Anxiety affects your body as well as your mind. In addition to worrying and feeling
nervous, you may experience changes in your immune function, circulatory system, and other areas. Anxiety may also be caused by physical conditions and may increase your risk for certain disorders.
It’s an important issue because anxiety is the most common mental illness in North America. An estimated 40 million adults each year are affected in the United States alone. It can take many different forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or phobias.
Whatever the cause, anxiety usually responds well to lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits to help reduce anxiety. If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety, consider these physical changes that you may want to address.
Managing the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that prepare you for fight or flight. Since such physical responses are rarely required in modern life, those chemicals now wind up interfering with natural body functions.
While you can’t eliminate stress, you can use strategies for dealing with it more constructively.
Try these ideas to relieve anxiety:
Breathe deeply. When you’re tense, your breathing tends to become rapid and shallow. Remind yourself to slow down and breathe from your abdomen instead of your chest. You’ll feel calmer and increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your brain and other organs.
Avoid infections. Anxiety may hamper your immune system. Take extra
precautions against catching colds and other bugs. Wash your hands and keep
them away from your face.
Dress in layers. Blood vessels sometimes constrict as the result of chronic
stress, making it more difficult to regulate your body temperature. Keep a
sweater or wrap handy if you’re prone to sweats and chills.
Eat well. Anxiety has a major impact on your digestion. You may overeat or lose your appetite. You may experience irritable bowel syndrome or stomach churning. Plan out your meals and snacks to give your body the nutrients and calories it needs.
Limit caffeine. Does coffee give you the jitters? Try cutting back on caffeine
to see if you feel more at ease. You may want to avoid coffee completely or
limit yourself to one cup a day.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity is one of the most effective and
constructive methods for dealing with stress. Find a variety of activities that
you enjoy. Invite a friend or family member to work out with you so you’ll have more fun and increase your chances of being consistent.
Rest and relax. Anxiety often interferes with sleep, so remove any obstacle you
can. Go to bed at the same time each night and keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Relax during the day with meditation, instrumental music, or a warm bath.
Identifying the Physical Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders usually develop in childhood or early adulthood. You may want to see your doctor if you begin to have excessive anxiety later in life, so you can rule out physical causes.
These are some of the issues to look for:
Overactive or underactive thyroid. Overactive and underactive thyroids are among the most common physical causes of anxiety. Your doctor can perform simple tests to help you receive appropriate treatment.
Issues in the brain. Brain tumors are rare, but they can cause psychological changes. An early diagnosis increases your chances of recovery.
- Chronic conditions. Struggling with a chronic condition can make you more vulnerable to anxiety. Let your physician and loved ones know if you need extra help.
Understanding the physical effects of anxiety can help you heal your mind and body. Talk to your doctor about your individual concerns that may be the root cause of your anxiety. If your anxiety is due to stress, overwhelm or even childhood trauma, there are many things you can do to reduce stress and better cope with your anxiety so you can enjoy greater physical comfort and peace of mind.
Manage Anxiety Naturally
Some popular methods other than those mentioned above include:
- Drink chamomile tea
A cup of chamomile tea is a common home remedy to calm frayed nerves and promote sleep. A 2009 study showed chamomile may also be a powerful ally against generalized anxiety disorder. The study found people who took German chamomile capsules (220 milligrams up to five times daily) had a greater reduction in scores for tests that measure anxiety symptoms than those who were given a placebo.
- Stop smoking
Smokers often reach for a cigarette during stressful times. But, taking a drag on a cigarette when you’re stressed is a quick fix that may worsen anxiety over time. Research has shown that the earlier you start smoking in life, the higher your risk of developing an anxiety disorder later. Research also suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety.
- Get some sleep
Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety. Make sleep a priority by:
- only sleeping at night when you’re tired
- not reading or watching television in bed
- not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed
- not tossing and turning in your bed if you can’t sleep; get up and go to another room until you feel sleepy
- avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime
- keeping your room dark and cool
- writing down your worries before going to bed
- going to sleep at the same time each night
If you need a hand with getting a good night’s sleep, considering using a weighted blanket.
A main goal of meditation is to remove chaotic thoughts from your mind and replace them with a sense of calm and mindfulness of the present moment. Meditation is known for relieving stress and anxiety. Research from John Hopkins suggests 30 minutes of daily meditation may alleviate some anxiety symptoms and act as an antidepressant.
Some anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s a byproduct of living in an overscheduled, results-driven world. But, anxiety does have a purpose. It alerts you to danger, motivates you to get yourself organized and prepared, and helps you consider risks. Still, when anxiety interferes with your daily life, it’s time to act before it snowballs. Unchecked anxiety may greatly impact your quality of life. Take control by trying out the ideas in this article.
Please share what works for you in reducing anxiety in your day to day life in the comments!