Whether it’s getting the jitters before a first date or feeling overloaded under a pile of work, anxiety is something that everyone has dealt with. And for many, it’s an everyday occurrence that can interrupt daily life, to the point where it even becomes debilitating. Those of us who have spent long nights awake overthinking everything from the past to the future know the feeling well. And while it’s so universal, anxiety can appear differently for everyone, creating a variety of different symptoms and sensations.
Some of these symptoms could be increased heart rate before an important presentation, or sweaty palms while waiting for the results of a stressful decision. It might be spending hours scrolling through mindless TikToks while procrastinating an intimidatingly long to-do list. The reality is many signs of anxiety are internalized and difficult to spot, and the more severe stressful conditions become, the more intense their affects can be.
Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health issues worldwide, with over 30 percent of American adults dealing with it at some point in their lives. Even worse, it can eventually manifest into other mental and physical health problems, like depression, insomnia, and even heart disease.
Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to deal with a full-blown panic attack know firsthand how scary it is when mental struggles have serious physical implications. That’s why the current mental health awareness movement is so important; it sheds light on the gravity of health conditions that have been trivialized throughout all of history. Expressing mental health struggles has become much more socially acceptable within the last decade, and specific disorders are now easier to identify and treat as a result.
It’s no longer the norm for people to hide away and self-isolate when they’re feeling anxious, and it’s absolutely not the expectation. As difficult as it is dealing with anxiety and other mental health struggles, understanding its causes and how to treat symptoms can be the difference between suffering in silence and finally feeling relief.
Anxiety-driven issues are complex and varied, meaning there’s not one all-encompassing solution that will work perfectly for everyone. Instead, the best way to approach treatment is through establishing a combination of routines and habits that feel the most appropriate for you. Someone dealing with social anxiety, for example, will have to try a different methodology than a person grappling with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There’s plenty of healthy habits and wellness rituals that can be utilized to alleviate stress and release well-needed dopamine. However, in some cases, at-home solutions alone won’t be enough. When it comes to any health issue that’s causing concern, the most important first step is to consult with a trusted health professional. Your doctor will be able to diagnose any conditions with complete certainty, along with concluding whether counseling, therapy, or medication should be considered.
Over 40 million adults in the US received treatment or counseling to improve their mental health within the past year alone. If there was ever a time to prioritize mental wellness, it’s now, in the current self-love era that has boomed post-pandemic. Lockdown isolation made mental struggles more intense, widespread, and apparent around the world. As society settles into normalcy and moves farther away from a Covid reality, it’s important to make sure any lingering issues or feelings have been fully addressed.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of habits you can integrate into your daily routine that will help regulate stress and transform state of mind. Consistency is key, and taking 20 minutes everyday to focus on wellness rituals will have profound long-term impacts. Here are some of the best ways to address feelings of anxiety and work towards an overall improved physical and mental state.
Guided Meditation and Practicing Mindfulness
As much as practicing meditation may seem like a cliche, there’s a reason why it’s an ancient ritual that’s been practiced by different religions and spiritual groups everywhere. Meditation really works to help balance the breath and calm the mind, as it teaches one of the most valuable lessons: the mind can be trained to be stronger than restless thoughts.
There’s a misconception that meditation just involves sitting in silence while trying to empty the brain. On the contrary, meditation requires unwavering focus, usually on the breath and bodily sensations. Just like lifting weights, the practice trains the muscle of the mind, and breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that it actually rewires circuits of the brain. That’s why beginners often benefit from guided meditations, available everywhere from YouTube to apps like Calm and Headspace.
These meditations have calming music, soothing narrations, and directions on how to channel the breath and redirect thoughts. Over time, it will become easier to increase the duration of meditation sessions and eventually meditate without help. But for now, here’s a great guided session to try for those still starting out.
Meditation is an amazing way to practice mindfulness and learn how to feel more grounded in the present. By regulating the chaotic or negative thoughts that arise from anxious spirals, their overwhelming impact on state of mind can be greatly limited.
Yoga and Exercise
Physical activity can’t be underestimated for the positive impacts it has on present mood and long-term health. Exercise pumps up the production of endorphins, like dopamine and serotonin, and channels excess energy out of the body in an efficient and productive way. Whether it’s running, dancing, playing sports, or lifting weights, exercise has been proven time and time again to decrease muscle tension, regulate emotions, and activate regions of the brain that help with executive function.
Yoga is especially fantastic for people struggling with anxiety as it lies at the intersection of meditation and physical exercise, therefore helping to strengthen both the body and mind. Practicing yoga consistently helps to increase flexibility, balance metabolism, and improve deep respiration. It also actively decreases stress hormones in the body, filtering out anxiety-inducing chemicals while establishing rootedness.
Try this free guided yoga session, or check out The Untitled Magazine’s full list of free online yoga classes that will help you feel more grounded.
Practicing Self-Care and Healthy Habits
Mental health is intricately intertwined with physical well-being, meaning that taking care of the body is necessary to preserve capacity and strength of the mind. Eating consistently throughout the day or getting enough sleep every night are habits that are easy to neglect when we’re overworked or under conditions of stress. However, by not providing our bodies with the rest and nutrients they need to properly function and recover, we can greatly exacerbate feelings of anxiety and the risk of developing more serious physical conditions.
Self-care can look many different ways. For some people, it’s winding down with a candle-lit bath and a good book. For others, it’s taking a much-needed break from work by playing video games or binging some reality TV. Whatever it may be, allowing yourself to indulge in a pause from tasks that create stress is a great way to reward work and create productive cognitive pathways. Developing such neural pathways in the brain is shown to improve long-term memory, lifespan, and social battery.
An important element of self-care includes regulating what goes into the body. While it’s more than okay to indulge in a comforting dessert or junk food on occasion, ensuring that you maintain a nutritiously diverse and calorically satisfying diet is absolutely necessary to proper functioning. Under-eating, or not eating the right foods to get the necessary nutrients, can result in increased heart rate, impaired metabolism, and decreased ability to fight infection – stressors on the body that only make anxious feelings worse. If you’re looking for some meal inspiration, here are some healthy recipes to get you started.
Expressing Feelings of Stress
Communicating feelings is a crucial element of being able to identify stressors in life, which is the first step to understanding what is causing discomfort. Talking to close friends, family members, counselors, and any other trusting relationships can lighten the load of concern while getting a different perspective. Research has revealed that just vocalizing our problems can be deeply healing, decreasing stress hormones while also reducing physical and emotional distress.
If you’re feeling hesitant to share your thoughts with others, writing them down is shown to have similarly significant impacts. Writing allows people to release internalized pain or stress and gain greater perspective. The theory is that keeping secrets is inherently stressful, and that releasing such struggles relieves the long-term anxiety of inhibition. Furthermore, keeping a journal allows for looking back in time to see what progress has been made. Sometimes, nothing is more comforting than knowing improvement has been made.
Finally, sharing or documenting your thoughts can allow you to understand what situations or conditions in life are triggering stressful reactions, which can be used to avoid certain people or environments that are creating anxious responses. More than anything, it’s important to be a self-advocate, especially because you are the only one who really knows what’s going through your mind. Knowing how to protect your peace is necessary to navigating the hectic, stimulus-filled environments that are so present in our day-to-day lives.
We all know what it’s like to deal with anxiety, regardless of the degree of severity in which it’s been experienced. That’s why it’s unnecessary for us to struggle alone. We can all contribute to building up a social awareness and acceptance of anxiety that allows more and more people to find the relief they need. After all, there’s no shame in asking for a little help.