These days it seems like everyone is having trouble with anxiety. Some of this increase is because our lives are becoming increasingly hectic and unstable, some of it is because society is more willing to talk about the problem than it used to be, and some of it is because of unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices that are becoming increasingly more common. Many of these things we can’t control, but some of them we certainly can.
We can’t always make our lives less stressful, but we can often change how we perceive that stress by monitoring what we put into our bodies. Going back to at least the mid-‘80s, several studies have linked caffeine intake to anxiety.
It makes sense if you think about it: many of us use caffeine to stay alert, so too much of it puts us on edge. While a cup or two in the morning should be fine, if you drink a lot of coffee, tea, soda or – say it’s not so – energy drinks and have problems with anxiety cutting back may help.
Because stress, a major part of anxiety, is the result of the body flooding with various chemicals in response to a stimulus, some researchers believe that we may be able to combat external stimulus with controlled internal stimulus to reduce the stress response.
This sounds very complicated, but it boils down to “take deep breaths.” This has been found in multiple studies to relieve the symptoms of anxiety through a number of pathways that arise from the action of breathing being a rare area of overlap between body functions that we can control, like our muscles, and body functions that we can’t control, like our heartbeat.
To put it very simply, when we are excited our unconscious triggers our brain to take quick shallow breaths but by consciously choosing to take slow deep breaths instead we can reduce that excitement.
If mindful breathing alone isn’t enough for you, consider adding some practice with aromatherapy. Studies have found that aromatherapy, with or without mindful breathing exercises helped most study participants to get a better handle on their anxiety.
Essential oils like those used in aromatherapy can also be used in addition to massage oils to help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Essential oils – aromatic oils pressed from certain plants – can be purchased online or at many health stores.
You may have heard that exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety, and it can, but for severe cases, it is best to couple exercise with therapy, lifestyle changes, and other treatments.
Exercise causes the release of messenger signals in the body that make us feel better, and it also leads to an improved self-image, which is enough to improve the overall mood of many people, but exercise on its own may not be enough to conquer your anxiety.
Many people have anxiety, and many people pursue pharmaceutical solutions, but for those who would rather stick to natural methods, there are several alternative options, though you may still want to talk with your doctor to decide which will work best for you.