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Why make lifestyle changes for anxiety?
Living a healthy lifestyle is not only essential for your physical health, but it’s equally important for your mental health.
In other words, introducing positive lifestyle changes is necessary to manage your anxiety, as well as improve your overall well-being and happiness.
For example, eating healthier, exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques, and spending more time in nature can reduce your anxiety, and help in the prevention and healing of many other health issues.
And, lifestyle changes for anxiety are relevant whether you’re suffering from mild, moderate, or severe anxiety, so the sooner you start the better!
…in saying that, introducing lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or medication.
While eating healthily and exercising can in certain mild cases be enough to make anxiety symptoms disappear, things are not that simple with chronic anxiety.
People suffering from long-term anxiety and/or severe anxiety as well as trauma victims would benefit greatly from seeing a therapist, and may also need medication, but adopting a healthy lifestyle alongside both can serve to enhance healing and progress.
So, think of lifestyle changes as one of the foundation steps for managing anxiety, and then depending on the level of your anxiety, you may have to add extra steps such as therapy.
In this article, you’ll learn all the lifestyle changes that brought me anxiety relief! It doesn’t matter which habits you implement first; all that matters is that you start making changes and are persistent.
During my early 20s my anxiety reached unbearable levels and I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. At the time I was also struggling with social anxiety, agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress as a consequence of my childhood trauma.
Initially, I took medication to get my head together, after which I began seeing a therapist to come to terms with what happened in my childhood, which was extremely helpful and exactly what I needed at the time.
But while therapy was a great start and a step I had to make to move forward, afterward I was still searching for ways to manage my anxiety in my daily life. This is how I began introducing lifestyle changes to relieve anxiety.
Words cannot describe how much a few healthy habits helped me to start managing my anxiety symptoms. I began with an anti-anxiety diet and regular walks, followed by more strenuous exercise, meditation, and yoga, which then led to more time spent in nature.
But also I didn’t stop there.
The positive effects on my anxiety from each lifestyle change inspired me to search for more healthy habits, and I ended up trying lots of different tips and techniques some of which turned out to be amazing.
Altogether my anxiety journey lasted for two decades and it nearly drove me crazy, but my persistence to try as many techniques as possible helped me to eventually overcome my chronic anxiety.
In the next section Ill elaborate on the lifestyle changes that helped me transform my health.
Top 9 Lifestyle Changes for Reducing Anxiety
The following lifestyle changes helped me to significantly reduce and manage my chronic anxiety.
1. Adopt Healthy Eating Habits
If you asked me what’s the first thing you could change, I would recommend that you begin introducing healthy eating habits in the following two ways.
A) Start Eating a Healthy and Balanced diet
B) Practice Eating Mindfully
Adopting healthy eating habits helped me to significantly reduce my anxiety, as well as lift my mood, boost energy, get rid of IBS, and improve my overall physical health.
Also, it became apparent to me very quickly that when I ate healthily and mindfully, my anxiety was tamed, while on my bad food days, my anxiety would skyrocket!
Why Are Healthy Eating Habits Important for Managing Anxiety?
1. Nutrients play an important part in mental health
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is how you’re most likely to supply your cells with all the 45 essential nutrients (listed below) that your body and brain need to function properly.
These nutrients are essential because your body cannot produce them, yet it needs them, and a deficiency in any of these nutrients is likely to cause mental and/or physical problems.
For example, studies have shown that participants suffering from anxiety and depression are often deficient in essential nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and selenium, while supplementation of these nutrients helped to reduce their anxiety symptoms.
Essential nutrients include
- 9 essential amino acids (proteins)
- 2 essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6 (fats)
- 1 essential carbohydrate (glucose)
- 13 essential vitamins – vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and 8 B vitamins
- 20 essential minerals – calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, and selenium, molybdenum, chromium, and fluoride, and other trace minerals
2. Mindful eating is a great anti-anxiety technique
In the West, eating is often rushed, squeezed in, multi-tasked, and on-the-run, and while pushing ahead with what may seem like more important demands (work, family, etc.), we eat when we can, often quickly, and, in truth, mindlessly.
Eating in this fashion is likely to lead to overeating, as well as unproperly chewed food floating around the intestines which can trigger inflammation. Inflammation markers have been linked to anxiety.
2. Give Importance to Sleep
We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping. This is because our bodies need adequate sleep to heal, repair and revitalize. While sleeping, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical and mental health.
Poor sleep can cause greater stress, and anxiety, and anxiety can cause further sleep problems creating a vicious cycle.
So, giving importance to your sleep is an essential lifestyle change for anxiety.
How to get quality sleep?
3. Exercise Daily
Regular exercise works as well as anti-anxiety medication to relieve anxiety for some people. And it’s not just short-term fix; you may experience anxiety relief for hours after working out.
Taking part in daily physical activity is another lifestyle change that transformed my life and anxiety levels. It is my experience that exercise can help you manage anxiety long-term as well.
How to introduce regular exercise?
My top three physical activities are walking, yoga, and hiking in the woods.
4. Make Meditation Part of Morning Routine
If you’ve never meditated before, I highly recommend that you start practicing but also to make it part of your morning routine.
In case you’re tempted to skip this section please give me a chance to explain because meditation was a fundamental lifestyle change for my anxiety, even though I started as a pure beginner.
Meditation is one of the most effective anxiety management techniques – if not the most. It can be as effective as anti-anxiety medications, but without all the negative side effects!
And morning meditation is particularly beneficial for anxiety sufferers because feeling strong symptoms first thing in the day is very common.
My anxiety used to be awful in the mornings. As soon as I’d open my eyes, I’d feel tightness in my chest, anxiousness in my stomach, no appetite, nervousness, and irritability, and I’d also have a very dry mouth. Over the years I’ve learned that many anxiety sufferers wake up with anxiety as well.
The trouble with carrying on with your day after morning anxiety is that the way we start the day, usually sets the tone for the rest of the day. That’s why it’s super important to meditate in the mornings so as to relieve your anxiety and start your day on a calm feeling instead.
If you’re skeptical about meditation, please don’t be.
When I first heard that meditation helps with anxiety, I must admit I didn’t get too excited. I was too irritable to even imagine sitting still for two minutes.
But I was also tired of my anxiety and I gave meditation a chance, which I’m so glad that I did, because I’ve never looked back.
Contrary to the common misconceptions, meditation is not complicated, you don’t have to sit in a lotus position, and it’s not part of a religion. Meditation can be practiced by anyone, and even simple meditations can change your life.
There are thousands of different meditation techniques and types and you will find something that’s perfect for you.
How to introduce daily morning meditation?
Examples of Guided Mediations
5. Regularly Express Emotions
Finding a way to regularly express your emotions can help you reduce your anxiety.
Trapped emotions trigger tension and irritability, and can also result in physical symptoms. That’s because if we don’t give our emotions an outlet, they'll find some other way of coming out to the forefront, which is often through some physical problem or another mental issue.
If you are unable to express your emotions, then there is perhaps something you need to work through form your past, and seeing a therapist or mental health professional could be helpful to get you started.
What are some popular ways to express emotions?
6. Get Organized
Keeping yourself organized is another important lifestyle change for reducing anxiety.
It can also help you prevent panic attacks and anxiety attacks.
While I appreciate that being organized doesn’t come naturally to everyone, there are a few easy things you can do to introduce better organization as part of your lifestyle.
How to get organized?
7. Make Learning A Priority
Once you stop learning you start dying.
― Albert Einstein
Expanding your knowledge can positively change your life in many ways.
Educating myself about anxiety, nutrition, and various healthy habits, is how I came to write this blog, but also how I managed to overcome my chronic anxiety. Each time I learned about a new anxiety coping strategy I would try it for a while and see if it works.
Over the years I have read many books, watched hundreds of hours of documentaries, and attended workshops, seminars, and retreats in London and other cities in Europe, to help myself, and to now help you.
And I continue to learn every day.
How can you make learning a priority?
8. Simplify Your Life
Dealing with anxiety is challenging, and overwhelming.
But often we make our life more complicated than it needs to be, which makes anxiety worse.
For example, anxiety sufferers are prone to
- saying ‘yes’ to everything,
- constant comparisons, and
- being very critical
…all of which waste precious energy and are likely to trigger anxiety.
Changing negative thought patterns and bad habits can help to simplify your life, save time, relieve anxiety, and make you happier!
How can you simplify your life?
9. Actively Seek Your Purpose in Life
We all need money to live, but sometimes being in the wrong kind of job can be the cause of your anxiety. That’s why it is important to actively seek your purpose in life.
How to actively seek your purpose?
Final Thoughts on Lifestyle Changes for Anxiety
When you’re suffering from anxiety – whether it is mild, moderate, or severe – one of the first things you can do to reduce your anxiety is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Then depending on the state of your mental health, you can add extra steps such as therapy.
The changes in lifestyle that helped me to see significant changes in my anxiety include, eating better, exercising daily, meditating in the mornings, getting enough sleep, regularly expressing emotions, and staying organized – all of which are discussed above.
Latest posts by Sandra Glavan, Life Coach for Gentle Anxiety Sufferers (see all)
- How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (and Why)? - 15th November 2022
- Why taking baby steps is the key to achieving healing? - 27th October 2022
- Social Anxiety at its Worst & 4 Steps to Overcoming it? - 23rd December 2021