Try these 8 lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety and improve mental well-being.
By Emcara Editors
If you’re someone who lives with anxiety, you might wonder if it’s possible to not feel nervous or a sense of dread as you go about your day. Yes, it is. And Emcara Health can help.
Some amount of anxiety is normal and even healthy. But when your feelings turn on your body’s fight-or-flight stress response, it can be bad for your mental and physical health. The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes, as we’ll explain below, can help ease your anxiety.
Roughly one third of Americans have experienced an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, with rates increasing during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you feel anxious on most days, or it’s hurting your quality of life, talk to your Emcara Health care team about treatment options. In the meantime, the following eight lifestyle changes may help you reduce your stress levels.
Exercise can help ease your anxiety symptoms. For one thing, the endorphin release of exercise helps you form a positive association with an elevated heart rate, making the fight-or-flight response feel less scary when something in daily life triggers your anxiety symptoms.
A group of French researchers also found that people who engaged in effortful exercises daily tended to be mentally stronger than people who didn’t. Pushing through discomfort requires willpower, they theorized, doing so physically can help people learn to do it mentally.
Alcohol depresses your mood, but not until the next day—that’s why drinking can seem appealing when you need an immediate release. And when you end up feeling anxious and irritable after drinking alcohol, you may return to alcohol for its immediate effect, creating a negative feedback loop that prevents you from feeling better.
Alcohol also disrupts sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic, causing you to wake up feeling jittery and unrested. Stimulant drugs can make you feel anxious immediately, and depressive drugs can have a similar effect when they wear off.
Too much caffeine can put your body into a fight or flight response, tricking your brain into thinking you need to react to a threat.
According to a recent review, excessive caffeine intake—five cups of coffee or nearly 500 mg—was found to increase anxiety and induce panic attacks in people with anxiety disorders. Caffeine can also upset your sleep schedule, causing more restlessness and anxiety the following day. Talk to your Emcara care team about how caffeine interacts with any anxiety medication you’re taking.
If you’re unsure whether caffeine is causing your anxiety symptoms to worsen, try cutting back slowly (to avoid feelings of withdrawal) and take note of how you’re feeling. Caffeine sensitivity varies by, so some people may be able to drink several cups of coffee without feeling anxious while others need to cut out caffeine entirely.
Social situations can make some people feel anxious, including people diagnosed with social anxiety, but there are numerous benefits to regular social contact.
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found that older adults who socialized face-to-face were less likely to develop depression, a condition often linked to anxiety. A UCLA study also found stress reduction benefits to being part of a social group.
Not getting enough sleep impairs your brain’s ability to regulate your emotions the next day, according to research. As such, people who often feel anxious may notice their symptoms worsen when they aren’t sleeping well.
Of course, getting seven or eight hours is easier said than done, especially for people with sleep anxiety (fear or stress over going to sleep). Talk to your Emcara care team if you’re having trouble falling asleep or getting restful sleep.
People with anxiety may turn to guided or self-guided relaxation methods to reduce the stress response they feel when something triggering occurs.
For immediate relief, Harvard Health recommends breathing exercises that emphasize “long, slow, deep breaths” and breathing from your abdomen. Meditation or guided meditation, yoga, and tai chi can have similar benefits—anything that helps you make a mind-body connection that requires mindfulness and focus.
Excess sugar and processed foods can cause spikes in your energy level throughout the day, The Mayo Clinic recommends starting your day with protein and eating to maintain steady blood sugar throughout the day.
can also bring down your mood. ry to drink at least eight cups of water per day. An Emcara dietitian can help you optimize your diet to keep you feeling energized but not jittery.
Many impact your mood, so it’s easy to miss the patterns. For that reason, changes in your routine and how they make you feel. For instance, powering through caffeine withdrawal might show you that you’re less anxious without caffeine in your daily life. But, it may be hard to stick to staying caffeine-free without a journal entry to remind you how much better you feel without it.
You don’t have to write down every minor detail of each day, but a brief daily reflection can help you avoid anxiety triggers and stick to positive changes in your life.
To learn how Emcara Health can help patients and those who care for them, call 1-800-728-0901 from 9 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday.