety disorder or suffer from anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. Although there’s nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning, caffeine may cause nervousness and jitters, both of which can exacerbate the jumpy and scattered feelings that are common among anxiety sufferers.
Research shows that caffeine can actually worsen anxiety and lead to symptoms like restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thought and speech, and insomnia.1 The discomfort of insomnia alone can create anxiety, so imagine what all of these symptoms do to someone with an anxiety disorder.
With that said, if you are going to reduce your intake of caffeine or stop drinking it altogether, it’s best to do so slowly. Start by replacing caffeinated drinks with water to quench the thirst and help you flush it out of your system.
#2 Reduce Your Sugar Intake
A great form of natural care for anxiety relief is eating a balanced and healthy diet. Low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods, such as artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, and preservatives, can cause mood swings in some people and even affect the chemical balance in the brain.
A high-sugar diet can also affect your temperament. Added sugar is a contributor to anxiety, as it causes your blood sugar to go through a rollercoaster of spikes and crashes.
As your blood sugar crashes, so does your mood, causing irritability and spiking your anxiety levels. Although a sugary treat is good for the soul every once in a while, consider replacing that donut with an apple to avoid the spike in sugar.
#3 Engage in Some Form of Physical Activity
Exercising is a great way to spike your dopamine and serotonin levels naturally, elevating your mood while contributing to your overall mental and physical health. We’re not saying you have to become the next Olympic gold medalist but consider adding a 30-minute walk to your daily routine or taking up a particular sport or active hobby, like dancing.
One study found that people with anxiety disorders who reported high levels of physical activity were less likely to experience anxiety symptoms. Not only can the activity itself drive your focus away from the source of your anxiety, elevating your heart rate also changes your brain chemistry to increase antianxiety chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), endocannabinoids, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
If you’re looking to start with a slow or less intense form of exercise, start with yoga or pilates.
#4 Avoid Alcohol
Anxiety and alcohol use disorder are common co-occurring disorders that can severely impair your daily functioning. Many people with anxiety disorders drink alcohol in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms and promote relaxation.
However, alcohol changes brain chemistry, creating a chemical imbalance in the brain that can make symptoms worse once the alcohol itself has worn off. Although drinking may produce immediate relaxation and relief from anxiety symptoms, once the effects dissipate, you’re back to square one and looking for another solution.
Long-term alcohol abuse can also lead to alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. This can contribute to anxiety and impact your health and relationships in other ways.
Alcohol worsens anxiety symptoms by impairing the brain’s ability to cope with anxiety naturally and affecting your ability to respond to stress. Alcohol can also physically change the brain, specifically producing abnormalities in amygdala functioning.2
If you have anxiety, do not drink alcohol. It’s better to take up yoga, practice meditation, or watch your favorite movie to relax instead of drinking.
#5 Prioritize Sleep
Sleep has been proven time and time again to be a simple and effective aspect of maintaining mental health. Despite the 7 to 9 hours of sleep adults should have per night, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly a third of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
Without sleep, the brain doesn’t have time to relax and decompress. Anxiety can also make falling and staying asleep more difficult, creating an unhealthy cycle.
Below are some ways you can improve your sleep and anxiety:
- Only sleep at night
- Avoid taking too many naps or napping too long during the day
- Don’t read or watch television in bed
- Don’t use your phone, tablet, or laptop in bed
- Don’t go to another room if you can’t sleep
- Avoid caffeine and large meals before bedtime
- Keep your room dark and cool
- Going to sleep at the same time every night
#6 Limit Your Screen Time
Due to the highly advanced smartphones and tablets we have access to nowadays, it’s difficult not to spend most of your day in front of a screen. From Instagram to Pinterest to YouTube, there’s something online for everyone.
However, too much screen time takes away from the other positive things you can be doing to help your anxiety, like going outside and being active or having face-to-face time with loved ones. It’s also more tempting to compare ourselves to others online or read distressing news, both of which can contribute to anxiety.
While staying informed, connecting with others online, and enjoying a YouTube video here and there are fine, it’s important to not waste your day in front of a screen and enjoy other hobbies and habits that can better your anxiety and overall mental health.
Common Anxiety Habits to Be Aware Of
If you have anxiety, then you know the feeling isn’t fun. However, there are some people that don’t realize they struggle with anxiety.
Common anxiety habits include:
- Excessively playing with your hair
- Creating multiple to-do lists
- Not being able to sleep through the night
- Having weird dreams
- Changing your clothes multiple times
- Not being able to sit still
- Apologizing excessively
- Not making eye contact
- Biting your nails
- Picking at your skin
- Getting bored easily
- Forgetting important details
- Going to the bathroom a lot
- Double-checking everything
Get Help for Anxiety
If you’re feeling anxious, the ideas we offered are just a few ways that can help you manage your symptoms. Remember that while home remedies for anxiety are designed to alleviate symptoms, they aren’t always the solution.
If you struggle with anxiety chronically, it’s best to speak to a mental health professional that can explain anxiety’s effects on the brain and body and offer treatment options. Several of our Banyan rehab locations offer anxiety treatment and other mental health services for all kinds of anxiety disorders.
Because anxiety often co-occurs with substance use disorder, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment at several of our mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities. From medically monitored detox to inpatient drug treatment, our drug and alcohol treatment centers offer various resources and modalities to help people overcome addiction and mental illness.
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