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Overcoming anxiety: Self-care
If you or someone you know are among the 300 million people in the world suffering from an anxiety disorder, there is hope. There are many effective self-care and treatment strategies.
The first thing you should do is to have a thorough check-up with your doctor. Be sure that your symptoms are not caused by some medical condition, medications you’re taking, or substances you’re using, like caffeine.
Next, let’s look at effective self-care strategies.
When a fight or flight response is triggered by anxiety, aerobic exercise like walking, running, cycling, or swimming is one of the most effective ways to manage it. Physical activities will help the triggered and activated body calm down. It will help tense muscles relax, burn up excess glucose in the blood, and lower levels of adrenaline.
Exercise also releases endorphins that relieve physical and emotional pain, making you feel calmer and better.
Exercise also boosts the neurotransmitter networks of serotonin, noradrenaline, and GABA, which help relieve anxiety.
Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, reduces stress-induced inflammation, and promotes nerve cells' growth and healthy functioning.
The anxiety-relieving effects may be experienced after 20-30 minutes of exercise, and the positive effects may last for hours and days. Therefore, exercise is recommended to manage anxiety episodes but also to boost your resilience to anxiety.
A plant-based, whole foods diet is good not only for your body but also for your brain. Eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, grains, and olive oil. Eat less refined and processed sugary, salty, and fatty foods.
Quality sleep stabilizes and calms the amygdala and supports healthy brain functioning. In anxiety, sleep is often compromised. Therefore, intentionally optimize sleep quantity and quality. Exercise and sunlight during the day help you sleep better at night. Don't use caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and drugs that disrupt sleep. Stay away from screens 1-2 hours before bedtime.
To calm your brain and body, rest and relax by reading, listening to calming music, meditating, and practicing relaxation exercises.
Slow, deep breathing into the belly helps calm the nervous system. Do this regularly to prevent anxiety attacks and when you’re having an anxiety attack.
Muscle relaxation exercises can help relieve built-up muscle tension. You may focus on areas where you feel tension and pain or do whole-body exercises, systematically tensing up the specific muscles for a few seconds, then relax, gently stretch, and breathe.
Connect with others
Talking, physical touch, and the presence of people, even strangers or a pet, may improve mood and relieve stress, pain, and anxiety. Reach out to others and let others reach out to you, especially when you feel like hiding and disappearing.
Connect with something bigger
…than yourself. Something that gives life meaning, purpose, significance, and hope. One of the best ways to help oneself may be to help others. Focusing on others is a great way to distract oneself from one's own fears and worries.
In the next video, we’ll share effective treatment strategies for anxiety.
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