Much of the population of America struggles with anxiety and worry. Don't believe me? It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with anxiety and a large percentage of those people are on anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication in order to treat the symptoms. Anxiety is a force to be reckoned with, but often it wins the battle, especially as people begin to add more years of experience to their days. When you have lived long enough, you begin to realize that bad things really do happen to good people, young people and even the most careful of people. The things you've lived through personally might be enough to fill volumes of books. But if it is a force to be reckoned with, we need to be armed to fight against it, lest it overcome us. Most people know that anxiety and worry are huge stressors on the body and can cause long term damage to our physical health and psyche. What most people don't know is how to get the anxiety and worry to stop. In some cases, there might be chemical imbalances that are causing the deep cycles of anxiety and worry. If this is the case for you, do not feel guilt about getting help. In many cases, however, a change in lifestyle and a few simple helps can greatly reduce your feelings of anxiety, provided you're willing to make lifestyle changes. Even if you are on medication, these ideas might be helpful to you and perhaps over time you could reduce the amount of medication that you need. If you are up for a challenge, read on.
If you are like most of us, food is a large part of your life, but not necessarily the healthiest part. Our culture is saturated with quick, easy meals that are destroying our ability to fight against depression. Foods high in starch and fat sit heavily in our guts with very few vitamins and minerals able to be absorbed. “Simply” making some changes to diet can be a great help. But simple things are not always easy to put into practice. If you're not used to eating vegetables a few times a day, increase them. Take out grains unless they're whole grains. See how you feel. Cut out sugar. I wouldn't advise doing this all at once, but take each a step at a time and pay attention to how different you feel. You'll find the things that make the biggest difference for you over time.
Cut out caffeine. Caffeine can increase your cortisol levels. When those go up, your anxiety levels naturally follow. You can't help but feel nervous and jittery when there is a stimulant coursing through your system. If you are a heavy caffeine consumer, you'll need to wean yourself off gradually sodas not to get major headaches. Replace your drink of choice with healthy alternatives that have some vitamin benefits, like smoothies, or herbal teas. This one change can be the difference between an anxiety filled day and one that you can keep under control.
Exercise. Endorphins released during exercise can boost your mood and also keep the anxiety at bay because that energy is being spent on something useful. Speaking of useful, instead of going to a gym to exercise, try exerting that energy in a way that is meaningful to you and your family so that you will get more than one benefit. Garden or raise animals. Remodel parts of your house. Paint rooms that are in need of TLC. Spending that nervous energy in a useful way will make you feel better, even if you end up exhausted.
Set a timer. It's going to sound strange, but start setting a timer if you find yourself worrying too much about one particular issue. It's honorable to try to come up with solutions to problems in your life, but if you're not careful, they'll take over your thought life. So, set a timer, perhaps even keep a record book of when your time to think deeply about a subject is scheduled for. Jot down any ideas that can help you to solve the problem. Then, let it go. When it tries to re-enter, push it away and go and do something physically different. Wash dishes, fold clothes, change the oil in your car, research grafting fruit trees, ANYTHING! Doing something else or researching other subjects will break the cycle. If you follow this pattern enough, your body will form new pathways in the brain and will begin changing the subjects you dwell on in shorter amounts of time. It is the formation of a new habit, so be relentless with yourself, especially at first. If it's 2:00 AM and your mind will not stop, get up and start a load of laundry, then read or do something else productive. Many people find that they are eventually able to wake, decide that they'll think about that problem during a certain set time the next day and go back to sleep with enough practice. It can be life-changing to be able to give yourself permission to sleep despite the fact that there are frayed ends in your life. The truth is, there will always be frayed ends, unfinished business or less than satisfactory outcomes, but losing sleep doesn't improve them, or you.
It is said that most of what we worry about is out of our control. Many people worry about the past, which they cannot change. That is a complete waste of energy. If you are worried that you've hurt someone in the past, ask forgiveness (actionable step) and move on. If there is nothing you can do about a past situation, worry will not change one thing. If you're worried about some future thing, decide whether there is anything tangible you can do about it. If there is, plot a course of action...write it down in your book. If there is not, then no amount of worry will change it, so let it go.
Worry and anxiety are things that eat away at the very core of who we are. If we allow them to carry on in our heads without capturing them and making them submit to our will, they will drag us down to our lowest point. Our physical, emotional & mental health is dependent upon us making a change for the better within our own minds.