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The symptoms of anxiety can appear quite suddenly in the form of a panic attack and make you feel as if you’re going mad, having a heart attack or completely losing control. Or, it may be an ever-present feeling in the form of generalized anxiety disorder, where you keep worrying about everything all the time.
Anxiety appears in the lives of most people at some point or the other; however, if it begins to affect your life, productivity, sleep or the ability to establish relationships, then you may be suffering from anxiety disorder. And, research reveals that if anxiety is not treated, it can lead to serious issues like depression, suicide and early death. While anxiety has serious consequences, any medication that is usually prescribed to treat anxiety, is often not effective in the long run and the symptoms usually return.
In this article, we will be discussing some of the little known ways by which you can control anxiety that actually work and help you feel better in no time.
There are trillions of bacterial and yeast strains, both good and bad, present in our gut and maintaining the balance between these can help in our overall well-being. Studies reveal that there is a link between the gut bacteria and our mental health. A study revealed that when the balance of bacteria in the gut is disrupted, it can affect the microRNA in the brain, causing stress and anxiety. And, the research also suggested that balancing the gut bacteria can help to minimize the anxiety and stress.
Probiotics help to introduce good bacteria into the gut, which helps to maintain the balance of bacteria in the body and also helps to keep the gut healthy. Fermented foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt can help to ease the symptoms of anxiety and stress. And, a study revealed that people who ate more of probiotic-rich foods showed fewer signs of anxiety.
According to a study, following a Mediterranean diet that is loaded with veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, oily fish and a moderate quantity of red wine can help to boost the quality of life of people by reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. This may be due to the brain-boosting properties of omega-3 fats. You could also consider eating oily fish many times in a week as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids or you could take supplements of omega-3 fatty acids.
Most people suffering from anxiety are not really aware of the beneficial effects of acupuncture and that it can be used to treat anxiety. According to a research study, acupuncture acts on the areas of the brain and helps to reduce stress, pain and anxiety, and helps you relax.
According to a study, it was found that chewing gum regularly can help to reduce anxiety levels, increase alertness, reduce stress and improves your ability to multitask. Researchers claim that chewing can help to reduce cortisol levels and helps mental stimulation, allowing you to cope with stress in a better manner. And, chewing faster will make you feel calmer. According to studies in Japan, chewing fast helped to reduce cortisol by 25.8% in just 20 minutes, while chewing slowly caused the cortisol levels to drop by 14.4%.
And, if you do not really like chewing gum, you can munch on some celery. Celery is not only low in calories but also contains the chemical apigenin, that has a calming effect and can help in reducing insomnia and anxiety.
Owning a pet can have a huge positive effect on mental health. In general, a hug can help to reduce anxiety because of the production of oxytocin and the best part is that petting your cat or dog can have the same calming effect. Owning a pet and caring for it, not only brings some sort of structure to your life, it also helps to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. According to another study, owning a cat can help to reduce the risk of a stroke and heart attack by a third as it helps to relieve anxiety and stress, which lowers the blood pressure, reduces the heart rate and protects against heart disease.
If you have an important event that’s coming up such as giving a speech or taking a test and you are extremely anxious about it, try and reframe the situation and look at it in another manner. In an experiment, participants were asked to do some public speaking, sing karaoke and solve a math problem. And, before each event, the participant was asked to state whether they were excited, nervous or not feeling anything at all. The participants who claimed that they were excited performed better than the control group or the group that said that they were nervous.
Warm water can be extremely relaxing; however, you don’t really have to get into a bathtub each time you are stressed or anxious. Experts claim that just immersing your hands in warm water can help to engage your body’s mechanism to self-soothe and help to relieve anxiety and stress. When you are extremely stressed, taking a moment to wash your hands allows you space in order to regain your composure. And, if you are in your home, adding some Epsom salts to warm water and having a good soak can help you to relax before bedtime and also beat anxiety.
Most often, symptoms related to stress and anxiety are linked to poor breathing. Most people suffering from anxiety usually suffer from poor breathing which is the key contributor to anxiety, other related issues and the best solution is to control your breathing. You must actually slow down your breathing, reduce it and not really try to quicken your breathing or attempt to take deeper breaths. Take slow, shallow and more controlled breaths by making use of the following breathing technique.
- Breathe in via your nose, gently and slowly for around 5-7 seconds.
- Hold your breath for around 3-4 seconds.
- Then, breathe out through your lips slowly and gently, as if you are whistling for around 7-9 seconds.
- Repeat this around 10-20 times.
This breathing technique ensures that you do not hyperventilate, which is a common symptom of anxiety and it helps to balance the carbon dioxide in the body that causes the symptoms of anxiety to worsen.
Often the best way to reduce anxiety is by distracting the mind. Usually, when you suffer from anxiety, the mind can be your worst enemy and cause the symptoms to get worse. An excellent technique to calm your mind and alleviate anxiety and stress is by talking to someone you like and can trust. And, talking over the phone can be especially calming. It’s a good idea to explain to your friend how you are feeling. Talking to a friend can help to distract your mind and keep the anxiety off your mind. And, talking to a person you trust, a friend or a family member can help to boost your confidence levels.
An extremely effective and powerful way in which you can reduce anxiety is to use imagery. According to Robert Leahy, Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, imagine that you have a balloon in your hands and let it go and see it floating away. This visual image has an emotional significance and offers a sense of distance from all the things that are bothering you.
Another method is to draw a scale from 0-100, where 100 is the worst thing that can happen to you and on that scale — put down the way you are feeling at that particular moment. Usually, we tend to overthink things, overreact and usually think of things being worse than they actually are, especially at the particular moment. This technique according to Dr. Leahy, can help you put things into a proper perspective and helps to reduce anxiety.
Write down all the things that you’re anxious about, whether it’s some thought that makes you anxious or a task that is bothering you. Then, look at each item on your list and ask yourself, “Can I do something about this and is it under my control?” If your answer is no, then scratch out the point from your list and move on. Focus on the things that you can do something about and you can control. This helps to reduce anxiety. Prioritize the items left on the list and chalk out a plan of how you will solve them. Writing to-do lists can be an amazing way by which you can get all your anxious thoughts out of your head and this is a great way to reduce anxiety.
If you are one that looks at your office work schedule for the day and gets overwhelmed and anxious, then breaking down the entire work into smaller tasks and into shorter increments of time can help to shrink the work into manageable portions and this helps to reduce anxiety. For example, it’s a good idea to prioritize your jobs and begin with the one that’s most important. Proceed in an hour-to-hour manner and re-evaluate. Once you complete an hour, set another goal for yourself and work for another hour and so on. This will help to make your day and workload seem less overwhelming and help you get through your day.
When you are anxious, usually, adrenaline fills your body and putting this adrenaline to use by means of engaging in some kind of physical activity such as fast walking, jogging, doing jumping jacks or even going on a brisk walk can help to reduce anxiety greatly. This is because exercise offers excellent benefits to control your symptoms of anxiety. Let’s take a look at how exercise helps in controlling anxiety below:
- It burns the stress hormones that cause anxiety.
- It reduces the tension and energy by tiring your muscles.
- It helps to improve your mood and calm your mind by releasing endorphins.
- It is an excellent way to distract yourself.
- It helps you to breathe healthier.
Another way to reduce tension is to practice tensing and relaxation of the muscles, which essentially helps to switch your focus from feeling anxious to the exercise and helps to release the tension in the body and mind. First, begin by tightening all your facial muscles, hold for around 20 seconds and then release it. Do the same with the other parts of your body such as the neck, back, stomach, etc. right down to the toes.
Kava is an excellent anti-anxiety herb which many people believe is a natural and effective way by which you can control the anxiety. Kava contains chemicals called kavalactones, which helps to reduce anxiety effectively and promotes relaxation, without any side effects. However, before you consume any kava, it is a good idea to check with your doctor, as kava can interact with alcohol and other medications that you may be taking.
Anxiety can be debilitating and living with anxiety can be rather overwhelming. While anxiety control is something that can’t really be achieved overnight and is a long-term process, you can incorporate these little anxiety reduction strategies in your daily life to give you relief.