Anxiety can be such an out-of-your-control reaction that the beauty of hindsight can leave you feeling ashamed or weak. The vulnerability and overwhelming sensations that come with anxiety are often unwanted.
Let’s look at some ways to reduce your chances of anxiety and go through some ways to increase your defenses.
- Reduce caffeine
- Caffeine is a stimulant and unfortunately too much stimulation can lead to an overwhelming sensation of anxiety. A 2009 study showed the vulnerability of those with panic disorder and generalized social anxiety disorder to caffeine. Panic attacks were seen in 60% of those with panic disorder and 16% of those with anxiety disorder, after consuming 480mg caffeine. An additional study found anxiety increased in both a singular high caffeine intake (200mg), and a small but frequent caffeine intake (4x 65mg over 5hrs). Test how caffeine affects your anxiety. Give it the flick for over a week and reassess your mental health.
- Quality sleep
- Sleep disorders can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause sleep disorders. Sleep is needed to help your brain function properly, and where possible, it is best to set yourself up for success. Go to bed at a decent time, allowing yourself 7-9hrs before your alarm goes off, minimize stress or stimulation 1hr before sleep, minimize caffeine, practice mindfulness. Do what works for you to get a good night’s sleep, every night. Make it a priority.
- In 2017 a group of researchers looked at all the evidence investigating how exercise affects those with anxiety. After careful examination they concluded that exercise significantly decreased anxiety symptoms. A different team in 2018 dug deeper and found that it was high intensity exercise regimes that are more effective than low intensity regimes. There are so many benefits to exercise that regular high intensity exercise should be near the top of the priority list.
- Reduce stress
- If you can’t reduce the stress, change the way you approach, or view, the stress. The best way to beat the stress is to identify what creates stress for you, learn some relaxation techniques, cultivate some resilience.
- Eat real food
- Being in a heightened state of anxiety can be draining on the body. Eat real foods. The foods that look like they have come out of the ground or off the ground – vegetables, nuts, eggs, meats. A packet of chips didn’t look like that when it came out of the ground, neither did the chocolate bar or the hot dog. Your food is your fuel, choose your fuel wisely.
- Watch your sugar
- Don’t let sugar, or even caffeine, depict your ups and downs. A sweet lolly has the power to give you a boost of energy, but ‘what goes up must come down’, and unfortunately it generally goes down as fast as you went up. An erratic blood sugar level can impact your anxiety.
- Don’t forget to eat
- Sometimes eating can be forgotten or delayed. Try not to let this happen. As mentioned previously, being in an anxious state is quite draining on the body and you need the fuel to sustain your function. Set alarms if you need to, make appointments in your calendar to eat, have your food handy, do what you need to make sure you are fueling your body. A hungry body is a vulnerable body.
Use these 9 strategies to manage anxiety from beyondblue.org.au
- Slow breathing
- Deliberately try to slow your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in, count to three as you breathe out. Breathe deeply so that if you were to put your hand on your belly button, your breathing would move that hand up and down.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Relax those muscles that are often tense when anxious. Find a quiet location, close your eyes and work on slowly tensing and relaxing each muscle group. From your toes to your head try to hold each muscle group for three seconds before relaxing.
- Stay in the present moment
- Anxiety can make your thoughts jump forward into a terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are now and enjoy the present. The future hasn’t happened and there are an endless number of possibilities for each and every situation.
- Take small acts of bravery
- You can do it. Avoiding the situations that make you anxious is a good short-term strategy, but in the long term this may make you more anxious. Try approaching something that makes you anxious, even in a small way. The way through anxiety is by learning that what you fear isn’t likely to happen, and if it does, you’ll be able to cope with it.
- Challenge your self-talk
- How you think impacts how you feel. Try to think of different interpretations for the situation and try to look at the facts for and against your thoughts being true. The power of positive thinking is thoroughly undervalued.
- Plan worry time
- This may sound a bit different but try to set aside 10 minutes each evening to write down your worries. This can take the worry from your mind and stop your worries from taking over mentally.
- Get to know your anxiety
- Consider making a diary of when your anxiety is at its best and when it is at its worse. Your menstrual cycle can impact your self-confidence and finding your pattern can mean that you can manage your week or day to work best for you.
- Learn from others
- Talking with others who are also experiencing anxiety can help you feel less alone and may help you find some beneficial management tactics. Counselling or professional help may also be significantly beneficial.
- Be kind to yourself
- You are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition (just like so many others). It’s called anxiety.
 Nardi, A. E., et al. (2009). “Panic disorder and social anxiety disorder subtypes in a caffeine challenge test.” Psychiatry Res 169(2): 149-153.
 Brice, C. F. and A. P. Smith (2002). “Effects of caffeine on mood and performance: a study of realistic consumption.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 164(2): 188-192.
 Stubbs, B., et al. (2017). “An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis.” Psychiatry Res 249: 102-108.
 Aylett, E., et al. (2018). “Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Health Serv Res 18(1): 559.