Let’s face it, as a nation we have been carrying our fair amount of stress and tension that at times seem to show no signs of letting up. This stress has intensified over the past week with the events in Houston. As our hearts and resources go out to those suffering through this disaster and so many others, we must also take time to process what we are feeling. Feeling helpless on the sidelines can at times rival being part of the event.
1. Make time for friends
In times of high anxiety and stress there is often a strong desire in many individuals to isolate themselves. While a lot of research still needs to be done in this area, studies tell us the act of socializing can change our brain chemistry to one that is more conducive to a healthier stress response.
2. Look at your lifestyle habits that could be triggering your anxiety
Recent studies link many lifestyle habits with increasing risk of anxiety. This is important because in times of stress, we tend to revert back to old habits to help us cope. For example smoking and excessive alcohol use can actually increase your risk of anxiety. In fact, in study published in British Journal of Psychiatry, January 2013 issue, they found that people who successfully quit smoking experienced a significant drop in their anxiety level. Studies also show that alcohol use can prolong the effects of stress and commonly disrupts sleep therefore contributing to insomnia. So while it may be tempting to turn to these for relaxation, in the long run these may turn out to be more disruptive to your health.
3. Address any sleeping issues you may have
Lack of sleep can make us more susceptible to anxiety. Researchers at the University of California, Berkley sleep laboratory found that individuals who were sleep deprived had much higher levels of anticipatory reactions. Most anxiety sufferers are always expecting or anticipating something “bad” to happen. Now, imagine that anticipation being heightened. Unfortunately with recent events, no imagination is necessary. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation, decreases focus and increases fatigue, all of which can potentially exacerbate anxiety and the stress response.
4. Set aside time for relaxation daily
We must all allow time to decompress, rejuvenate and refresh. Think of the relaxation response as the body being a state of deep rest without being asleep. Prayer, meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga have all been shown to be capable of inducing this response in the body. We have multiple studies showing that inducing relaxation response can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress. What is amazing to note is that a recent study shows that it changes the way your genes are expressed leading to reduce risk of disease and better health.
5. Pay attention to your nutrition
Body: Recent studies show a clear link between moods and foods. Junk foods and sodas have been linked to increased mood disorders and behavioral issues all of which can be anxiety provoking. These studies are even hinting at the fact that propensity for mood disorders maybe begin in utero if maternal nutrition is not up to par. So when reaching for those comfort foods be aware that they may be part of the problem. Nutrients such as essential fatty acid and folic acid play a key role in keeping the brain healthy and improving our moods.
6. Get help if you need it.
Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. If your anxiety is out of control and interfering with your life, causing you to withdraw from your family and friends and affecting your health, it is time to get help. Isolation is one of the worse things to do in times of high stress. Your mental health and well-being is an integral part of your physical well-being.