The first step to having a healthy relationship with anxiety is reframing your state of mind. As a sufferer of an anxiety disorder fear is likely your biggest issue. Fear of the fear response – that is fear of anxiety.
Once you can acknowledge that anxiety itself in its rawest form is just an evolutionary asset designed to keep us alive. You will never get rid of this asset – every normal person feels it every day. When the car in front of you slams on their brakes and you need to react – that is anxiety.
You aren’t ill or sick – what you have is a behaviour problem. The way you respond to anxiety creates more anxiety and creates a loop. This then affects chemicals in your body and before you know it your mind and body are very unhealthy.
Start looking at anxiety and anxious feelings for what they are – just feelings. They aren’t harmful in any way. As soon as you can stop struggling with them you take away their power and can concentrate on what matters most – you.
Healthy mind, healthy body. Or is it healthy body, healthy mind? as a matter of fact it’s both. So don’t try and treat just one while ignoring the other. Your body needs fuel to be at its best so be sure to feed it healthy meals throughout the day. Start with breakfast the most important part of the day.
This means avoiding takeaway or microwaved boxed meals. Cooking or obtaining fresh food, full of vitamins and flavours. Skip the preservative filled processed foods and refined sugars. Keep your blood sugar levels steady. It’ll give you less to be anxious about too.
Exercise – yep, the dreaded word. You don’t have to run off and join the RIO 2016 olympics but get moving, outside with nature. This is as simple as walking. If you want to step it up and do more, sure, go for a run or join a group fitness class. An outdoor bootcamp class has many benefits besides just exercise. Many of these are full of people also having a laugh, you can interact and socialise with others and maybe even make some friends.
These may or may not help.. but there’s no harm in trying and making up your own mind. I would recommend Omega 3 (high strength EPA), Vitamin D and magnesium. All have had studies done on depression and/or anxiety. Some of these you can get a doctor to check your levels for, some you will either have to trust your own experience or trust the science.
While the emphasis of mindfulness is on meditation – this is also about changing your mindset. You can be mindful all day every day in everything you do. Walking.. shopping.. relaxing.. and yes of course, meditation. So do all of these. There is more and more evidence popping up every day that mindfulness can actually change your brain.
Follow Mindful.org on Facebook to see some great articles every day that will really get you thinking. Regarding meditation there are many guided meditation mobile apps such as Headspace, Stop, Breath & Think and Calm. Give it a chance, it’s helping many people every day from business people to elite athletes and even students.
There are a few books I can highly recommend for helping change the way you see anxiety. These concentrate on mindfulness principles and acceptance. I believe this is the biggest single factor which can change your relationship with anxiety. As mentioned at the start as soon as you can change your relationship with anxiety and stop struggling, the monsoon is lifted and then you are simply left with a few cloudy days.
The Happiness Trap is based on ACT principles and is about becoming psychologically flexible – that is embracing all emotions – positive and negative that life will throw at us. This is a great book that you can apply to anxiety, depression and just being stuck in a rut and help live by your values.
The Dare Response gives you clear, concise steps to respond to anxiety and especially panic. The benefits of these simple steps is they are easyish to remember in the throws of panic.
Play It Away is about getting back to simpler times like when you was a child. Having fun and just experiencing life with a far more relaxed attitude. Again this goes back to mindset and making time for yourself.
Connect with nature. Spend more time outdoors. Go to the zoo, go to the animal park. Experience all the wonderful creatures on this earth. Spend time with trees, grass, natural scenery. All of these things are truly amazing. Take the time to notice things around you, the clouds in the sky, the sounds of running water or birds chirping.
Connect with others. Spend time with friends. Spend time with family. If distance is a problem call your family often. Be friendly with strangers at the shop serving you. Take the time to ask how they are or how their day is. We all crave human interaction so make it a point to connect.
Just Do It
I recommend reading all three books and then just do it. Stop looking for answers, stop looking for a miracle cure because the answer is to stop struggling and start living. You will have cloudy days but that isn’t to say that it isn’t working. Cloud days are part of life for every person, anxiety disorder or not.
Stop thinking there is something wrong with you because there isn’t. You are just feeling the full range of human emotions – unfortunately over 60% can be classed as negative but they are still normal. The sooner you can accept that and stop struggling with them the less power they have.
Remember life is just one big experiment. Every decision we make affects the outcome. If you concentrate on making the right decisions then outcome of the experiment can be considered successful.