Anxiety is a very natural byproduct of living in the modern world. Even without the pandemic, we would all still face stressors that cause anxiety. Anxiety is our body telling us that there is something to fear.
Feeling nervous or apprehensive in anticipation of a major event is completely normal. That type of anxiety is uncomfortable but transient. Many of us experience a different kind of anxiety, a persistent kind.
Whether caused by stress from a troubled world, a difficult work environment, or other outside forces, or by high levels of inner worry or dread, persistent anxiety can interfere with our ability to function and enjoy our lives.
How we cope with and manage our anxiety is very personal, as are the ways it manifests in our daily lives. Anxiety may be an endless loop of worries, increased heart rate, or trouble concentrating.
Anxiety that lasts and interferes with your life may rise to the level of an anxiety disorder, the most common psychiatric disorder. A doctor will help you determine if your anxiety is severe enough to warrant a diagnosis.
Whether you have an anxiety disorder or not, there are natural ways we can all reduce our experience of the symptoms of anxiety.
Exercise releases endorphins that elevate mood and helps the body release tension through physical exertion. It distracts from anxious thoughts and increases the body’s resilience.
The keys to managing anxiety through exercise are finding an exercise you like and doing that exercise regularly. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore work-out, people experience relief from simple exercise like walking, particularly walking outside, cycling, or yoga.
It’s easy to tell people to exercise to relieve anxiety, but it can be hard to do. An elevated heart rate from exercise can feel very much like an anxiety symptom. The answer is to start slowly and build up.
We need to let our bodies adjust to new sensations, and those that result from exercise are no exception. Give yourself time to adjust and talk to your doctor before you begin if you’re new to exercising.
Of all our body functions, sleep may be the most powerful in managing stress and anxiety. Our bodies reset and repair as we sleep, allowing our brains to relax and process the events of the day.
We know what you’re thinking: your anxiety is keeping you awake. Make sure you have proper sleep hygiene to maximize your ability to get a restful night’s sleep. If you aren’t sure what steps to take, read our article on ways to improve your sleep for some guidance.
If you have persistent difficulty getting to or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. Sleep is a superpower that we all need to use to our advantage.
Mindfulness meditation has seen monumental growth since the onset of the pandemic and the popularity of platforms like Headspace. The principle is simple—staying in the moment and observing our feelings without judgment.
Simple principles are not always simple practices, and that’s what mindfulness meditation is, a practice. Guided meditations involve relaxing your body, focusing on your breath, and trying to experience feelings without dwelling on them or letting them spiral out of control.
Have a Cup of Tea
Tea, specifically green tea, contains an amino acid called L-theanine and various other antioxidants. L-theanine is thought to increase dopamine levels and help reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety.
Green tea does have some caffeine, which you should generally avoid when you’re experiencing anxiety. But the amount of caffeine in green tea is low and seems to boost the effectiveness of L-theanine.
Other types of tea associated with anxiety relief include chamomile and peppermint teas.
Another thing tea has going for it is the ritual of preparation. Choosing a favorite mug or cup, brewing or steeping, adding a touch of sweetener, and the physical sensation of a hot beverage all contribute to the calming effects of your tea of choice.
Eat Your Way Calm
Every day we hear more about how our diets affect not only our physical health but also our mental health. Eating healthy foods for both body and mind can help reduce our anxiety.
Some foods, like those that contain a lot of caffeine, are logical ones to avoid. But it’s also a good idea to look at how food makes you feel. If you feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating fast food, that physical discomfort can increase anxiety.
On the other hand, there are likely foods that make you feel good. Not traditional comfort foods, which tend to be fatty and often backfire, but the ones that make you feel satisfied and energetic.
A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and other high-quality proteins helps your blood sugar remain stable, reduces episodes of sugar highs and crashes, and generally helps your body feel healthy.
Those same foods help your body deal with the effects of stress by reducing inflammation. Sitting down to a meal and focusing on the food you’re eating also promotes mindfulness.
It’s tempting to want to find one thing, something easy, to take away our anxiety. But anxiety is natural and in some cases warns us of danger.
In our world, however, stress from everyday living is causing us all to have more anxiety than is healthy. Easing that anxiety takes both time and patience. Try some of these natural methods of increasing calm, decreasing stress, and relieving anxiety.
Some may work for you better than others but give yourself a chance to try. Also, remember that anxiety is not a weakness or failure. If you can’t handle it on your own, see your doctor.
Accepting yourself, as you are, and asking for help when you need it may be the first step in managing your anxiety. Remind yourself that anxiety is a common struggle, one that millions of others are facing along with you.