The lovely Micheline from Lunar Rainbows/ Holistic Chick is here today to share her top ten tips for coping with anxiety.
Hi all! In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, one of our hosts Leah over at Uncorked Thoughts suggested I whip up a Top 10 post on the best ways to deal with anxiety. Of course, considering my background in natural health, these will have natural health leanings but I've also mixed in generalized tips and advice as well!
1. Breathing. Breathing is important - it sounds like common sense or too simple to actually have an effect but time and time again studies have shown that taking a moment to stop and focus on breathing in and out slowly has positive results in calming down nerves, anxiety or panic attacks. I shared a fun little 60 second video previously that addresses proper breathing techniques, to view it click here.
2. Nutrition. Think of your body like your car. Food is the fuel that keeps your car running smoothly. If you're prone to anxiety or panic attacks you should be aware of how caffeine, sugar, artificial ingredients (food colouring, preservatives, aspartame etc) can negatively impact your nervous system and overall mental health. Speaking from experience when I started eliminating coffee and processed foods from my diet, I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxiety levels. That doesn't mean I don't have caffeine or sweet deserts in my life but instead of visiting a local coffee chain, I drink homemade tea and instead of processed store-bought cheese cake, I make my own so I can decide what goes in it.
3. Exercise. Similarly exercise has been proven to help with a variety of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic attacks. And I'm not specifically referring to lifting weights at the gym - although if that is your thing that's cool too! But the reality is anything you can do to get your blood pumping works just as well. You can have a nice walk in the park, do yoga , or even dance up a storm in your living room! Whatever way you chose to stay active, so long as it gets you moving and works up a sweat ;)
4. Using food as medicine - this differs from my point in #2 where I talked about certain foods aggravating mental health issues. In this case, we're talking about adding certain foods to your diet which have been shown to alleviate symptoms of stress and depression. Foods like avocados, chia seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, berries, salmon and dark leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts...), because of their nutritional content have been known to lessen symptoms of anxiety, stress and mood disorders.
5. Adding certain natural supplements to you diet. Again I won't go into specifics because I'm a strong believer that a personalized approach to nutrition is best but for the most part, people with mental health issues can benefit from a good quality B-complex vitamin, omega-3 oils (like from salmon, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nuts, avocados or olive oil) and minerals such a magnesium are very helpful with stress, anxiety and depression. Be sure you purchase these at a health food store or in the natural section of your supermarket. Shopping big box stores will offer better discounts but be mindful of any added preservatives they could sneak in there. *Note that this is generalized information that doesn't take into account personal allergies, or medication interactions. Consult your health care practitioner before making any drastic changes to your health routine.
6. Pets and plants. Study after study has proven that caring for a pet helps people lessen symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress...etc. Animals have healing powers for people because they offer no-strings-attached companionship and loyalty. And if you live somewhere where pets aren't allowed, don't let that discourage you. There's always the option of getting fishes for a fish tank or even hamsters, ferrets, birds, lizards...Similarly plant life has been know to be beneficial for mental health. Having greenery in the home is a wonderful way to take care of something living without tying yourself down with a dog or cat. And of course there's always the option of helping out at your local animal shelter.
7. Journaling This is another time-tested technique that has shown useful in dealing with all kinds of mental health issues. Sometimes the trouble is just being overwhelmed by stressful or sad feelings and writing these things down is a good way to release them - journaling helps get all that negativity out of your system and also sort through your feelings. You'll find that they become much less overwhelming when you can make sense of them a bit. It may sound too simple to work but many people swear by this practice.
8. Living well A general sort of point here that may sound like a no-brainer to some but it bears repeating: If you live a healthy life, you'll have better mental health. That means that excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fast-food.. etc will have a negative impact on your overall health, including mental health. The same is true for smoking, use of recreational drugs or abuse of prescription drugs. Living well is an inside job that requires some work but the results are well worth it.
9. A good support system - this includes family, friends, loved-ones, online network, support groups, therapy...what have you. The important thing is that you surround yourself with people who are willing to support you when the chips are down and you're at your worst. It's crucial to realise that we're not alone in dealing with mental health issues. Often times just talking with other people who are going through the same thing or who understand where you're coming from and know how to help can make a world of difference!
10. Bottom line: do whatever works for YOU. If working out helps you deal with stress, then go run around a few times a week and burn off those nerves. If you start looking at nutrition and notice a change, you owe it to yourself to establish some rules for trying to avoid what doesn't agree with your body. Whether it's meditation, music, or journaling your feelings - find a regime that fits and stick to it! With a little work, you can get on track to a better quality of life :)
I hope you enjoyed my top 10 tips.
If you have any other tricks that work for you, share them in the comments below.