This post was written by BIA contributor Chelsea M. Becker
Anxiety is something that I’ve been dealing with for what seems like forever. And while it seems like a constant battle in my own head, it’s definitely something that I’ve been able to work on with a little self-awareness and mindfulness. One major realization has been the importance of preventing it—vs. dealing with it after the fact. Although I’m by no means anxiety-free (is anyone?), there are some habits I’ve adopted that have seriously helped.
I know, I know, easier said than done. Personally, caffeine is such a double-edge sword for me. On one hand, I love how coffee helps wake me up in the morning, but on the other, I hate feeling so dependent on something. One thing I’ve never really considered in the past is the impact my caffeine addiction could be having on my anxiety. Turns out, excess caffeine intake can make anxiety much worse, so…tea anyone?
I’m a total believer that “runner’s high” is a real thing—and that you can get this high from any workout. I always have a more positive outlook on things after I’ve worked out, and it’s a trickle effect into other areas of my life (I feel more confident, I sleep better, I’m less stressed about not feeling in shape, etc.). Exercise is so killer because it releases powerful endorphins in your brain, which essentially act like your body’s built-in painkillers and mood-lifters. Yes plz! If running isn’t your thing (because it’s not mine), try yoga, boxing, or dance—three workouts known to boost moods and destress.
If you’re feeling a panic attack come on, go for a walk. If you can catch some rays while you’re outside, even better. Sunlight has been shown to increase the body’s serotonin levels, which will lift your mood and increases energy levels. Being outside also reduces levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which is directly related to anxiety, so it’s a win-win. If you’re stuck inside, sit by a window. Simply looking at nature through a window can help your anxiety tremendously, which is kind of amazing!
While exercising or trying to avoid triggers to your anxiety can help, sleep can have a bigger impact. Not getting enough sleep affects your body’s ability to regulate hormones—including cortisol, that stress and anxiety-provoking hormone—causing your anxious feelings to increase. I’ve definitely noticed that I experience more even-keeled emotions when I’m getting the proper amount of sleep, so it’s a #1 priority in my life. And if you struggle with sleep (#ditto), read this.
Focus on the now
It’s human nature to caught up in worrying about the past and future, which is a lot of what anxiety is. But there are some things you just aren’t going to be able to control in life, and unfortunately there’s not much that worrying is going to do to change that. Instead of focusing on what just happened a few minutes ago, what you could have done differently, or even what you can do in the future, try to be more mindful and focus on the now. What can you do in this very moment, however big or small, to make an impact in your life? Often times for me, that’s a nap, deep breathing, or even a snack outside.
Do you have any tips for preventing anxiety?