A recent survey discovered that 8 out of 10 Americans claim they are frequently stressed and anxious. “Frequently” denotes a time of at least 5 days a week and more than 50% of each day. With multiple sources of pressure, stress, and anxiety encroaching on our beautiful lives, we do have the power to alter our state to naturally ground us when we feel these sensations beginning to overpower us.
When considering anxiety, it is important to begin from the inside out. Begin by taking some time to recognize your “triggers”. These could be certain circumstances, life style patterns, people, foods, or deadlines. Take note of what time of the day, where you are, what you are doing, who you are with or what you are thinking about when the anxiety heightens. Once you have identified some of the source(s) of your anxiety, you can begin to start working through ways of relieving the stress and deregulating your nervous system when the anxiety heightens. Here are a few examples of things that may be raising your anxiety levels:
1. Unfortunately, your greatest enemy is often yourself. Society has created a narrative that the most successful people are those who are the most busy and productive people. This narrative causes us to focus on the wrong things leading us to burn out and create more anxious feelings. If you are feeling anxious because you’re not getting enough done in the day, start by compartmentalizing and analyzing your day. Start by setting realistic and accomplishable expectations for the day and then allow yourself grace if you did not complete your tasks. Your best work may look different each day and that is ok! If you find yourself struck by anxiety during the day and simply cannot continue working, activities such as going for a walk, organizing your office, breathing, or journaling for 10 minutes will allow your mind to release the anxiety and allow you to return to work in a more productive or creative state. An organization space creates an anxiety-less atmosphere as you will be able to quickly find what you need and your mind will be less cluttered. As you organize your space, you will also find that your thoughts and emotions become more organized as well.
2. If you find yourself generally anxious and cannot link it to a particular circumstance, look at your lifestyle. Sleep deprivation is often an undiscovered cause of stress and anxiety. By taking a look at your nighttime routine you may be able to notice a pattern of when you you get to bed, how much screen time you consume before bed, what you’re eating before bed, and how much caffeine you’ve ingested throughout the day. If you’re getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep consistently, your anxiety may be your brain’s cry for sleep. Exercise is also a fantastic method in reducing anxiety as it lowers your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Going for a walk, run, or workout not only makes you sweat (which can also help release toxins that may be hiding in your system), but is also a significant stress reducer.
3. If you find yourself trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts, your own thoughts are your anxiety trigger. Placing sticky notes on your desk, wall, or computer can be a powerful way for you to take negative thoughts and transform them into powerful affirmations. Keep a journal with you and take a break during the day to process and organize how you are feeling through words on a page. Put on music that makes you feel empowered and positive to help you get through the day. You can also meditate in one sit or small bouts throughout the day. It can be as easy as taking a break and just focus on your breath through 1 song. Recentering your mind will help push away anxious thoughts and feelings.
4. You are what you ingest. Believe it or not, part of your anxiety may be caused by the foods and drinks you are ingesting. High sugar drinks such as processed fruit juice, soda, and diet soda will spike your energy, but also your blood sugar. This sudden spike causes the overdrive you usually think of with caffeine, but without any nutritional value. A similar reaction even occurs when you consume white bread or processed grains. Speaking of caffeine, it is no surprise that caffeine can make you anxious. Excessive caffeine can lead to jitters, disturbed sleep patterns, and heart fluctuations. Keep an eye on your coffee, tea, energy drinks, kombucha, and sodas to see just how much caffeine your body is trying to process. Common condiments such as lite dressing and ketchup contain high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to feelings of anxiety and depression. Avoid any processed food- there is no telling what kinds of chemicals have been used to make and preserve them. Consult your PC to draw blood work or work with a nutritionist; your anxiety may be caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency that can be resolved naturally with a different food group or supplement.Foods such as swiss card, matcha, sweet potatoes, kimchi, artichokes, organ meat, eggs, chickpeas, blueberries, broccoli, and fish contain high values of vitamins and minerals that are vital to the stress relief process. Herbs and spices such as garlic, parsley, tahini, chamomile, ashwagandha, valerian, lavender, and passion flower can be made into teas that will provide a warm beverage to quell your anxiety.
While the anxiety in your life and around you may seem insurmountable, the ability within you to combat it is vastly more powerful. Recognize your anxiety, analyze your life and circumstances, find the source, and begin giving yourself permission to work through the stress. Having practices in place to lower and manage your stress threshold will allow space for you to continue to live your life (experiencing stresses), but not allowing these stresses to spiral you into a state of chaos. Taking small steps to organize your space and thoughts, exercise, get adjusted, mediate, practice breathwork and focused breathing patterns, obtain adequate sleep, remain in a state of positive thinking, stay hydrated, and have adequate nutrition are all ways to reduce the ill effects that stress has on the body.
APA statistics on Anxiety: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/12/numbers
Survey on American Anxiety: https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx