June 26, 2018

Ten Ways to Reduce Anxiety

We live in a society that’s always on the go, and this constant activity can often lead to stress and anxiety. When anxiety creeps up, we may feel overwhelmed, stuck, or out of control. We may get distracted, hyperfocus or avoid responsibilities. While severe anxiety should be addressed with a therapist or medical doctor, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

1. Make lists

Why: Chances are if you are suffering from anxiety, your mind is full of tasks you need to remember or want to accomplish. An easy way to combat these racing thoughts is to write them down. If you want to be strategic, break up the thoughts into columns: tasks to accomplish this week, reminders, and miscellaneous thoughts or worries. While this allows you to schedule and prioritize appropriately, it also may prevent the avoidance of certain tasks, which may cause anxiety further down the road. By organizing your upcoming tasks on paper, you free up space in your mind while eliminating the worry that you will forget something.

2. Create a routine

Why: One of the main symptoms of anxiety is the feeling of chaos and a loss of control. One way to combat this is to create a daily routine. Jodi Lobozzo Aman, a clinical psychologist, explains that having a routine helps steady the mind and allows individuals to feel in control. We suggest starting simple! Try setting a morning schedule that consists of calming activities such as drinking tea, reciting a mantra or journaling. We suggest you choose activities that promote a sense of peace and wellbeing.

3. Prioritize sleep

Why: Sleep debt, the accumulation of not getting enough sleep, is a major contributor to stress and anxiety. Sleep allows your body to repair, refuel and relax, so without a healthy amount, tension and stress start to build us. To encourage getting a healthy amount of sleep, doctors recommend you go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try a relaxing activity one hour prior to bed such as journaling or reading (no phones or screens!). You can also try natural remedies to promote sleep such as aromatherapy with lavender oil or using a white noise machine.

4. Meditate

Why: By now, you’ve probably seen hundreds of articles about the benefits of meditation and may even roll your eyes at them, but the results could drastically alter how calm you stay throughout the day. We know keeping a consistent meditation practice isn’t easy (cue the itchy leg or the pinging phone or the loud neighbors), but the benefits are worth the time it takes to get into the habit. Studies have shown that meditation can decrease anxiety, improve sleep, facilitate peace and happiness and improve the immune system. For beginners, it’s recommended to meditate at the same time every day and to keep your practice to 5-10 minute sessions. Set an intention for what you want to get out of your daily meditation, get into a comfortable position, and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your inhales and exhales. Meditation is hard, so don’t be frustrated or discouraged if you can’t focus or sit still. Be gentle with yourself and stick with it! With practice, meditation becomes natural and habitual, allowing the calming effects to sink into your daily life.

5. Do yoga

As an organization that offers yoga as part of eating disorder treatment, we’re no stranger to the benefits of the practice. From reducing insomnia to improving energy and strength, it’s no surprise that yoga can help calm anxiety and promote mindfulness. Due to a recent boom in the practice, yogis can now choose between various formats of yoga to engage in. There is vinyasa yoga (focused on breath/body movement), yin yoga (focused on gentle stretching), and sound baths (where participants lay in savasana as singing bowls are played). If you need a more accessible yoga option, try practicing at home. All you need is a comfortable space to breathe, move and stretch. If you aren’t sure what postures to do, try following our 45-minute guided practice.

6. Start a gratitude journal

Why: Starting a gratitude journal is a simple way to experience stress relief and practice mindfulness. While your gratitude journal can take any form you please, most folks like to make it a daily reflection before going to bed. This journal is about celebrating the little things, so write down what you were grateful for during the day or what made you happy. Some examples are a good meal, a beautiful sight or a friendly conversation.

7. Try float therapy

Why: Float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation, is a type of hydrotherapy that stimulates zero gravity by dissolving 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt into 200 gallons of water into a small, bath-like pod. This therapy is now offered commercially and can be found at several wellness centers across the United States. The process is relatively simple: you shower prior to the float tank, wear whatever clothing/swim gear you feel comfortable in, hop in the tank and get comfortable! While it’s recommended that you shut off your senses by wearing earplugs and closing the tank lid to block out light, you have full control over the experience. You can leave the music on, leave the tank open and keep the lights on.

Float therapy has noted benefits to those suffering from eating disorders or mental health illnesses. Epsom salt and no-effort floating will allow your body to relax and reboot. It can calm muscle tension, inflammation and promote a sense of deep relaxation. This relaxation can help aid in healing and recovery because it may soothe triggers, trauma, anxiety, and overthinking. If you need an affordable option to try floating, most centers offer a new customer discount that you can find on their website.

8. Reduce your caffeine intake

Why: While caffeine can be great for those days when you are feeling sluggish or running on little sleep, it can also be a major contributor to anxiety. Caffeine increases stress hormones and your heart rate, making it harder to sleep later in the day. It can also cause restlessness, agitation, dizziness, nausea, and other gastrointestinal problems, all symptoms experienced during times of severe anxiety or panic. If you suffer from anxiety, it’s typically recommended by a doctor to reduce your caffeine intake. Try swapping your morning coffee for green tea or start drinking decaf.

9. Reach out to friends

Why: Studies have shown that having a solid support system may increase the quality of life and reduce anxiety. However, it is important that you choose these friends wisely and make sure you have similar personal goals. For example, if you are choosing a support system to aid in your eating disorder recovery, make sure those friends understand and support your recovery. By having a group to lean on in times of anxiety, individuals can reduce stress and feelings of isolation. While having a strong network is great, we also know that creating it can be challenging. If you aren’t sure where to start, start with a support team of professionals! Whether it is an eating disorder treatment team or a therapist, be open and honest and share your recovery with others to promote long-term healing.

10. See your doctor

Why: If anxiety, depression, eating disorder symptoms, or other mental health concerns are not improving with home remedies or get worse with time, reach out to a professional. Anxiety and eating disorders are severe clinical diagnoses that can be remedied with the proper professional treatment. Early intervention for eating disorders and anxiety is crucial in making recovery faster and more manageable. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to the specialists at The Emily Program at 1-888-364-5977 to get started on a treatment plan today.

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