Between work, bills, family, and trying to stay healthy, the everyday pressures of life can turn you into an anxious mess. Maybe you were an anxious child who grew into an anxious adult, or maybe you developed anxiety later in life. Regardless of when symptoms began, it’s possible that your mind is in overdrive, and you’re always waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you.
You’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Like so many others looking for relief, you may have turned to medication for help. Although antianxiety drugs can ease your anxiety, the serenity can come with a price tag in the form of side effects. Trouble sleeping, decreased libido, jumpiness, and increased hunger are some of the most common inconveniences of treating anxiety with drugs.
The good news is that popping pills isn’t the only way to get your fears and nerves under control. Here are eight simple and effective ways to battle anxiety without medication.
Talking to a trusted friend is one way to cope with anxiety. But there’s something even better than talking: screaming at the top of your lungs. As a kid, you were probably taught not to shout and told to use your “inside voice.” But as an adult, you can make your own rules. So if you’re dealing with pent-up frustrations and anxiety, let it out.
This doesn’t mean putting fear in others so they feel on edge like you. We’re talking about a healthy release of emotions in a controlled environment. The more you fight anxiety, the more overwhelming it can become. Instead, embrace anxiety as a part of your life, and then let it go. Scream at the top of your lungs, punch a pillow, stomp your feet, or pound your chest. Do whatever helps you get it out! One Los Angeles-based yoga teacher even developed a class called Tantrum Yoga that encourages yogis to try these unconventional methods as a way to release emotion that “gets stuck in our bodies and could turn into stress, disease, etc.”
Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when your mind’s in overdrive. You may worry about post-workout soreness and being unable to walk or sit for the next two days. Or your mind might go to the worst-case scenario and you fear overexerting yourself and having a heart attack. But in reality, exercise is one of the best natural antianxiety solutions.
Physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels to help you feel better emotionally. And when you feel better on the inside, your entire outlook improves. And because your brain can’t equally focus on two things at once, exercise can also take your mind off your problems. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity three to five days a week. Don’t think you have to struggle through a painful workout. Any type of movement is good, so put on your favorite jam and move around the house. Or grab a mat and break out into your favorite yoga poses.
A cup of coffee, chocolate, or an ice-cold Coke might help you feel better. But if caffeine is your go-to drug of choice, your anxiety could worsen.
Caffeine gives the nervous system a jolt, which can boost energy levels. But when under pressure, this nervous energy can induce an anxiety attack. Now, the idea of giving up your favorite caffeinated beverage might raise your heart rate and induce anxiety as you read this, but you don’t have to stop cold turkey or give up caffeine completely. It’s all about moderation.
Rather than four cups of coffee a day, scale back to one or two normal-sized cups a day —normal as in 8 ounces, not 16 or 32 ounces. Give it a test run and see how you feel. As you wean yourself, slowly introduce other beverages into your diet such as decaffeinated herbal tea, which can calm your mind and nerves.
With your busy schedule, there’s no time for sleep, right? Some workaholics brag about only needing three or four hours of sleep a night, as if to say, “I’m more determined and committed than everyone else.” But no matter what you might tell yourself, you’re not a robot. Humans need sleep to function properly, so unless you beamed in from some nearby planet, this also applies to you.
Whether you deal with insomnia, purposely limit your amount of sleep, or you’re a self-professed night owl, chronic sleep deprivation makes you susceptible to anxiety. Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and get eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Develop a bedtime routine to read a book or do something relaxing before bed. The better prepared you are to get a good night’s sleep, the better quality of sleep you’ll have, which leads to a better morning as well.
Your plate is only so big, and if you overwhelm yourself with everyone else’s personal problems, your anxiety will also worsen. We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s more happiness in giving than receiving.” But nowhere in this sentence does it say you should sit back …