Almost every other person has suffered from anxiety at some point in their life. Given the way technology has experienced a sudden boom leading to our fast-paced lives today, anxiety is a very predictable and treatable side-effect of this information boom. Apart from this, there are several other factors that lead to anxiety like childhood traumas, health issues, mental dispositions, stress, poor nutrition, stressful events, addiction and substance abuse among many others.
Anxiety as a condition are of different types, manifests in various ways and shows no preference when it comes to the people it affects. However, there are several ways one can manage, control and reduce their anxiety, and do so effectively. Thinking positively and looking on the brighter side of things is something that is easier said than done for a person suffering from anxiety. Looking on the bright side of things doesn’t always come in an instant, and takes months, maybe years to tune the brain to focus on the present moment. Quite often we’re in many places at once, and if you talk to a person with anxiety, they’ll tell you the same thing. Our mind has this innate capacity of shifting between worlds, taking us away from the present moment. But even that’s not it; sometimes it can be that the present moment is in itself a terrifying experience, and could trigger a series of thoughts and patterns that create a cringe effect in our minds and translate down to our bodies.
The thing about anxiety is that it’s unpredictable, and comes when you least expect it. But if you pay close attention to the pattern of anxiety, you’ll notice the triggers even if you may not be able to control that bout of anxiety.
Anxiety is something we all experience, though in different magnitudes. There’s different kinds of anxiety ranging from generalized anxiety, social anxiety, OCDs, PTSD and the more severe ones which come in the form of panic attacks. For each of these, treatment depends on the magnitude and seriousness of the situation.
However, when it comes to generalized anxiety and sometimes even social anxiety, it can be managed with a few lifestyle and mental shifts like taking notice of what triggers an attack and looking for patterns that will help you stay prepared well in advance.
Here, we discuss a few simple hacks and skills you can learn to help you tackle and manage when anxiety hits you.
Understand your triggers -
Journaling is one of the greatest ways to understand what your triggers are before an anxiety attack hits you. The benefits of journaling aren’t limited to just managing anxiety, but it helps document your days, your moods, what went right, what went wrong, and how you feel about it all. It helps you spot the patterns that no longer serve you and throw out the trash, leaving you with a clear mind. A lot of the times, our pent up emotions come back to haunt us, but journaling acts as an effective outlet to filter out and examine our thoughts and the patterns of our triggers. Some triggers can be difficult to identify even through journaling. In such cases, it helps to see a therapist or a specialist who can help you identify not just your triggers but the root of each of these triggers. Sometimes anxiety comes due to a personal trigger that can be anything from a sound to a smell to a place or a colour. In such cases where you only know the trigger but not its origin, therapy could be one of the best answers to finding a solution and reducing your anxiety.
Get your body moving -
Untreated anxiety could have long-term side-effects and could lead to depression, as well as affect your cardiovascular health. One of the best ways to tackle both at the same time is by giving yourself a fitness routine that will not only help reduce your anxiety, but also keep other conditions in check. Keeping your body moving with regular exercise will also help you refocus and realign your thoughts rather than letting your mind go down a rabbit hole with no control over it. Scientifically speaking, it is said that exercising can change the chemistry of your brain by secreting important neurochemicals like serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid, endocannabinoids among several others that specifically helps the body fight anxiety. It also activates and triggers the amygdala - the frontal sphere of the brain that is responsible for our fight or flight response, by rewiring our response system.
Zone out, zone in -
One of the classic symptoms that characterizes anxiety is zoning out and overthinking. An anxious person may find it very hard to stay in the present moment and may develop avoidance as a way to cope with anxiety. However, sometimes it’s that very avoidance that could lead to anxiety, either in that moment or a little while later. Zoning out and shutting away your thoughts and fears is never a way to resolve them. It’s okay to zone out, because we all do zone out at some point and in certain places. However, staying aware and practicing awareness could help you identify the times and reasons for your zoning out which will then help you zone back in to the present moment.
Zoning in could be through an activity or a conversation that isn’t necessarily about you. It acts as a distraction, and helps you broaden your perspective when you see your situation in light of the situation around you. Take deep breaths as often as you can, and practice awareness and mindfulness such that even if you zone out, you are able to zone back in and realign yourself with your surroundings. Live in the present moment and observe when you are being suspended by your thoughts.
Have a balanced diet -
This is one of the most important yet underrated advice given to those suffering from anxiety. A lot of the chemical imbalance in our brain stems from nutritional imbalances and we’re mostly caught unaware. If you find yourself getting anxiety attacks often, consult a doctor and do the laboratory tests that will reveal your nutritional levels. Once you’ve found that out, talk to a nutritionist and work out a balanced diet that will balance these levels and ensure that you’re getting just the right kind of nutrition that will keep you healthy but also make you feel better again.
There are specific fruits and vegetables that help increase your serotonin levels and are considered the real comfort food. Foods that are naturally dense in magnesium and zinc will help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Magnesium rich foods include green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Seafood and meats like oysters, liver, beef, egg yolks, cashews and almonds are some of the foods that have high zinc and are said to reduce anxiety levels and keep it in check.
Do the things you love -
Lastly, the secret to happiness that isn’t such a secret is doing the things you love. Pursue your passions and focus on the things that excite you. When you engage in activities that are enjoyable to you, it alters your brain chemistry, increases your serotonin levels, lowers your heart rate as well as your stress levels and keeps you all round happy.
The health benefits of doing the things you love are multifarious. Your mind stays occupied with productive things which in turn reduces mind space for other unnecessary thoughts. Be it visiting museums, painting, cooking, reading, writing, exercising, or gardening - find your fix and fixate on it and you’ll see a turn around soon enough. Listening to music has for long been proven to have positive effects on the brain and our capacity for it to function. So if it’s pottery you love, or baking, making music, passion for a cause or anything that moves you, don’t sit on it.
Keep the positive energy flowing in and out of you, and refocus and realign any time you feel a bout of anxiety kicking in.
It is always a good idea to reach out to the medical team/your doctor as they have the knowledge and expertise to help you.