As our lives become busier, anxiety also increases. In as much as anxiety is a condition that can be medically diagnosed and treated, there are also lifestyle habits that aggravate it too. About 4 years ago I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, GAD for short. During this time I have prescribed medication because it was severe, but I was also encouraged to make some lifestyle changes to help manage potential panic attacks. Every person’s experience is unique to them, but I can say that from my own experience, your lifestyle plays a major role in the management of anxiety especially if your symptoms are milder.
1. Improve your daily diet
When I was struggling with anxiety I would unconsciously skimp on food. This may be the same for you or you could have the opposite experience and binge on bad food for comfort. neither one of these habits are a good idea because you will feel worse than before. Food is a source of nutrition that our brain needs and we need it for energy. Start with ensuring that you have 3 full balanced meals a day and snack of healthy foods like fruits and nuts instead of sweets and oily chips or crisps. A healthy plate usually has majority vegetables, some protein like baked chicken or fish and a starch. When it comes to meat, focus on fatty fish, like salmon or albacore tuna, in place of red meat and fill up of vegetables and fruits. Forget the fad diets and complex health information that will only bring you more anxiety and rather focus on the basics for now. Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate with water, add fruit or lemon to add flavour and aesthetics if you would like to. Remember that soda is can’t replace water and contains large amounts of unhealthy calories, so the less you drink of it the better.
2. Adopt an active lifestyle
If you’re anything like me, the gym is the last place you want to because exercise is not my friend. The good news is that an active lifestyle does not equate to getting ripped at your nearest gym or running a marathon. Just making sure that you take a walk to the convenience store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator counts as exercise. Exercise helps improve the state of your mental health through the releasing of feel-good endorphins. Endorphins are natural brain chemicals and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise is also a good distraction from the stresses of life. You can temporarily give your brain a break from worry and feel good. Train yourself not to think of exercise as a chore, rather incorporate it into your daily routine. Eventually, it will come naturally to you while you reap the benefits.
3. Identify your triggers
Knowing your triggers is probably one of the best things that will help you. When you know what triggers you, you can avoid those things or prepare yourself if you can’t avoid them. Triggers can be places, things or people. For example, if you’re socially awkward or you’re more on introvert, you may find it challenging to interact with a lot of people at one time. So you can try to be around fewer people or let people know that they have to inform you about gathering ahead of time. Pay attention to how your body responds when you consume certain foods like coffee because it can increase your heart rate and induce anxiety in some people. And finally, people can be some of the biggest influencers when it comes to your mental health. Toxic people are a no-no, which means you might have to distance yourself from certain people, change the dynamic of the relationship or in extreme cases, cut them completely out of your life. Take time to identify what unnecessarily aggravates your emotions and how you can change things to improve the quality of your life.
4. Find a hobby that brings your joy
It’s really important to do something that makes you happy without monetizing it. It can be very tempting to monetize something you do for fun especially if you’re very good at it, but as soon as it stops being for fun it now comes with pressure. Choose to do something purely for the joy that it brings you. If you can’t think of anything, you can learn a new skill or think of anything you enjoyed doing as a child and just go for it, even it that painting doesn’t look that great, it’s doesn’t matter because it’s just for you. Incorporate this into your lifestyle and make time for it. See it as me-time, pamper-time or as an escape from the rest of the world.
I’m strongly committed to ensuring I take make lifestyle changes rather than solely depending on medicine to manage my anxiety. Eating well, hydrating, keeping myself active and knowing my triggers even as they change is probably the best thing I have done for my mental health. I make it a point to stay away from things that upset me, I don’t drink coffee because it triggers my panic attacks, and I make it a point to pamper myself because I enjoy it and it’s just for me. I hope these tips help you and look out for more posts.