Everyday practices to counteract anxiety: Part 2
In the first part of this series we talked about the prominence of overwhelm in today’s society and how more and more people are finding themselves stuck in “fight or flight” mode, leading to an unprecedented amount suffering from chronic illness.
In caveman days, this response was beneficial when faced with the temporary threat of a tiger, but today’s stressors seem constant and unyielding. Those same neurotransmitters course through our veins and can manifest as chronic anxiety if we’re not careful. An excess of stress also can push you into hyperarousal: “a state outside your neural window of tolerance in which it’s difficult to think and act clearly,” writes Sukie Baxter for Mindbodygreen.
Let’s look at some tips to help soothe your nerves, diminish anxiety, and better protect your mental and physical state for the long haul.
1. Move your body; get out of your head: Forest bathing is a real concept with proven results! And we live in the perfect place for it. Smell the air, breathe in the pine. Connect yourself to the solid ground beneath your feet, feeling the earth. To increase the healing potential of exercise, add a playlist of your favorite songs. Studies show that dopamine is released by the brain when we listen to music we love.
2. Say goodbye to self-doubt: The root of all evil and biggest dream killer if ever there was one! We’ve all heard that voice that pipes up, asking questions, querying your methods, doubting your decisions whenever you try to branch out into something new. “You’re not good enough! You’re going to fail! You don’t have the skills!” Try keeping a journal, noting every time you achieve something. Like New Year’s resolutions in reverse. Rather than listing everything you want to achieve, record each accomplishment, even the small stuff, and use it to look back on whenever doubt rears its ugly head.
3. Don’t forget to play!
Verb: “Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” When was the last time you did this? We live in the mountains, so this one is a no brainer.
“When you cultivate a playful spirit, you may find that you can approach tasks in a more relaxed and focused manner and develop more creative and innovative solutions to problems,” writes Dr. Jennifer Weinberg (www.jenniferweinbergmd.com/).
You might struggle with developing a mindfulness practice or being present: Play is the perfect way to find yourself in the here and now without even trying! The pleasure you can gain can improve your health, stimulate creativity, increase your productivity and reduce stress. Try to prioritize adding in even a small amount of time each day dedicated to the practice of play!
4. Address your sleep hygiene: Do you lie awake struggling to fall into deep sleep? Are you a four-hours-and-done kind of person? Do you wake up at 2 a.m. and then struggle through the rest of the day? Sleep is vital to help the body repair damage, restore your energy and build muscle. It also helps us regulate hormones and body weight. Over the counter sleep medications can lead to long-term health consequences, including an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Talk to an herbalist, nutritionist or Chinese Medicine Doctor about natural remedies for better sleep.
5. Hack your happy chemicals!
Those pesky neurotransmitters that run around causing chaos when you’re in fight or flight mode can be overridden! Oxytocin, the love hormone, gets released through a hug; endorphins are stimulated through eating dark chocolate, smelling lavender and savoring the scent of vanilla. Ginseng has been shown to balance the release of stress hormones in the body. Even forcing a smile has proven to help with the release of endorphins. Free hugs anyone?
6. Practice making decisions: Easier said than done right? You might be trying to pick an item off the menu, or ruminating over a monumental life-changing decision, either way, the process can cause anxiety. If you have a myriad of options, get clear on what your non negotiables are: the things that will really satisfy you. Decisiveness takes practice and training — start with the small stuff, ordering a drink — and move on slowly to bigger things.
7. Escape from technology: FOMO is exhausting. Switch off, I dare you. For an hour each day, every evening, try a whole weekend if you’re feeling crazy! Will the world stop spinning? Will all your friends disown you? If not for your mental health, do it for the physical. Electromagnetic waves, microwave frequencies, non ionizing radiation — it’s hard to escape them. Give yourself a break from the smog and leave your phone behind. You’ll be amazed how refreshing it feels to not have something you automatically check every five minutes. Hell, you might even have a great conversation with a total stranger instead of hiding behind a screen.
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