Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S. About 19.1% of adults and 7% of children aged 3 to 7 years old have an anxiety disorder.1 That means nearly 86 million Americans are looking for ways to cope with distressing feelings.
While you might already know some ways to cope with unwanted feelings, such as using fidget toys for anxiety, you might need to rely on several strategies before you find the relief you seek.
If you feel your anxiety has gotten out of control, contact Summit Detox now to learn more about our mental health residential treatment options.
Mental health professionals often recommend exercise because multiple studies have shown a link between physical activity and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Many of those studies have small sample sizes, so it’s difficult to know how much exercise influences anxiety. More recent research from Sweden tracked nearly 200,000 people over two decades. It found that regular exercise reduces the risk of severe anxiety by more than 50%.2
The Swedish study focused on cross-country skiers. You don’t have to sweat for hours at a time to get positive results, though. Half an hour of moderate exercise on most days of the week can improve mood.
If the very idea of exercising makes you feel even more anxious, consider getting started by:
- Taking a daily walk
- Trying low-impact exercise like yoga
- Taking “movement breaks” throughout the day
Not everyone has the ability to exercise for 30 minutes. If that sounds like you, start with a 5-minute goal. You can always work toward adding more exercise to your lifestyle.
Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drugs
Research shows a strong correlation between depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.3 Many people turn to alcohol and recreational drugs to escape anxiety. Unfortunately, intoxicants are short-term solutions that can have long-term consequences.
To make matters even worse, many people experience higher levels of anxiety after a night of drinking or using drugs. The exact reason isn’t known, but it’s probably related to lower dopamine levels in the brain.4 Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that improves mood. Many drugs force the brain to produce an excess of dopamine, which is why people feel euphoric under the influence. Once the effects wear off, the brain doesn’t have enough dopamine. That condition could make you feel more anxious or depressed, a condition commonly called “hangxiety.”
If you struggle with substance use and anxiety, you might benefit from a detox program that also provides mental health treatment. Contact Summit Detox to get more information about how substance use and mental health treatments could help.
Quit Using Tobacco and Limit Caffeine Consumption
Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can make you feel more anxious. Even people without anxiety disorders can feel jumpy and anxious after consuming too many stimulants. Just one extra cup of coffee can make a person feel uncomfortable.
It’s best to quit using all tobacco products because they pose so many health risks. If you use caffeine, consider cutting back. You might find that limiting your caffeine consumption helps ease your anxiety.
Learn To Use Relaxation and Stress Management Strategies
Several relaxation and stress management strategies could help you reduce the level of anxiety you experience. Most of these strategies activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which acts as a counter to the sympathetic system that produces the rush of adrenaline needed to escape a dangerous situation.5
Try the following strategies to see whether they help you feel less anxious:
- Abdominal breathing
- Body scan meditation
- Guided imagery meditation
- Repetitive prayer
- Tai chi
Just a few minutes could improve your condition, especially when you practice regularly.
Make Sleep a Priority
It isn’t always easy to get a full night of sleep when you live with an anxiety disorder. Disruptive thoughts and emotions can keep you up long after you get in bed. Unfortunately, poor sleep can contribute to anxiety, which can lead to further sleep interruptions. It’s a cycle that can leave people feeling anxious and exhausted.
Regardless of the challenges you might face breaking the cycle, mental and physical health relies on good sleep.6 Healthy options that might contribute to better sleep include:
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, especially in the hours before bedtime
- Limiting naps during the day so you feel tired enough to sleep at night
- Creating a soothing environment that makes you feel physically comfortable
- Avoiding smartphones, computer screens, and televisions before going to bed
- Developing a nighttime routine that gets your brain and body ready for sleep
- Following a steady sleep schedule that doesn’t change from day to day, even on the weekends
Although good sleep is essential, try not to judge yourself too harshly when you can’t sleep. Doing so often contributes to the anxiety you want to address. Maybe you spend some time reading or playing with fidget toys for anxiety when you just can’t get to sleep.
Eat Healthy Foods
Research shows that proper nutrition could play a role in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. A review of the research shows a correlation between high levels of anxiety and diets with:
- Inadequate amounts of tryptophan and protein
- Large amounts of sugar
- A lot of fat
You might find some relief from anxiety by following a diet that includes plenty of:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Omega-3 fatty acids
It might also help to consume the right amount of calories for your body and eat breakfast every day.
Learn More About Your Disorder
Not all anxiety disorders are the same. Take some time to learn about your disorder so you can find coping strategies that address your specific concerns. Meeting with a mental health professional is the only way to get correctly diagnosed. You might find that you identify with some of these common disorders, though.7
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Experiencing chronic anxiety even when nothing in your environment triggers unwanted feelings.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): A disorder that often includes repetitive thoughts and behaviors. You might experience a sense of relief when completing certain “rituals,” such as washing your hands.
- Panic disorder: Sudden, unexpected feelings of intense distress that could lead to panic attacks.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Ongoing anxiety that occurs after exposure to a traumatic event.
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia): Overwhelming anxiety that occurs in social situations.
How Summit Detox Can Help
People living with anxiety have many options for coping and recovery. Start exploring treatments by contacting Summit Detox and Mental Health.
1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
2. Reynolds, G. (2022, Jan. 12.) How Exercise May Tame Our Anxiety. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/12/well/move/exercise-anxiety.html
3. Mohamed, I.I., Ahmad, H.E.K., Hassaan, S.H. et al. (2020.) Assessment of anxiety and depression among substance use disorder patients: a case-control study. Middle East Curr Psychiatry 27, 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s43045-020-00029-w
4. Howse, AD, Hassall, CD, Williams, CC, Hajcak, G, Krigolson, OE. (2018.) Alcohol hangover impacts learning and reward processing within the medial-frontal cortex. Psychophysiology. 55:e13081. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13081
5. Tindle J, Tadi P. (2021, Nov. 5.) Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553141/
6. Suni, E. (2022, March 25). Anxiety and sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/anxiety-and-sleep
7. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html