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Living with anxiety can be extremely overwhelming and if you are suffering from this mental condition, you need a good self-care routine now more than ever.
In my experience the most important self-care ideas for anxiety relief fall under the following categories, healthy eating, regular exercise, daily relaxation, positive thinking, and self-love.
But it's not enough to only have a list of top self-care activities, you also need to know how to implement them while living a busy and anxiety-filled life, and that's the challenging part.
What often happens is that we find a good list of self-care ideas, start with good intentions, but quickly give up, pushing these activities to the back of our minds.
Why? Because living with anxiety makes daily life hard enough, and self-care is something we usually feel we have no time for or we feel guilty if we do it. This is completely understandable, and I've been there too.
But, since self-care is a highly effective technique for managing anxiety, my goal for this article is to
- Help you focus only on the most important self-care activities,
- Give you practical tips to help you make these part of your lifestyle, and
- Inspire you to start as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, I struggled 20 years with chronic anxiety before I adopted self-care, and I don't want you to wait that long.
I wrongly assumed that prioritizing myself would be selfish and self-centered, but this kind of mindset, only worsened my anxiety and overall health. It led to more problems including depression, chronic fatigue, low energy, weakness, sleep problems and other health issues.
But when I could no longer go to work I had no choice but to start thinking about myself and consider self-care ideas for anxiety.
To my amazement, once I created a self-care routine and stuck to it, I noticed incredible changes in my anxiety. I remember thinking "Why didn't I start sooner?!"
I have learned that self-care is NOT selfish, or self-centered, but it is absolutely essential for managing anxiety.
You have to take care of yourself if you want to have the energy and strength to live your life. But also by meeting your needs first, you accumulate energy to help others. So it's a win win!
Luckily, my persistence to feel better helped me to turn my life around. And I have to tell you that adopting a self-care routine was one of the fundamental changes that helped me to overcome chronic anxiety, depression, and most of my other health issues.
Read on to find out what are the top 10 self-care ideas for anxiety, and please get started as soon as you can.
"Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in caring for your mind, body and emotions to preserve or improve your overall health - such as eating healthily, exercising, thinking positive thoughts, journaling, and practicing self-love."
Self-care is about evaluating your life, identifying what areas need more care and nourishment, and then adopting practices in line with that.
For example, consider the following areas of your life and identify where you need more self-care.
Why is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is important because it allows you to nurture the relationship you have with yourself, which is the most important one in your life.
By taking care of your physical, mental and emotional needs, you are taking care of your health and well-being, and that's essential, not optional.
Also, self-care can help you become the best version of yourself which is beneficial for you and for everyone around you.
Furthermore, when you are suffering from anxiety this is your body and mind signaling that you urgently need self-care, or maybe more self-care than usual.
Top 10 Self-Care Ideas for Anxiety
There are many self-care ideas, tips and activities to choose from.
I have personally tried and tested countless techniques for managing anxiety and in my experience there are 10 essential activities to take better care of yourself and your anxiety which I have outlined below.
It doesn't matter if you only adopt one self-care activity to begin with. Choose one, start practicing, and then when you can, choose another, and keep going like that.
The main thing is that you start your self-care routine today or as soon as possible.
1. Tell Yourself “I Love You”
Telling yourself “I love you” repeatedly, or showing self-love though your actions, is in my opinion the number one self-care technique for managing anxiety, and here are the reasons why,
- If you practice loving yourself, you will automatically want to take better care of yourself, and
- Self-love diminishes anxiety. Anxiety sufferers often struggle with excessive worrying, irritability, nervousness, low self-esteem, and social interactions, all of which can be caused or worsened by lack of self-love, or improved with self-love.
Each day when you wake up, tell yourself "I Love You,", preferably while standing in front of a mirror to make it more effective.
How can you show yourself "I love you" with actions?
Every positive act that you do to yourself is a way of loving yourself. For example, eating healthily, exercising, getting lots of sleep, sitting out in the sun, getting fresh air, or practicing any other kind of self-care activity are ways of showing yourself love.
The more you practice self-love the less anxiety you will experience.
2. Choose Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise - such as walking, running, dancing and swimming - is one of the best ways to relieve your anxiety quickly and over time, but also to improve your overall mental and physical health.
Multiple studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise is as effective as taking anti-depressants, but can also can reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) and anxious thoughts making you feel happier and calmer.
Furthermore, exercise can break negative thought patterns and increase your resilience to anxiety and stress.
On top of that movement is essential for overall health.
If you are weak and unmotivated I understand what's that like. I was someone who never exercised, and pretty much lived a sedentary lifestyle.
That's why I initially started my exercise regime with walking as I couldn't handle anything else at the time.
In the beginning, walking was also a big challenge because I was chronically anxious and had extremely low energy levels. But the more I walked, the longer my walks became, and the the stronger I felt. On top of that I felt improvements in my anxiety and I also started to enjoy walking!
Walking is one of the best ways to relieve anxiety, build up your fitness when you are weak, and care for your physical health when you are chronically anxious.
So, if you are in a similar state to what I was, start with walking. Take small and consistent steps, and overtime you can adopt other forms of exercise if you wish.
3. Let Go of Perfectionism
Letting go of perfectionism, can help to relieve anxiety, but also create more free time for self-care, reducing your anxiety even further.
Perfectionism is a common problem amongst anxiety sufferers, and it is also a major anxiety trigger.
I know perfectionism all too well, and this habit was a big part of my anxious life.
It’s one thing trying to strive for success, but it’s another thing trying to be perfect about it, which I did no matter the cost to my happiness and health.
When we get into "perfection mode" we tend to have no limits, which leaves less time to complete other tasks or care for ourselves; and this is likely to result in more anxiety.
I wasted so much time during my life unnecessarily perfecting homework, coursework, projects and job responsibilities; time that other people around me used to have fun.
It took me a long time before I could break this habit, but once I did, I was LIBERATED!
I must admit, that practicing self-love helped me a lot with letting go of perfectionism.
The more I made an effort to love myself, the more I felt "I am enough". This resulted in me spending less time perfecting stuff, and focusing instead on getting things done within a set time period.
I would set myself realistic targets, and when the time was up, I didn't allow myself any extra time for perfection.
I started to strive for B- standard of work rather than A+. This made a huge difference.
Today I chose to publish 4 reasonably good articles a month, rather than 1 perfect monthly blog post. Why? Because I am likely to get more website traffic with 4 reasonably good posts.
Set yourself goals and strive for completion in the time that you have available. Then submit and move on.
4. Cut Down on Sugar
Cutting down, or eliminating refined sugar can significantly improve your anxiety.
This is a very important self-care activity because anxiety loves sugar! It is very common to be addicted to sugar when struggling with anxiety and many anxiety sufferers overindulge in sweet foods and refined carbs.
But, eating too much sugar can cause or contribute to many health issues and chronic diseases, including mental health disorders.
Studies show that overconsumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, that can potentially cause anxiety and depression or make its symptoms worse.
If you are eating too much sugar and sugary foods, it's time start cutting down, while introducing more anti-anxiety foods as part of your self-care routine to better manage your anxiety.
Healthy eating is beneficial for mental health, but it also help to control sugar cravings.
Sugar gives a quick release of energy, followed by a sudden crash which results in more sugar cravings.
Eating complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and whole grains give a slow release of energy and are stable on blood sugar, helping to control your sugar cravings, and I know this from experience.
I used to be seriously addicted to sugar and this was yet another bad habit that I had to break in an effort to manage my anxiety. When I cleaned up my diet (eliminated processed foods) and started getting the bulk of my calories from complex carbs, I got my cravings under control, almost eliminating them completely.
5. Detox Regularly
Detoxing your body regularly, for example once every 3-6 months, is very beneficial for reducing and managing your anxiety long-term.
While, your body is naturally designed to get rid of toxins, it can also become overwhelmed from modern farming and diet, creating a need for detoxification.
- Conventional farming uses chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and other ‘cides which are toxins that your body needs to eliminate.
- Processed foods are loaded with additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings and other chemicals that also cause a lot of extra work for your detox organs.
Research shows that these types of toxins affect the central nervous system and can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression disorders.
This is why detoxing is an important self-care technique for mental health.
A good way to detoxify your body and mind is to consume a detox diet for a few days, every few months. My favorite detox diet is the consumption of brown rice and vegetables only. This is a safe detox diet, yet very effective.
If you are not ready to adopt a detox diet, you can also adopt the following detox techniques as part of your weekly routine.
Some popular detox techniques include
6. Create a Healthy Dinner Plate
Eating healthy and balanced meals can help you effectively manage your anxiety and counteract any nutrients deficiencies. This is a fundamental self-care activity for both mental and physical health.
Studies show that nutrient deficiencies and poor diet are common in people with anxiety disorders. For example, essential nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamin A and C, magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids are likely to be deficient.
A healthy and balanced meal includes mainly carbohydrates (veggies and whole grains), in addition to heathy fats (nuts, seeds, cold pressed oils), healthy proteins (legumes, lean meats, fish, tofu), vitamins and minerals (vegetables, whole grains, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs).
Eating a diet like this, optimizes your intake of essential nutrients, required for both your body and mind to function properly.
How to create a healthy plate?
7. Start a Gratitude Jar
Gratitude is a highly effective way of managing fear and anxiety, because of its positive effect on the body’s stress response.
One study showed that keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress by 28 percent.
When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.
– Anthony Robbins
Gratitude is also one of the most studied emotions, and research shows that practicing gratitude helps to improve overall physical and mental health.
On top of that, gratitude can improve sleep quality, trigger production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals, and increase long-term happiness, all of which are negatively impacted by anxiety.
Also, by acknowledging there are things in your life to be thankful for, it becomes easier to see your fears and worries as irrational.
There are many great gratitude techniques that you can use.
Taking a glass jar and filling it daily with notes about things you are grateful for is one effective method.
You can also repeat gratitude affirmations, write in a gratitude journal, or regularly write gratitude letters (which you don't need to send if you don't want to).
8. Take Supplements
The best way to get all your necessary nutrients is by eating healthy and balanced diet as mentioned above.
But as anxiety can negatively impact the absorption of nutrients, it is also beneficial to take a good quality multi-vitamin to boost your nutritional content.
Though please remember that supplements are not a replacement for good nutrition.
Try to get the best quality supplement that you can afford.
This following multi-vitamin is the one I consume and have done for a number of years. This is a high quality whole-food supplement for women and I highly recommend it.
Taking a daily multivitamin is highly beneficial for managing anxiety. My Kind Organics Women’s Once Daily is a certified organic multivitamin that is vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, verified whole food multivitamin with NO synthetic binders or fillers. Buy on Amazon
Studies also show that journaling can help boost self-confidence, improve mood, relieve depression and improve focus, further reducing your anxiety.
There are no rules to journaling. You can write freely or use journal prompts for anxiety.
But to make your journaling practice effective, try to be consistent. For example, it is better to write for 15 minutes every day, than for an hour once a week.
Find a time slot in your diary where you can dedicate 15 minutes every day to journal writing. Now schedule that in your phone so that you are reminded.
You can write first thing in the morning, before going to sleep, while traveling work if you get the train, or at any other time that is best for you. But do keep your journal with you when you leave the house in case you have the urge to write!
10. Practice Daily Meditation
Meditation can help you train your mind to stay focused and present.
This is very beneficial for managing anxiety because when we are in a whirlwind of anxious worries and fears, we are anywhere but the present moment.
The more we can stay present, the less anxiety we are likely to experience.
I used to think that meditation is some complicated, spiritual and religious practice. While meditation can help you enhance your spiritual growth, anyone can meditate and start immediately.
There are many amazing guided meditations on YouTube that you can listen to. Or simply put on your headphones and listen to relaxing music while practicing deep breathing.
If you have never meditated before it will be a little strange at first.
You can either sit on a chair, on the floor or lie down.
In the beginning, you will probably twitch and itch. But with time and practice, meditation will become easier and enjoyable. So, sticking with it until you get to that stage is worth your time and effort because of the incredible benefits for reducing, managing and even eliminating anxiety.
I have fallen in love with meditation over the years, and I meditate for at least 15 minutes every day. Meditation is part of my life and I highly recommend it to every anxiety sufferer.
Final Thoughts on Self-Care Ideas for Anxiety
Taking care of yourself is neither selfish nor self-centered.
On the contrary, you need to practice self-care to effectively manage your anxiety, preserve and improve health, and have the energy to help others.
While there are many self-care activities to choose from in my experience the essential ones for anxiety involve eating a healthy and balanced diet, walking daily or doing other aerobic exercise, letting go of perfectionism, practicing self-love, introducing daily meditation, being thankful, journaling, and regularly detoxing your body and mind.
Latest posts by Sandra Glavan, Life Coach for Gentle Anxiety Sufferers (see all)
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- Social Anxiety at its Worst & 4 Steps to Overcoming it? - 23rd December 2021