5 Healthy Ways to Manage Anxiety

5 Healthy Ways to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issues in the US. More than 19 percent of American adults had an anxiety disorder in the past year and more than 30 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. [https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml] An anxiety disorder significantly increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. About 20 percent of people with anxiety disorders develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives. [https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/substance-abuse

People with anxiety disorders often use drugs or alcohol to manage their symptoms and may end up developing substance use disorders. For example, it’s common for people with a social anxiety disorder to drink to make social situations feel less overwhelming and end up needing alcohol just to socialize normally. For anyone with co-occurring addiction and anxiety disorder, getting integrated treatment for the anxiety disorder is crucial for a strong recovery. After the initial treatment period, you may have to continue therapy or medication to keep anxiety under control. Once you’ve taken care of the basics, the following tips can help you better manage your anxiety symptoms.

Breathe deeply.

One of the fastest and most effective ways to bring your anxiety under control is to spend a few minutes taking slow, deep breaths. Research has shown that slow breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) sometimes called the “rest and digest” system. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5709795/] The PNS counteracts the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, the “fight or flight” system, which is overactive when you feel anxious. Deep breathing relaxes your body and reduces anxiety. Try taking a few deep breaths and emphasizing the exhale. For example, you might breathe in for a count of four and exhale for a count of six until you start feeling calmer. 

Get regular exercise.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety and it helps in several ways. First, it can quickly reduce anxiety at the moment. If you have time to take a walk or go for a run, it can raise levels of endorphins and serotonin, improving your mood and clearing your head. It can also distract you from excessive worrying. However, even if you can’t drop what you’re doing and go for a run, exercise can still reduce your overall anxiety. Research shows that regular exercise changes how you perceive stress, probably by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/] The HPA axis is connected to several brain areas, including the limbic system, which is related to motivation and mood and the amygdala, which is related to fear and stress. Finally, regular exercise helps you sleep better, which, among many other benefits, reduces your level of anxiety.

Get plenty of sleep.

Getting lots of quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. On the other hand, sleeping too little can worsen mental health issues, including anxiety, and increase your risk of developing anxiety and depression. One study of more than 1000 teens found that sleep problems preceded the development of anxiety disorders in 27 percent of cases. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health] Unfortunately, anxiety can also interfere with sleep. If this happens, make sure you’re practicing good sleep hygiene, such as sleeping in a dark, quiet room, and that you’re sleeping regular hours. If you still can’t sleep, a therapist might be able to help you using a specific kind of cognitive behavioral therapy designed for sleep.

Cut back on caffeine.

So far, the research on diet and anxiety is a bit mixed. Some have found that reducing your intake of sugar and omega-6 fat might reduce anxiety but dietary changes appear to be more effective for preventing depression than anxiety. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, it might be a good idea to cut back on caffeine. There are two primary reasons. First, caffeine stimulates your sympathetic nervous system, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate. While this might get you going in the morning, it also increases your baseline stress. Second, caffeine has a half-life of about four to six hours, which means if you have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, between an eighth and a quarter of that caffeine will still be in your system at bedtime. Sleep is crucial for keeping anxiety under control, so if you have trouble sleeping, you might want to cut back on caffeine.

Take action.

If you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel anxiety disproportionate to the cause or you may feel anxious for no apparent reason at all. However, sometimes you might feel anxious for a good reason. Maybe there’s some task you’ve been putting off that weighs heavily on your mind. If you can identify something you need to do and just take care of it, having it off your plate can reduce your overall feelings of anxiety. If it’s something bigger, then taking some small steps in the right direction can make you feel a little better. For example, maybe you need to find a new apartment but the task seems too overwhelming. You might set an email alert on a real estate site for apartments in your price range. It’s just a small action but it gets the process started.

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Patrick Hart Consultants