Updated: Jan 7
It has become all too clear that we are more open about stress and anxiety than ever before. Stress increases your chance at having panic attacks and anxiety. More often than not. Stress is confused with anxiety, though stress can have some similar physical effects on our bodies, to have anxiety regularly is different. If you’re trying to reduce your stress, if you’ve just started having what you think is a panic attack, or you are diagnosed with panic attacks, below is a list of activities and consumables that will help. I am not an expert or a doctor, just a nerd who loves science. Over the last few years I’ve had panic attacks and anxiety that has woken me from my sleep feeling numb, my chest feeling like I suffered a heart attack and my body so tense it took a week to get back to normal. Some of what is suggested below you’ll need to look into on your own because, like I said, I am not a doctor. I’m just a recent sufferer of anxiety and need to have some solutions!
Benefits of exercise, specifically aerobic, have long been documented that they improve your physical state, mental state, and improve your ability to fight off stress and disease. Boosts in physical activity can increase your energy levels as well. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), aerobic exercise for as little as five minutes can lower your anxiety.
When our heart rate increases for an extended period of time, our body releases endorphins. These hormones are peptides that have an opiate response within the body, reducing pain and creating positive feelings within the body.
Yoga involves mindful practice, guided breath, and relaxation which helps our body through stressful times. Using Yoga as a tool to manage stress will curb anxiety as well.
While breathing is commonly recognized and well known to reduce stress and anxiety, people still don’t take advantage of this simple act of stress reduction. There Finding what kind of breathing tactic works best for you will take practice.
If sleep is an area of you’re struggling with because of feelings of anxiety, it can be a vicious cycle. It’s not that you aren’t trying to sleep. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to sleep. You can’t! If this is you, try calming yourself down before bed, avoiding triggers of anxiety. Implore other calming techniques to allow your body to prep for sleep.
Incorporating nutritious foods into your diet can help reduce stress and anxiety. More than going through the long list of good for you foods, I will share what NOT to eat. Processed meats, high-fat dairy products, excess sugar, higher fat dairy foods, fried foods, candy and pastries all contribute to higher stress and anxiety. Why? Most of these foods tend to cause energy spikes and dips that can cause your emotions to ride a roller coaster. These foods also lend a hand in building up bad bacteria in your gut, which directly alter your mood and hormone balance.
Quit smoking cigarettes
Quitting your smoking habit may temporarily increase your anxiety, due to the nicotine withdrawals. However, the long term effects of smoking on your mood and temporary increases in heart rate can cause even more anxiety.
Drink less caffeine
Coffee is my spirit animal, for sure. It tastes delicious, it warms the soul on a cold day, and gives me all the energy I need for a super productive morning. Unfortunately, caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety since it activates and stimulates the body’s energy levels. The key is to have enough coffee to enjoy, but don’t go overboard.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking moderately can have a sedative effect on the central nervous system. Not such a big deal if you are frazzled at the end of the day once in a while. If you find yourself drinking every day and drinking heavily, then feeling worse, alcohol could be the culprit. Truly stay in the ‘moderation’ lane. Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve been overindulging.
Close your eyes and picture your happy place
Scientifically, taking a moment to return to your ‘happy places’ can boost your mood, get lost in thought, think something through, and find meaning. This kind of lines up with the idea of meditation. Imagining yourself in a state of happiness will recreate that happiness within yourself, giving you all the positive effects of a mood boost.
Use muscle relaxation techniques
Progressive Muscle Relaxation. In short, you start with breathing, then you contract certain muscles of the body for a few seconds and release. Soon you will start to feel the difference between a relaxed muscle and a tense muscle. Maybe you can catch yourself in the act of tensing up and correct this. Check out Very Well Mind’s progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Or you can check out my other post on PMR here.
Find a focus object
Having something to focus on during a panic attack or when you feel ultra stressed such as knitting, crocheting, art, mindless coloring books, journaling...you get the point.
Repeat a mantra
Repeating the same phrase or sound over and over might seem ridiculous. However, what’s fascinating is the ability the mind has to keep from wandering with this simple tool. The mantra doesn’t have to be loud or long to work.
Here is where I would advise you to speak with a naturopath, herbalist, or integrative physician for proper dosage and amounts.
Using candles that have essential oils with lavender, bergamot, chamomile, lemon balm, jasmine, and basil. You’ve likely heard of lavender or chamomile as a nighttime relaxant. Lavender has been studied to have a calming effect more than others mentioned.