If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. (And that’s just the ones they know about.)
While there are numerous reasons for someone to feel anxious, it’s safe to say that the last few years have not been a walk in the park. In between a global pandemic and polarizing political climate, people have lost jobs, homes, and their lives. It makes sense that you’re feeling the way you’re feeling.
While it may make sense that your body is going into overdrive to try to cope with uncertainty, trauma or whatever story your thoughts are trying to tell you, it does not need to be this way.
Scroll down to learn 10 things you can do to manage and prevent your anxiety from creeping in.
1. Become aware of triggers
Becoming aware of your body and mind is the first thing that’s going to help you take control and start steering yourself in a better (less anxious) direction. More often than not, many of our daily habits can exacerbate or even cause our anxiety.
Substances that can make you feel anxious:
- Alcohol – #hangxiety
- Caffeine – #jitters
- Sugar – #sugarblues
Alcohol, caffeine and sugar are all notorious for triggering anxiety because of the way they interact with our central nervous system. While they may give us a dopamine hit that rewards us in the short-term, they can cause your cortisol levels to rise and ultimately disrupt sleep.
2. Protect Your Sleep
Sleep is when your body & mind repair, you process emotions and ensure that your systems can complete their cycles and start fresh. It is incredibly important to get between 6 and 8 hours every night.
Our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s production of cortisol to be alert and melatonin to sleep, cannot function properly if your body is strung out on caffeine, working to digest red wine or is rapidly producing cortisol because you’ve been staring at blue light wavelengths on your phone.
Tips for saving your sleep:
- Don’t drink coffee after 12 pm.
- Avoid consuming more than 2 alcoholic beverages.
- Look into blue light blocking glasses to wear indoors once the sun has gone down.
- Leave your phone out of your room.
- Drink a cup of chamomile tea
3. Move Your Body
While food is the most over utilized tool for medicating when stressed, exercise is the most underutilized. By raising our heart rates and strengthening muscles, we are stimulating our brains, building endorphins and providing ourselves with an outlet to exert anxious energy.
If you’re feeling anxious:
- Go for a walk
- Swim laps
- Take a group fitness class
- Head to the gym
- Practice yoga (more on this soon!)
4. Build Your Energy
While exercise is a brilliant way to trigger the release of endorphins, which help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, there is only so much the body can give if you don’t have enough energy and oxygen in the tank. (Raise your hand if you’ve experienced the afternoon energy crash and need coffee or a beer to keep you powering through.)
Equally as important as moving your body, is taking time to do slow breath work, energy-building exercises from Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) or Tai Chi. An integral part of Chinese medicine, the concept of purposefully building energy has been practiced for hundreds of years.
Two treatments we really like are reiki and crystal work. Bryony and Birch has a reiki and crystal practitioner who is able to stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities by moving her hands directly above your body. She also places crystals on different areas of your body to cleanse and regenerate new energy. These sessions help relieve pain, anxiety, fatigue and depression. They also enhance your quality of life, boost your mood and may improve some symptoms and conditions such as headache, tension, insomnia and nausea.
5. Practice Mindfulness & Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand and can be a fantastic way for you to gain awareness about your thoughts without judgement. While mindfulness is something you’ll do while talking, walking, eating or crafting, meditation is a practice done independently.
Sometimes guided, sometimes not – you can use meditation to overcome the noise inside and outside of your head. Arguably harder than going for a run, taking time to sit or lie with your eyes shut down can help you become greater than your thoughts and ultimately transcend into a higher level of consciousness.
At Bryony and Birch, our yoga instructors incorporate their own personal touches of meditation throughout class with inspirational quotes, some of their own words, some of favorite poets or something that resonates with them and connects to their class. While in Savasana pose, some of our teachers wind you down in a deep guided meditation.
6. Practice Yoga
When it comes to managing anxiety, yoga can be a fantastic tool to help you feel centered, grounded and in-control of your mind and body. We personally love starting our days with a yoga flow because it allows both our bodies and minds to set an intention for the day. Instead of facing the day in a reactive manner, our practice allows us to be proactive.
At Bryony & Birch, we offer all levels and numerous styles of yoga designed to help you untense your muscles, shut down your brain and finish feeling revitalized.
7. Tap Into Your Resilience
Resilience is essentially your ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or a negative event. But what happens when the changes and negative events keep coming and coming and coming? How far can we be pushed?
The good news is: thanks to all of the lovely scientists who have studied neuroplasticity, we have the power to change our minds and thinking.
Tips for building resilience:
- Adopt a Growth Mindset (we recommend reading Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential by Dr Carol S Dweck.)
- Recognize when you need to take time out to do breath work, take a walk or have a nap.
- Reframe your thoughts. (Tony Robbins once said: “Life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.”)
- Put time between your initial reaction and your actual action.
- Be clear on your values and goals. (If you’re not making value-based decisions, you’re more likely to find yourself in unenjoyable situations.)
8. Do a Digital Detox
We thought about putting your phone/ social media under #1, but really digital triggers are in a league of their own!
Even if you haven’t directly been affected by the hurt in the world, it’s common to experience compassion fatigue. It’s okay to take a break, re-center and come back when you’re ready and more equipped to do something positive with what you’re reading and seeing.
As for social media – it’s so easy to let these apps suck our time, make ourselves compare what we have to others and get caught up in an overly-filtered world.
Tips for unplugging:
- Delete your social media apps from your phone
- Delete your news app
- If possible, delete your emails from your phone
- During the workday, put your phone on airplane mode when focusing on a task
- Avoid having the TV or radio on as background noise.
9. Speak to a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great way to find the mindfulness tools you need to help build your resilience and get objective advice regarding a particularly difficult situation.
While it may be difficult to find someone to see in person these days, there are plenty of people offering Zoom sessions.
10. Speak to an Integrative Medicine Practitioner About Your Gut Health
Your gut and brain are interconnected, which means when your gut isn’t happy, your brain isn’t happy. Do you feel your anxiety in your stomach? What are your bowel movements like? There’s a chance that inflammation in your gut could be making your anxiety symptoms worse.
Integrative medicine practitioners look at your diet, lifestyle and medical conditions to help treat the cause of your ailments, not just the symptoms.
Yoga in Amesbury and around the world
While we offer in person group and private yoga classes at Bryony and Birch in Amesbury, we also have a virtual yoga app that gets you a spot no matter where you are in the world.
What you get for only $29.99/month
- Unlimited live virtual yoga classes
- 24/7 access to on-demand library of classes
- In-studio classes (Subject to availability)
- Outdoor classes (Weather permitting)
- 10% off one salon service per month at the Bryony & Birch Hair Loft (located downtown Amesbury, MA)