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Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. right now, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. Unfortunately, it’s also affecting the younger ages too. Anxiety disorders in kids and teens went up 20% in the years 2007-2012.
It’s imperative for us to look at why this is a trend and the role we play so that we can stop reverse it. For today, let’s look at ways that we can help ourselves feel less anxious naturally. These are free, chemical-free things we can do to help set us up so we don’t experience as much anxiety and also to help us when we’re in the thick of it.
Have you heard that expression: What you resist, persists? True story. Accept it, Allow your anxiety to be there and you’re on the path to lessening it’s hold on you. There are 3 Steps to process emotions (1) Name it: Say something like:“anxiety is present” or “I am feeling anxious” (2) Describe it by saying something like: “my chest feels tight and it’s hard to catch my breath”. (3) Sit with it. Let it be there. Don’t resist. Feel the tightness in your chest. Keep at it. Let it be there. Anxiety happens. Don’t make yourself more anxious by being anxious about being anxious.
2. Eat Whole Foods at Regular intervals.
Seriously. Not all of these all natural steps are easy but this one is: Eat Regularly. Our brain uses 30% of our body’s energy and when we aren’t fueling it properly or consistently, we will be less able to manage our mind. It’s especially important for our anxiety to be getting enough protien. One rough gauge is take your weight, divide it in half, and that’s the amount of grams of protein per day to shoot for. If you want assistance with this, this used to be my wheelhouse. Reach out. My Weekly Warrior Plan might be just what you need.
3. Deep Belly Breathing:
When we get anxious our breathing becomes shallow and fast. Deep belly breathing calms down our monkey mind and in turn, naturally calms down our nervous system. Try this:
1. Breathe in deeply, filling your lungs so your belly expands (some people find it helpful to put their hands on their belly so they can feel this,
2 Breathe out completely so that your belly contracts.
Done. Repeat slowly and deliberately for 3-5 breaths.
4. Drink Less Caffeine:
Yep I said it. And yes I still drink coffee. Life is all about balancing. I know the amount of caffeine that is too much and (most days) I stay below that. When I don’t, I feel more anxious. True story. Our actions have consequences.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Again, I went there. Yes in the moment a glass of wine might “mellow” you out yet the big picture is that alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. Many report feeling more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Want more reasons? Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for an entire day after drinking! So this means, that if you have a nightly glass of wine and you deal with anxiety, you don’t actually know what you’re dealing with. Again, know you. Wine is worse for my anxiety and my gut. I don’t drink it. If I’m going to have a drink, I stick to one beer, once or twice a week. If I drink more, I feel it. Again, our actions have consequences.
6. Move Your Body Daily
This is a non-negotiable in my care for mental health. Moving our body or exercise is not for weight loss. In fact, it’s one of the least effective weight loss tools. What does exercise help with? Confidence. Mobility. Pain relief. And yes, exercise lessens anxiety and ruminating. If you only do one of these things on this list, this would be the one I recommend. Start with as little as 3 minutes but do it. Commit to yourself, to your kids, to your world and move your frigging body for 3 minutes. Do not allow time for excuses. This is free. Go up and down your stairs. Walk around your house. Go outside and walk around. Just Go Do it. 3 minutes a day
Similar to exercise, sleep is crucial in the care of our mental health. I won’t get into the numerous benefits of sleep or the multitude of reasons why I now prioritize 8 hours a night. When we are well rested, we are better able to keep our advanced, cognitive brain on line (rather than be led by our primitive survival brain). You will feel less anxious if you get adequate sleep (and that’s over 7.5 hours)
8. Applied Tension Technique
I love this tip because even though it sounds fancy it’s amazingly simple and works immediately. In a nutshell, squeeze everything, hold and release. You want a more complicated description? (1) Tense the body muscles for 10-15 seconds until your body is starting to feel warm. (2) Let your muscles relax for 20-30 seconds. (3) Repeat this process 3-5 times. Try it the next time you’re worrying, stressed, or feeling anxious. Message me a thank you here.
I started meditating 4 years ago on my birthday because I wanted to become less reactive parent and person. The added side effect was how much it helped my anxiety. I have written and spoken a lot about meditation and even have a “how to get started guide” that is linked here. I started by committing to myself that I’d do 3 minutes a day and I’ve been going ever since. Meditation changes our brain’s structure in ways that help me every day. If you’ve thought of starting, grab my guide and start now.
10. Brain Dumps:
Brain dumps, thought downloads, write and rip, journaling. Whatever you call it, start writing. We have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day and if we’re not paying attention to these thoughts, they’re running the show. What we think about drives how we feel and how we act. Paying attention to the thoughts we’re thinking is a powerful proactive step to stop anxiety before it starts.
10.5. Essential Oils:
I saved these for last because all the other strategies don’t require anything you don’t have. Essential oils cost money yet are way cheaper than a prescription or hospital visit. I got into essential oils after all my visits to Australia when everywhere I looked, people were using oils before meds. For headaches, tummy aches, runny noses, and…for anxiety. In fact, they will not prescribe an anti anxiety med until you’ve shown evidence that you’ve tried essential oils first. They don’t help you process your feelings or work through past traumas but they sure do help in the moment to calm down the nervous system, similar to a Xanax without the side effect of dementia! If interested, contact me because there are certain oils that are good for ruminating, others that help with depression, grief, etc… Why not try the natural first.
And on that note, I finish my list of things to combat anxiety naturally. It’s not that anxiety won’t happen. In fact, it’s not a goal to go through life anxiety or worry free. Most fear is a sign that we’re pushing ourselves, that we’re living up to our potential here on earth. That said, there’s a reason why people pop a pill: It’s easier. Choosing to limit your alcohol, sit with your thoughts, or get to bed earlier isn’t always easy but keep at it warrior.
You’re not here for easy.
You’re here to live a full life.
Anxiety, worry, fear, and angst happen.
How you handle it sets you up for a life that feels calm or full of drama.
Reminder: You are not alone on your journey.
Sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already. I am on this path with you and offer so many free resources to help. If you’re not a part of the Warrior Woman group on Facebook, what’s going on? If you’re a man, ok. You get a pass (though I have had some men try to get in). If you’re a woman, head on over and speak up. I go live every Thursday at 10:30 and am available to support you all week long.
Together we rise dear warrior.