The Elephant In The Room
Believe it or not there’s nothing wrong with you. Anxiety affects tens of millions of people world wide, though we don’t talk about it, many of us grapple daily with intrusive thoughts and worries — sometimes to a disabling degree. Quite frankly, it’s a very normal response to unprecedented times where the bombardment of email, social media, and onslaught of constant world news is now the norm. We never get an opportunity to shut down or recover, unless we consciously take steps to do so. There is only so much the human mind and body can process and wrap ourselves around. In this month’s blog post, I’m inviting you to consider the role anxiety may be playing in your own life, and options you have for making it better.
After close to 20 years in the helping profession, as therapist and now women’s leadership coach, the one thing I have come to learn for sure is that there is no one silver bullet or magic pill out there that serves as a cure-all. Just as there is no one thing that causes us anxiety, we need to consider a number of practical shifts we can make daily that will help to build our own collection of anti-anxiety strategies. From simple self-calming techniques to fundamental lifestyle and perspective shifts, I will offer suggestions on a wide-range of anti-anxiety tactics that are now out there and proven to be making a huge difference in the quality of people’s lives.
Combatting Anxiety One Step At Time
*Please note-anti-anxiety tactics are not numbered in any intentional order to follow
#1: Nutrition– The relationship between food, mood, and anxiety is garnering more and more attention. There is a growing body of evidence and research explaining how anxiety can be triggered by inadequate nutrition. Here, I share a great article found in Experience Life Magazine titled ANTI-ANXIETY EATING . It gives you the skinny and the scoop along with four key nutritional strategies that support a calmer state of mind. It’s a great place to start understanding how our eating habits can be vital in keeping anxiety at bay.
#2: Sleep– Sleep plays an essential role in regulating our emotions, behavior, and physiology. Experts agree that 7-9 hours of sleep are necessary for optimal health and wellbeing. However, as many as 40% of adults are sleep deprived, or regularly getting less than 6 hours a sleep a night. As someone who has struggled with quality sleep issues herself, this has become a number one priority for me to master as I know the toll it has taken on my mind and body. After much personal research, I have come up with an arsenal of sleep strategies ranging from deep breathing exercises, pre-bed-time rituals, understanding the effects of caffeine and alcohol on my system, along with tips for dealing with sleep interruptions and falling back to sleep. Here, I share a great podcast found on The Living Experiment “SLEEP” episode. Well worth carving out some time to listen to, it covers all you need to know.
#3: Exercise– Nothing surprising here, physical activity as we all know is a key factor when it comes to fighting off anxiety. From the obvious of creating a venue to release pent up emotions as well as distracting us from daily stressors-as it’s really hard to exert ourselves physically and ruminate on negative thoughts. But there is also a real science (“EFFECTS OF EXERCISE AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON ANXIETY” by Elizabeth Anderson and Geetha Shivakumar) behind how exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates productions of endorphins which together help foster a calmer state of mind.
#4: Social Connections– Meaningful relationships and physical interaction with others is a critical factor in helping to mitigate anxiety. People need people, whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, having the support of others tells our brain that we are safe, loved, and accepted. It’s not about the quantity of relationships but rather quality and most importantly physical proximity. Do not mistake likes on your social media page to go the distance. Or texts to qualify for meaningful conversations. Carve out time on your calendar to be with those who lift you up, make you laugh and support the best version of yourself.
#5: Digital Diet– Unplugging from the digital world is a great way to reduce the stress that being “on” all the time brings into our lives. Start powering down, limit the number of emails or texts that you send. Pick up the phone and have an actual conversation with someone or better yet go with face to face contact. Turn off your alerts from time to time, put your phone on silence mode, and only check into all correspondence or social media during specifically set times of your day for only a set amount of time each day. Create boundaries…technology isn’t going to slow down, it’s only going to become more consuming.
#6: Spend time Outdoors– Research indicates that getting out into nature reduces anxiety by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for digestion and rest; part of its activity involves slowing the heart rate. When the parasympathetic nervous system is active, physical side effects of anxietydecrease and subjective feelings of peace and relaxation increase. It doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture like a hike in the mountains, simply just stepping outside, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sun or wind on your face, and focusing your attention on the sights sounds, and smells around you can be enough to make a difference. But of course, the more you make a point to get outside the greater the benefits you will reap.
#7: Medication– As a former therapist I understand that everyone has different levels, types, and ways their body experiences anxiety. In some instances, when anxiety becomes so debilitating that putting into practice any of the above tactics becomes far reaching, medication may be a consideration. This is when it is time to consult with your doctor or a mental health practitioner. But with the understanding that anxiety is not like an infection that can be cured with medication. As it only helps to dull anxiety, acting as a bridge to access life long coping skills that when practiced daily can truly eradicate anxiety.
The reality is, life is challenging. There is no sugar coating that but I know despite how hectic, stressful, and complicated life can get, every woman with the right “tools” and self-knowledge can live a life with greater ease and success!
Wishing You Always The Best Of Success