“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
As an almost recovered anxiety sufferer I know what it's like to feel stressed, out of sorts, desperate, and unlike yourself. I know what panic attacks feel like; I've had many. I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.
Anxiety can be debilitating and affect every area of your day-to-day life.
I remember about four years ago, when I was feeling so overwhelmed and anxious I could barely leave my house. I had three young children at the time. It was all I could do to get through each day.
Just making meals for my little family felt like more than I could handle.
I remember at lunchtime I was putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for probably the seventh day in a row and I stood there thinking, what on earth is wrong with me? This is not the Hannah that I know! I'm not this person. How did I get here!?
I slinked down to the floor and broke into tears, as I was filled with guilt about how I wasn't being the wife and mother I should be. The light was streaming in the window, shining onto our tile floor, filled with crumbs and ants. I couldn't remember the last time I had swept.
As the days, months, and years passed by I have learned many lessons, and I continue to learn lessons on a daily basis. I'm human. I still have anxious days but I now realize that they will pass.
I accept them.
They don't quite sting as bad as they used to.
You have to keep going. You have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that it won't be like this forever. Remember that about one in five people feel the same way you do.
Thankfully, I have gone through this, because it has pushed me to learn about so many facets of health that I never would have been interested in otherwise. I'm stronger in the long run. You will be too.
I've learned that we need to make self-care a priority. Sometimes it can feel really uncomfortable to take time for us. To say no to others and put ourselves first, but we must.
If we are to be able to give to others, we need to have something to give, whether that is time, love, or patience.
Our society is so fast paced, hurried, and often stressful. We need to make every effort possible to slow down, take time to relax, and rejuvenate. We don't naturally build these moments into our day enough, and if you don't currently, now is the time to start.
I would love to share ten simple ways you can ease your anxiety today. These are a few of the strategies that I personally practice daily.
1. Cut sugar from your diet.
Sugar can wreak havoc on your health. It adds to the overall burden of stress to your body. Anyone who struggles with anxiety doesn't need to be adding any extra stress. Sugar is also void of nutrients; during stress, your body needs whole, unprocessed food full of vitamins and minerals.
2. Use lavender oil.
Lavender oil has been used for centuries and it’s the most versatile essential oil. With a pleasing aroma and calming properties, it has a relaxing scent that calms the mind and body.
Use lavender safely on your skin, rub on wrists, behind ears, a dot on your neck, and enjoy its scent. You can use a few drops in the bathtub or in the shower. At night I love to add a few drops to an Epsom salt footbath.
3. Get to bed by 10:30.
When you have anxiety, your stress levels are high and your nerves are frazzled. Lack of sleep just adds to the problem. Going to bed by 10:30 will give your body ample time to rest and repair itself and help calm your nervous system.
By getting enough sleep you reduce cortisol levels and the overall burden placed on your body. Sometimes sleep alone can be the biggest help when it comes to healing anxiety.
4. Practice yoga.
As I’ve practiced yoga I’ve noticed a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Now I can’t live without it!
Through yoga, you learn how to breathe deeply and effectively, which is great for stress reduction. You move your body gently and get some exercise without overexerting your body and stressing it out more.
Yoga has also been the perfect beginning step to learn how to meditate. Through yoga, you learn to be still, move more slowly and intentionally throughout your day, and you learn to recognize where tension is in your body so you can work to relax those parts.
5. Go for a walk/jog.
Getting outside and taking a walk can work wonders for our moods by boosting serotonin, the good mood neurotransmitter. It also allows you to soak up some vitamin D, clear your brain, and get a fresh new perspective on life.
If your body is up to it, you can go for a quick jog or run. Those who have dealt with long-term anxiety may notice that their body isn’t quite up to jogging or running yet.
If you feel more depleted, frazzled, and stressed after you jog, especially if that feeling lasts for a couple days, be kind to yourself and don’t push yourself to that point yet. Take a step back and just allow yourself to move gently. Yoga, Pilates, and walking are all great alternatives.
Writing in a journal can be very therapeutic. Just like venting to a good friend or a therapist, you can vent right onto the pages of your journal. But don’t forget to write down the positive too.
Jot down a few things each day that you’re grateful for. Write about good things that happen. Write down things you want to see in your life that may not be there yet, but write them as if they’ve happened. Don’t worry that it isn’t technically true; it just isn’t true yet, but it can be!
7. Keep track of your thoughts.
We don’t always realize how much our thoughts affect the way we feel and how often we even think these negative damaging thoughts. For one day write down every negative thought you have, then flip them and write down the positive version.
If you think, “I’m so tired, I never get enough sleep,” switch the thought and think, “I may be tired, but I won't always feel this way, and I can get a good night's sleep tonight.” This exercise can be very enlightening.
8. Eat fermented foods.
Research shows that the microbes in our guts communicate with our brains, and vice versa. Most of our digestive systems have been depleted of beneficial bacteria through repeated use of antibiotics, a poor diet of processed foods, environmental toxins, and stress.
By eating fermented foods that are high in probiotic bacteria like kefir, fermented veggies, and kombucha, we are adding good bacteria back into our guts and improving our physical and mental health in the process. A recent article published talks about how sauerkraut can even help people with social anxiety. Very cool!
9. Eat protein at every meal.
People who struggle with anxiety can benefit from the blood sugar stabilizing effects of protein at each meal. According to some doctors we should be getting fifty to seventy-five grams of protein a day.
Protein helps fill you up so you don’t have crazy blood sugar spikes throughout the day that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Start your day with protein (kefir, cottage cheese, eggs, full fat plain Greek yogurt topped with nuts and fruit) and continue the habit at each meal and snack.
10. Read positive books.
When you feel like you just can’t muster a positive attitude on your own, lean on someone else’s positive vibes. Books like, You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay, and Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin are among my favorites.
Journal your favorite phrases from these books so you can look back at them daily. Never underestimate the power of a positive book.
I hope these simple suggestions can help you in your recovery process from anxiety. Try them all and see which ones work best for you, and implement them daily.
Peaceful woman image via Shutterstock