Anxiety rates are growing in the United States–did you know it is the most common mental illness in the U.S.? Over 40 million people 18 and over have been affected.
I am one of those people.
The hardest part about coping with anxiety has to be trying to have those closest to you relate to what you are experiencing. Anxiety is a hidden disease–so if people can’t see it, they basically assume it’s not real, or it’s “all in your head”, am I right?
However, I am here to tell you that you can get better. You have got to fight your ass off, but you can do it. Getting into the fitness world and choosing to live a healthier lifestyle has to be one of the best decisions I have ever made with my battle on anxiety.
I want to share with you some of the best tips and tricks that have helped me when my anxiety starts to act up.
Anxiety Does Not Control You
Ironically enough, one of the main components of anxiety is the fear of losing control. Although you may not be able to control when it happens, you can certainly train yourself to realize when it is acting up, and implement techniques to help calm yourself down (I will be sharing some of my techniques later in this article).
Anxiety is a part of you, yes. However, it is NOT you. You are a boss ass bitch. You are better than that. Dealing with anxiety gets easier. The number one thing you have to remember is this: YOU have control of your life, not what your anxiety is telling you.
Which leads me to my next point…
Live in the NOW
Going back to the idea that anxiety is a fear of losing control–let’s realistically think about this: You can’t change your past, it has already happened. You can’t predict the future (although it is good to set goals and have an idea about the future). So why not just give your full attention to RIGHT NOW?
I know us anxiety folks tend to dwell on something horrible we did in the past, or worry about something that might happen in the future, but you have control over the person you are RIGHT NOW. You don’t have to be the same person you were 2 years ago, 2 days ago, or hell, even two seconds ago! You have the power to be who you want to be at this very moment.
I am telling you that you do have control. You may not have control over outside forces and things that happen to you, but you have control over yourself and how you react to situations, which makes all the difference–I promise.
Focus on Your Surroundings
I once read this somewhere, and it has helped me bunches. When you feel a panic attack coming on, or just really bad anxiety–stop what you are doing and name 5 things around you.
- I am in a car.
- There are trees around me.
- It’s a warm, summer day.
- I have a blue shirt on.
- We are driving to the park.
I have no idea why this works, but it does. I am assuming it is a sense of grounding. Letting yourself to realize that you are aware of your surroundings–and therefore “in control”.
This method has helped slow down my heart rate, regulate my breathing and prevent quite a few panic attacks.
Ah yes, had to add this bad boy in there!
My old guidance counselor told me that professional athletes in their offseason tend to get massive anxiety and severe depression. Want to know why? Because they are significantly less active!
Getting in at least 20-30 minutes of cardio a day (such as taking a walk in your neighborhood) can certainly calm you down. I find myself getting quite antsy if I don’t run for a week or two on the treadmill. #bulkingprobs
I recommend reading my Beginner’s Guide to the Gym to help you get started!
Avoid or Lessen Caffeine/Stimulant Intake
I know it is hard to part with your daily Starbucks. It is better in the long run. I have my share of crazy anxiety attacks with caffeine.
I used to take green tea pills (a caffeine “fat burner”) to help me lose weight (this was before I actually educated myself–don’t take them) and I got a REALLY bad anxiety attack in the middle of work. DO NOT try to use quick fixes, they are very unhealthy for you!
Drinking pre-workout or sugary energy drinks can heighten the onset of anxiety due to high amounts of stimulants and sugars.
Pro-tip: DO NOT drink caffeine or stimulants on an empty stomach, especially if you are anxiety-prone.
Focus on Your Breathing
One of the most important (and most simple) things you can do to help calm you down–breathing.
Breathing is so routine in our lives that we never really stop to pay attention to how we are breathing. You should breathe in through the nose and out through your mouth, and make sure to take deep, slow breathes.
If you stop and realize how you breath when you are nervous it tends to be short and quick breaths. We do not need this type of breathing in our everyday lives; we increase our heart rate and trick ourselves into thinking we are in danger.
Taking 5-10 deep breathes in and out will help regulate your breathing and you will most certainly relax. When I exhale during deep breathes, I always can feel myself getting “lighter” as if the bad stuff is being released from my body. It’s truly amazing!
Pro-tip: Practicing proper breathing techniques during exercise can help to control breathing all the time as well! Since I have focused on my breathing during workouts, I now breath properly without even thinking about it!
There you have it folks! The top methods that have help gotten my anxiety under control for a much happier and less stressed life!