This is Part Two of a two-part series dedicated to anxiety-related content. It will highlight ways in which we can combat anxiety to create a new beginning filled with positivity and peace rather than stress and worry.
Anxiety: Part I provided a background on the mental illness and analyzed feelings that coincide with it.
The content was a stepping-stone with an emphasis on identifying your anxious triggers and revealing why they exist. Its purpose was to prepare you for change.
Welcome to Part II. Change is on the horizon.
Here, you will read about 10 ways to elevate your quality of life and help you strive towards overcoming anxiety.
It won’t happen overnight. It takes time to flush out negative thoughts. As with most things, patience and hard work are required to make it happen.
Incorporating the topics below will plant new seeds in your mind filled with positivity and kick-start your journey to a happier life.
The importance of meditation is often overlooked. People have different views on what meditation is or how to meditate. The truth is, simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breath to generate relaxation, even for just 10 minutes per day, can have a huge impact on mental health.
Practicing mindfulness through meditation trains the brain to stay in the moment.
I meditate twice daily – 10 minutes upon waking up and 10 minutes before bedtime. The ability to pause and clear the mind is imperative in negating stress.
Sometimes, I sit in silence with my thoughts and focus on positivity and gratitude. Other times, I use “Calm” for guided meditations. This app is great for providing structure and teaching you how to meditate.
The description from the app store says it best: Calm is the perfect mindfulness app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.
Their yearly subscription costs $69.99 annually, though if used effectively, can be worth every penny.
Breathwork is a big component of meditation and can also be practiced on its own. An efficient breathing pattern will allow your body to relax while slowing the heartbeat, stabilizing blood pressure and lowering stress.
I like to use the 4×4 method to practice breathwork: four-second inhales, four-second holds, four-second exhales, and four-second pauses before repeating the process.
The ability to control your breath helps prevent against spiraling out of control during high stress situations.
2) Diet & Exercise
You probably associate diet and fitness with your physical appearance. It obviously has a clear correlation with that.
However, what you may not have realized is the impact it can have on mental health.
Eating a clean, healthy diet results in a healthier mind. Excessive caffeine, artificial and refined sugars, gluten, dairy and processed foods can all contribute to anxiety and enhance your symptoms. A diet that allows a buildup of these things for a long period of time can cause inflammation and interfere with your brain/gut connection (more on that in the next section).
Therefore, a diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and fish, healthy fats and plenty of water is ideal for maintaining a strong mind.
Exercise is a form of therapy to anxiety. When you put your body through a workout, you release endorphins, which are chemicals that bring on feelings of happiness and produce a good mood.
A commitment to being more active every day will give you an avenue for the anxious thoughts that surface so easily when you are still. Studies show that just five or 10 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can decrease tension levels and stabilize your mind.
3) Brain-Gut Connection
I wanted to go a little more in-depth about your gut and how it plays a role in the way you feel.
When you continuously eat unhealthy foods, your digestive system becomes compromised, causing inflammation in your gut. This results in stomach pain, bloating and many other symptoms.
Simultaneously, when your gut is inflamed, so too is your brain. We have a ‘vagus nerve’ that begins in our brain stem and connects all the way down to the abdomen. When your stomach is upset, it sends warning signals upward through this nerve that release in your brain. These signals release anxious, unhealthy feelings that cloud your thoughts and bring on suboptimal mental health.
Moral of the story: Clean gut, clean mind. Eating poorly can have a greater impact than you think. If you have anxiety, try playing with your diet to replace the unhealthy foods with more nutritional options.
4) Natural Supplements
Nobody is the same. We know this. We also know that medications, vitamins and supplements can affect everyone differently.
Some people with severe anxiety disorders may require strong medications to retain an acceptable quality of living.
But for the purpose of this section, I want to discuss a few holistic options that can have a positive impact on the way you feel starting tomorrow.
One I highly recommend is CBD. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical found in cannabis plants. It is a growing fad that is developing a reputation of having numerous health benefits.
For anxiety specifically, it affects serotonin levels in your brain, which play a role in your mood and behavior. Enhancing these levels will calm your nervous system and deflect anxious behavior.
It can be consumed in many forms, the easiest being soft gels or liquid drops. Proper dosage ranges from 50-200 mg daily depending on severity and tolerance.
A few others to try include Magnesium, Ashwagandha and GABA.
Magnesium can help reduce anxiety by improving brain function. It regulates neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the body, while also having an effect on your hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for stress response.
Ashwagandha and GABA are similar in that they help your nerve cells communicate more effectively by stimulating your mind and lowering symptoms of stress.
(For reference, I typically take 50-80 mg of CBD, 500 mg of Magnesium and 450 mg of Ashwagandha daily for optimal brain function)
5) Sleep Schedule
Sleeping well is essential for performing at your best every day. This equates to seven- to nine- hours of sleep each night.
According to a 2018 study of more than 10,000 people, the body’s ability to function declines considerably if sleep isn’t in this range.
Another study shows that sleep deprived individuals reported a greater increase in anxiety during tasks and rated the likelihood of potential catastrophes as higher when sleep deprived, relative to when rested. How much you sleep each night determines how well you can deal with anxiety and stress.
When you’re tired and unable to function at a high level, it makes it easier for anxiety to creep in and take control of you.
The bottom line: prioritize good sleep in your life. Sleep heals the mind and body. Establish a bedtime routine and follow it every day, including weekends, so your body is used to shutting down and starting up at similar times.
I usually try and fall asleep by 11:00 PM and wake up by 7:30 AM. Also, to ensure quality sleep and avoid nighttime overthinking, I typically take 20 mg of CBD and a Magnesium pill two hours before bed. The key is to find what works for you and stick with it.
6) Productivity and Gratitude in the Mornings
“Win the Morning, Win the Day.”
The recipe to a good day starts in the morning. When you wake up, you have the power to decide what kind of day will follow. Poor habits in the morning, such as always rushing or being lazy and unproductive, result in lower quality days. If prolonged, collectively they can lead you down an unhappy path. A productive morning leads to a productive mind.
Transforming my mornings was a huge part of my ongoing quest towards banishing anxiety.
As soon as I wake up, I spend some time praying and expressing gratitude for what I have in life. Then I stretch for five minutes, meditate for 10 minutes and read for 20 minutes. Finally, before breakfast, I write in a journal.
In my journal, I highlight six things I’m grateful for today, followed by a to-do list of everything I need to accomplish during the day. This gives me structure and conditions my mind for what’s to come, preventing against potential stress from cluttered thoughts.
Creating a good morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you fill it with peace and gratitude, it will decrease anxious feelings in the morning and set you up for success as the day rolls on.
Feeding your mind with positivity and self-development material helps rewire your brain. Good thoughts are brought in to battle the bad thoughts as you transition into a new state of mind; that is, if you focus your energy on buying into what you’re learning.
Books such as Boundless, The Power of Positive Thinking, Atomic Habits, The Four Agreements and Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself have all helped me grow mentally. Once you get through a book or two, it becomes easier to practice what you read and spend more energy on good thoughts as opposed to bad ones.
This will give you more self-confidence once you have an updated blueprint for living. Absorbing knowledge and allowing it to increase your confidence when you apply it will enhance your mental state.
Reading books, in addition to articles and other forms of writing, lay the groundwork for all your desired thoughts.
8) Music/Podcasts/Motivational Speeches
Similar to reading, listening can have a huge impact on your brain, assuming you listen to something that will provoke healthy thoughts.
Listening to motivational podcasts will teach you ways to self develop and provide hope for what you’re going through. It also takes your mind off negativity.
I am a big proponent that music can soothe the mind and shift your attention away from the clutter in your head. Finding the right genres, artists and lyrics will allow you to relate and give you comfort in what you are hearing.
There are also plenty of calming, “music for stress” recordings that can promote relaxation.
Make a playlist and set aside time to enjoy it. After all, this is often a better alternative than listening to the thoughts in your head.
You can also resort to music for relief during stressful moments.
Sometimes, changing your diet, meditating or taking supplements isn’t enough. And that’s okay.
Therapy can be an extremely effective method to wash away anxiety. It seems to have a bad stigma and people tend to brush off the idea when it’s suggested to them.
I was one of these people at 14 years old. My anxiety was bad. My doctor and parents coerced me into therapy sessions. To my surprise, after fighting it in the beginning, it worked. My anxiety levels substantially decreased that summer going into high school and I had therapy to thank for it.
If you are struggling to make changes alone and have the urge to speak to someone about your feelings, consider therapy as a valid option. It can be more effective than talking to a friend or loved one because it’s new and offers a fresh perspective on your situation.
Contrary to what many think, therapy can be cool. Therapy can work wonders if you let it.
10) Positive Quotes/Verses
This last tip is something that works well for me. Spending time each day looking over a few of your favorite quotes will engrain positivity in your mind. It’s similar to taking a few important excerpts from a book and reciting them daily.
Find three or four quotes that speak to you and write them down. Each morning, read them to yourself. Soon, you will believe the meanings of the quotes and adopt their messages in your life.
Another thing I like to do is read up on Bible verses regarding anxiety. If you are religious, check out OpenBible.info’s list of 100 Bible Verses about Worry and Stress.
My personal favorite is: Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
BONUS: Accepting Anxiety
Here’s a bonus tip – accept your anxiety. Rather than fighting it or fearing it, you should consciously recognize it and address it.
Once you accept what you feel, it becomes easier to take charge and instill some of these tips above to reduce it.
One quote I like to remember: “It could always be worse.”
No matter how bad life may seem at times, there is always something worse out there. Anxiety disorders do boast the opportunity to put in the work and make changes that will make life better.
The Wrap Up
I want to be clear – there are other methods too. These are some of the popular, more natural ones that have helped me.
Identify what works for you and incorporate them into your routine. Preach positivity. Once you get the ball rolling, your mind will be clearer and your life will change.
Remember: “Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.”
Also, remember to celebrate how far you’ve come rather than constantly dwelling on how far you have left to go.
Together, we will flourish.