Apr 12, 2020

10 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety in Difficult Times

At some point in life we will all experience difficult times that cause us high levels of stress and anxiety. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed when our circumstances become unpredictable and we have no control over how they turn out. Unfortunately, there is no fix that’s going to change things, you’ve got to get on with it until the issues are resolved. The good news is that there are strategies we can implement to help us manage those periods of uncertainty.

1) Speak to Someone:

When life gets the better of you; don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Speak to a trusted friend or family member and let it all out. If necessary, seek counseling. According to research conducted by U.C.L.A, verbalizing your feelings is referred to as “affect labeling,” and over time, it helps reduce feelings of emotional overload when you encounter distressing circumstances.

2) Acceptance

Stress and anxiety often comes from knowing that you have no control over your situation. To reduce these feelings, accept that there are some things you can’t control; instead, focus on working toward constructive solutions to the aspects that you can control

3) Anti-Anxiety Diet

Did you know that some of the foods and drinks you consume contribute to feelings of anxiety? According to nutrition and diabetes expert Erin Palinski-Wade, high levels of caffeine slow down the production of the feel good hormone serotonin at the same time as increasing levels of nervousness and anxiety.

Processed sugars cause your blood sugar to spike and crash which does the same to your energy levels. One of the consequences of low blood sugar is anxiety.

The Annals of General Psychiatry reported that there is a link between reduced levels of social anxiety and probiotic rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and pickles. Experts suggest that the following list of foods and drinks also help to reduce anxiety:

Salmon

Pumpkin seeds

Chamomile tea

Turkey

Green tea

Dark chocolate

Eggs

Bananas

In general, a healthy and balanced diet should consist of the following:

Five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.

High fiber whole grain starchy foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, or dairy alternatives such as soya drinks.

Protein such as meat, eggs, fish, pulses, beans.

Unsaturated spreads and oils in small amounts such as olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil and margarine.

Between 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.

4) Regular Exercise

Not only does stress affect the brain, it also has an impact on the rest of the body. Similarly, when the body is healthy, so is the mind. Experts suggest that as little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can have a positive effect on anxiety levels. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult should get between 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

5) Laughing Therapy

Laughter induces physical changes in the body, it increases levels of the feel good hormone endorphin, and stimulates the muscles, heart and lungs. All of which help reduce the physical symptoms of stress. You can induce laughter by watching your favorite comedian or a movie that you find funny.

6) Meditation

Meditation helps limit worrying thoughts and bring about a feeling of calm, focus and balance by causing you to enter into a deep state of relaxation. Studies conclude that meditation has a positive effect on generalized anxiety disorder.

7) Breathe

Pay attention to the way you breathe when you are feeling stressed and anxious. You will notice that you take shallow, rapid breaths that come directly from the chest. Chest breathing upsets the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen in the body resulting in muscle tension, dizziness, increased heart rate and other physical sensations associated with anxiety. It reduces oxygen levels in the blood which signals a stress response to the brain and contributes to feelings of panic.

8) Get Enough Sleep

Sleep allows the brain cells to get enough protein to fuel growth and repair the damage caused by stress and other factors. Sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy emotional state. Get eight hours of sleep a night and you will begin to experience a noticeable difference in your anxiety levels.

9) Journal

Journaling is a simple technique that helps you work through anxious feelings and relieve stress. One of the main drivers of anxiety is rumination (the constant replay of negative thoughts). When you write down your concerns, it allows you to confront and examine them in a way that is not possible when thinking about them. Start by journaling for five to 15 minutes a day by describing the events that are currently causing you difficulties.

10) Use Positive Affirmations

Our thoughts make stress and anxiety worse, saying positive affirmations can help calm the mind by taking the focus off the negative situation you are facing. Here are some positive affirmations to say when you start experiencing those all too familiar uncomfortable feelings:

“With every breath I exhale fear and inhale strength.”

“I choose to feel calm and peaceful at this moment because everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”

“I choose to think nurturing, positive and healing thoughts.”

“I will not allow these feelings of anxiety to stop me from doing what I need to do today.”

“I control stress and anxiety; they don’t control me.”

“I am a magnet for attracting positive energy at all times.”

“My mind is clear of fear and panic, I am choosing to focus on the things that will benefit me.”

Final Thought

Stress and anxiety feel like chains around your feet dragging you down into a pit of despair. But the more you practice these techniques and incorporate them into your daily routine, the easier it will become to manage these emotions.

Mindful Care offers telepsychiatry appointments for patients in IL, NJ and NY