Last post we looked at discovering the cause of anxiety. Today we are going to begin to look at ways in which we can begin to treat our anxiety and take back control of our emotions, our mind and our life. We are going to take them one at a time, starting today with Physical coping strategies. Please know that the methods we will be discussing, although very valuable, are not all that is available. Before beginning any lifestyle changes it is important to check with your doctor to make sure they are safe and right for you.
Why start with physical coping strategies? Quite often anxiety can cause a paralyzing effect when it comes to mental and emotional changes. There are, however, some physical tools we can use to ease the level of stress that may allow us to then begin to explore methods more directly associated with the mind and emotions. As with any challenge we face in life, anxiety can best be approached using several methods and what works for one may certainly not work for everyone. The order in which you utilize the methods we discuss is less important that your willingness to try them. There will be enough options in each category to find something not only helpful, but enjoyable. Just because we are utilizing these tools to help us become less stress and anxious does not mean we cannot enjoy the process. Quite the contrary. The more we enjoy the method we choose, and the easier it is to incorporate into our lifestyle, the more likely we are to stick with them and the more successful we will be.
The first physical coping method we will look at is being physical. Do not worry. I am not going to tell you to go to a gym, an activity that causes anxiety in some, or run in sandals like the lady in the picture above. Both of those would be helpful, but there are so many other options. One of the main symptoms of anxiety is feeling tired. Believe it or not, this will only be made worse by not moving. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. That is as true of human beings as it is of planets in the universe. The important thing is to just move. Find a physical exercise you enjoy. It could be basketball, swimming, hiking, roller skating, dancing or just going for a stroll in the park.
Why is exercise important? Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. Not only does it increase energy and provide a boost to your immune system, two things that can suffer with anxiety, but it also releases endorphins. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter which is a fancy term for a chemical messenger of the brain. What message does this neurochemical transmit? When endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, a pleasure hormone called dopamine is released. As you might guess a pleasure hormone helps relieve pain and manage stress making you feel good. In addition the chemical serotonin is released when you exercise. Serotonin helps regulate mood, body temperature and appetite. These three areas are also affected greatly by anxiety. There are even more beneficial chemicals released during exercise. As you can see, exercise can help you feel better from the inside and you don’t even have to think about it, you just have to move.
Another physical action many people do not consider is their diet. High processed foods such as chips, snack cakes and fast food can increase anxiety. A diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other such items can not only increase your good health and immune system, they can actually decrease your level of anxiety. A healthy diet is something we can all benefit from. It will not only help our waistline, it will help our bottom line when it comes to reducing anxiety. Start by adding additional healthy foods to your diet. Swap out a bottle of water for your usual soda. Enjoy a nice healthy protein bowl instead of a burger at lunch. If you try to transform your diet all at once that can cause additional anxiety. Meal prep is another great way to take a lot of the stress out of healthy eating. On what is your slowest day of the week try putting together a few healthy dishes to make cooking and eating them a breeze.
These are but two physical actions you can begin to take today to help cope and treat your anxiety. As with any major health change, make sure to consult the appropriate professional. Physical actions are a great way to begin to reduce anxiety because they do not put additional stress on your already taxed mind. Here area few more you may consider. Quit drinking alcohol. It may seem to relax you, but from a physical standpoint can stress your body even further. Ditch the caffeine. When we are feeling a little tired because of how anxious we are feeling, it may be tempting to reach for a coffee or energy drink. That can leave you feeling jittery and increase the level of stress in the system. Practice deep breathing. Another action that can benefit anyone. By paying attention to your breathing you refocus the mind off of the anxiety and focused solely on the breathing. Plus, deep breathing has a host of other benefits as well. I encourage you to try some, if not all, of these actions to find which ones work for you. Do not stop there. A simple Google search of ‘physical treatments for anxiety’ can open up a lot of other options for you.