After living through 2020, you’ve probably been through the anxiety cycle at least once — elevated heart rate? Check. Can’t get a full breath or are breathing heavily? Check. Can’t sleep once your head hits the pillow – even if you’re exhausted? Check. Other signs include a panicky sensation that may be moving from your stomach to your chest and back again, nervousness to the point where you can’t calm down or keep still, and constant or obsessive worry about small things, or problems you can’t control.
If you’ve experienced one or several of these symptoms, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. Your clinical presentation doesn’t have to rise to the level of a full-blown panic attack for this unwelcome emotion to disrupt your work or home. You could benefit from preventative measures that can keep the worries at bay or even stop an anxiety attack in its tracks.
First up: diet. What you consume will absolutely affect the way you feel, and you are anxious, it could be time for a change. Consider the following:
- Sugar and other forms of refined carbohydrate can exacerbate your anxiety symptoms.
- Alcohol is a hidden source of sugar that can negatively impact mood.
- Caffeine ramps up the system. Try eliminating it to see if your anxiety improves.
- Plenty of dark leafy greens can be helpful – maybe because they are a great source of magnesium, a proven anxiety-buster.
- Adequate water intake won’t fix everything, but being well hydrated could help your electrolyte balance, which normalizes heart rhythm.
- Timing matters. Skipping meals can lead to fluctuations in blood glucose, which can lead to anxious thoughts and feelings.
Lifestyle and habits impact mood as much as diet. Here are a few of the ways:
- Exercise can help regulate hormones, encourage healthy appetite and enhance sleep. It’s also a great way to snap out of a worry-loop.
- Adequate sleep gives you space to heal and reset, but paradoxically, anxiety often impacts healthy sleep patterns. Regular exercise, less screen-time late in the day, and supplements like melatonin, valerian and magnesium could help.
- Meditation can improve uncontrolled anxiety, even when meditating as little as a few minutes each day. If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of great apps on the market – Headspace, Calm and Ten Percent Happier are just a few.
- Breathing exercises can help regain a sense of control when in the midst of an anxiety flare. Try box breathing – breathe in for a count of five beats, hold your breath for five beats, let it out for five beats, and hold it again for five beats before breathing in again.
Finally, consider acupuncture, massage, or other bodywork or energy work. Human touch prompts the release of endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin, all powerful mood regulators. Acupuncture can be particularly effective because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “rest and digest” response. As with all good things, it may take some time and effort to see lasting results, but trying some of the above lifestyle and diet modifications in correlation with a course of regular acupuncture may help you be rid of anxious thoughts and feelings for good.