The pandemic was not easy. Many of us have been experiencing increasing feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and even panic. I can hear more and more people in my social circles being diagnosed and treated for anxiety and depression. The fact that it’s so common these days somehow makes people think it’s the new human condition. I refused to accept and wanted to figure out how to beat anxiety.
I took my kids to their pediatrician’s appointment, where we discussed this topic. We discussed many things that I thought were simple to understand, and the steps he outlined for reducing anxiety were practical and doable. I want to share these along with my own research in the hope they may be helpful for you as well. In fact, I created a little ‘good habits’ diagram with obvious things we can do – a nice little reminder to do them.
Anxiety is not uncommon, but…experiencing anxiety here and there is a normal part of life. However, if the feelings are so persistent and intense that they interfere with day-to-day life, it’s important to consult a mental health professional.
Anxiety begets Anxiety
Being around anxious people can create or increase one’s own anxiety. It could be called ‘second-hand anxiety’! This is because we have certain cells in the brain called mirror neurons. These are responsible for feeling empathy, which is a great thing about humans. However, not so great for our own levels of anxiety, which increase by internalizing someone else’s stresses. Just being conscious of these ‘contagious’ effects can help us.
To set boundaries and disengage for a bit while you are recharging your own battery is not being selfish. It’s like in an airplane, putting your oxygen mask on first before helping a loved one. And remember, those mirror neurons also mirror positive energy. So, get with that friend that makes you laugh or see a movie or show that makes you laugh from your soul. For me, it’s messaging my friend. We share funny memes and say ridiculous things, and LOL!
It’s all in your head!
No, I am not saying that your anxiety is a figment of your imagination. In fact, quite the opposite! The brain inside your head has specific parts responsible for inducing anxiety and showing physiological changes in MRI scans. The Amygdala, a tiny part of the ‘emotional’ brain associated with the perception of fear, shows a high level of hyperactivity in patients with clinical anxiety.
The frontal lobe, or the ‘cognitive’ part of the brain, usually overrides fear with logic. When the emotional part overrides the logical part, we get anxiety! Many therapies work to ‘nudge’ the brain toward a less anxious state. https://www.brainfacts.org/diseases-and-disorders/mental-health/2018/what-part-of-the-brain-deals-with-anxiety-what-can-brains-affected-by-anxiety-tell-us-062918
Habits to beat anxiety
These are the good day-to-day habits that help you beat anxiety.
Eat high protein and whole foods.
Yes! All the evil foods that cause diabetes and other chronic illnesses also trigger anxiety in the brain. So eating well is very important for mental health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-well-to-help-manage-anxiety-your-questions-answered-2018031413460
No sweat off your backs. A bit of exercise goes a long way!
Even 15 minutes a day can greatly impact how you feel. Even simple things like walking around the house, going upstairs and downstairs a few times, or jumping jacks while watching sports or a TV show all count towards a calmer mind.
Get those ZZZs.
Admit it, too much mobile and TV activity has made us compromise our sleep. Humans are not nocturnal animals. We are blind as a bat in the dark. So biology says we should retire in the dark and wake up bright and early with the sun. It sounds simple enough, but 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep
Let there be light! Get some sun.
This boosts the mood hormone called Serotonin. You get a bonus of focus and calm with enough sun! https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight.
Meditation is not mumbo jumbo.
Spending 10 minutes meditating in the middle of your day or before bedtime can make all the difference in resetting a hyperactive mind and finding calm. Growing up in eastern culture, meditating was a part of our daily routine, no different than eating or sleeping. Don’t take my word for it. Here is strong scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation to beat anxiety.
Pass the Vitamin D!
Many of us live in areas with a little sun in the winter months. Doctors recommend taking Vitamin supplements. A deficiency of Vitamin D causes many more health problems, including anxiety. While eating a pill is not the same as having fun in the sun, it is a super easy way to boost immunity and keep bones healthy and the mind calm!
Express gratitude and be kind
Who knew saying thanks means your mind will thank you later?! I’ll admit it, at first, my cynical mind didn’t believe it. I gave it a try. I texted a co-worker, thanking them for their work. It wasn’t too bad. Then I called a friend thanking them for lending us their car. And I bought a gift card for a friend who had continuously helped us for years. The next day, I called my parents, thanking them for making many sacrifices to raise me.
Then…you get the idea! The catharsis that comes from expressing gratitude and kindness cannot be expressed. Do it, and you will see. Here are some nice ideas. https://www.rtor.org/2020/07/08/how-practicing-gratitude-helps-you-deal-with-anxiety/
I hope you find these steps to beat anxiety helpful and habit-forming. Of course, many drugs and psychotherapy techniques are available for those of us that have severe forms of anxiety disorder. I hope that a lot of these habits complement or replace the need for more severe forms of therapy that do have side effects.
Yours in health, happiness, and a peaceful mind.