• Danielle Ibelema, MD

How to Reduce Anxiety


Occasional feelings of stress or anxiety can be normal, but an anxiety disorder is a state in which the anxiety lasts for weeks or months and is accompanied by other symptoms. Anxiety disorders can also affect how someone functions in life, and can cause problems with social interactions, work or school.


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Yet, many are unaware of the signs of an anxiety disorder or what can be done to improve anxiety.

Common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms

Muscle tension

Feeling tense, restless or on-edge

Fatigue

Difficulty focusing

Difficulty sleeping

Feeling irritable

Feeling excessively worried

Experiencing nausea or change in bowel movements

Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Tips To Improve Anxiety


Movement as Medicine


Exercise is beneficial for both mind and physical body, it exercise can be used to help relieve stress and improve anxiety symptoms. Physical activity increases endorphins, and neurochemicals likes dopamine and serotonin, which help modulate anxiety and depressive symptoms. An active lifestyle not only helps existing anxiety and depressive symptoms, but exercise also plays a role in preventing the development of an anxiety disorder.


You don’t need to buy expensive equipment or a gym membership if that’s not appealing to you. An exercise plan should be a routine that you can stick to and something that you find enjoyable. It’s important to be creative in choosing a workout plan. If you like to dance, consider signing up for a dance class. If you like being outdoors, think about incorporating walking into your day.


If heading outside of your home isn’t an option, clear a spot in your living room! There are so many options on the internet for cardio, strength training, or yoga that don’t require extra equipment or much extra time.




Daily Mindfulness Practice


Mindfulness work allows one to connect with the present moment. It incorporates, stillness and awareness, to facilitate access to a healthier state of being. Mindfulness allows one to observe and accept—rather than judge or avoid—which are hallmarks of anxious thought pattern.


There are studies that show that meditation can improve outcomes with individuals with chronic illness such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. Yet your mindfulness work doesn’t necessarily have to be based in formal meditation. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and muscle relaxation exercises are all popular options. Practicing a mindfulness technique daily for at least 10 minutes a day can help with stress and anxiety.




Sleep to Reset


Anxiety can contribute to insomnia and a lack of sleep can also lead to anxiety. Therefore, it’s important that people with anxiety pay close attention to sleep and make it habit to keep good sleep habits. A new study shows that a sleepless night can raise anxiety by up to 30%.1


The average adult needs at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night, and there are individuals who need more. It’s important to be aware of the ideal number of hours you need to feel functional and healthy, and then make that it a goal to get that amount of sleep each night.

Seek Professional Help


Anxiety is best addressed with the help of a professional. If you have symptoms, a doctor can review your symptoms and medical history to rule out other disorders and to weigh in on your diagnosis. Once a diagnosis of anxiety is given, there are a few options for the treatment. Medications such as SSRIS, SNRIS, buspar, and beta blockers are often used to treat anxiety. Psychotherapy can also be used to address anxiety.

References


1. Ben Simon, E., Rossi, A., Harvey, A.G. et al. Overanxious and underslept. Nat Hum Behav 4, 100–110 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0754-8