Staying healthy is one of the best things you can do to prevent anxiety. Of course, when you are healthy, your body stands the best chance to fight off anxiety on its own.*
(*As with everything else, results may vary from person to person)
There are several areas that you can focus on to get the most benefit out of defending against anxiety.
Life Hack #1 – Get Plenty of Rest – Sleep
1) Get enough sleep. This seems obvious, but studies have shown decreased motor skills and cognitive ability when someone doesn’t get enough sleep. The surprising thing is that you may not even notice that you operating at optimal levels.
Without a doubt, I think more slowly whenever I am tired. And typically the things that stress me out are glaringly magnified during this time.
Everyone can get by with different amounts of sleep. Personally, I require 8+. And if I get less, I feel terrible. And if I go a few nights with less than 8 in a row, it hits me like a ton of bricks.
2) Catch up on sleep. The great thing about missing sleep is that science has shown that if you miss a few hours one night you can get back to balance quickly by catching up the next few nights.
Life Hack #2 – Eating – Staying energized, especially with healthy foods
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have felt tired and stressed out by the end of the week, just to realize that I’ve been doing everything right except eating both regularly and healthy.
Fast food is murder. When I get lazy and start eating fast food more than I should (like almost every night, because why not? I had it last night) I get super tired. And this decreases my performance and leads to negative self-talk and makes me anxious.
Plus, eating poorly is a blow to my self esteem, because I know it is so bad for me and not congruent with the type of health I’d like to have, so I feel guilty. And those dips in the esteem department don’t help my ability to deal with anxiety.
Personally, I love eating fresh vegetables and fruits every day. When I’m in a rush, I’ll throw an apple and banana in with some protein powder and grapefruit juice for breakfast or lunch. Granola bars and carrots between meals. And when I eat this healthy, I don’t mind having bigger meals for lunch or dinner, because my total daily calorie intake is still less than my targets for health and fitness.
Of course, I don’t eat like a saint 7 days a week… Especially when it’s girls’ night out.
Eating a healthy diet helps me stay less anxious. And I believe it is a mix between knowing I’m eating healthy for my mental state of mind and the energy it provides.
But, the kicker for me is if I let myself run empty and I feel awful when my blood sugar level plummets — incredibly hungry, unable to think straight). This will derail my entire day, destroy my productivity, and stress me out.
This is especially true when I let what appears to be an urgent emergency, that in hindsight wasn’t important at all, take over my day, prevent me from eating and then I eat a bunch of carbs to regain my energy and momentum.
The most embarrassing thing was when my boyfriend would know I was hungry before I did. He would ask if I needed a snack, half jokingly, and I’d realize 1) Yes, I was hungry, and 2) I was acting cranky.
When this happens, I need to pause and take care of it, before I completely derail my day.
This isn’t all that different than not getting enough rest, but it is much easier to prevent and reel yourself back in when you feel yourself getting irritable or flustered.
Life Hack #3 – Quit Coffee & Caffeine
I used to drink energy drinks and coffee. And I would wonder why I would sweat at work, shake, and my heart would pound, I’d be terrified of social situations, and I’d have trouble sleeping night after night.
Caffeine mimics the effects of anxiety on the body.
When you drink too much caffeine your heart rate may go up, you can sweat, socializing can intimidate you, your thoughts race, you worry and you can’t sleep.
Some people fall in the trap of drinking coffee all day, and then taking sleeping pills at night. This can provide poor sleep along with grogginess in the morning. This can lead to a vicious cycle.
If you can’t quit drinking coffee altogether (I haven’t been able to), try cutting back.
I started doing half-caffs. Drinking coffee that is made with half decaffeinated grounds. I get a little pick me up without going overboard.
Life Hack #4 – Exercise
No — you don’t need to drop down to your college weight, become a gym rat, ridiculously buff or super-model skinny.
Even if you only walk for 20 minutes a day, when you are parked in front of the TV on a treadmill, or during your lunch, you can feel the difference… especially right afterwards.
I like to take 20-60 minute walks whenever I feel the walls closing in on me. It has the best effects when it is nice and sunny out. Bonus points, if I have an enjoyable phone call during it or listen to a positive audio program on my iPhone.
But for maximum effect, I find that breaking a sweat up to 5 times a week is what is really needed. Yes, this requires something like jogging, jump roping, or lifting weights.
It’s a tough commitment, but seriously, is solving your anxiety worth it to you?
Your brain releases endorphins when you exercise which makes you feel better. It leads to higher self esteem by doing something positive and healthy for yourself, with the added bonus of giving you more energy.
I actually find that taking the time to exercise, unless there is an immediate crushing deadline, actually makes me more productive at work too. So, in reality, it doesn’t take any additional time since my work time is more productive.