Anxiety is the number-one mental health illness affecting Americans today. Despite being influenced by several factors, including genetics, current and past life events, and the makeup of your brain, we often stigmatize anxiety. Those without severe anxiety disorders, or those with untreated anxiety disorders, often write off its symptoms—like restlessness, nervousness, or insomnia—as normal to experience. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, close to 40% of people who have an underlying anxiety disorder do not seek treatment. This exacerbates symptoms, lessens the quality of life, and increases the likelihood of hospitalization for mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, we’re living in stressful times, so the likelihood is high that we’ll soon see an increase in anxiety-related disorders. The good news? Stress is both manageable and partially preventable. Herbalife Nutrition is , which includes taking care of your mental health. So, here are some helpful tips to help navigate stressful situations and reduce its affect on your overall wellbeing..
- Take Time to Meditate
It’s hard to take time for self-care. Before 2020 hit, our society was all about making every square inch of a person’s day productive. Often, that productivity revolved around working, and the rise in articles about meal planning, workouts, and volunteering all support this theory. Additionally, when we look at social media and see the #selfcare tag, it’s often asking you to spend money on skincare, face masks, or fancy foods to boost your mood.
Do these activities and products have benefits? Sure. But the answer to maintaining a healthy routine does not mean that all your spare time needs to be spent doing something—or that you need to spend your hard-earned money to achieve self-care. Meditation, breathing exercises, and even prayer all benefit you, even if they don’t produce an immediate product.
Meditation is self-care that is not expensive, and it has proven benefits. Meditation practices have taken place all over the world for as far back as human history, and there are many ways of doing it. If you have a smartwatch and have used its breathing app, you’ve meditated. This act simply requires that you pay attention to your body, both inside and inside. Many of the mental and physical cues we miss by going non-stop from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed are realized during meditative practice.
Here’s a quick practice that will ease you into daily self-awareness through meditation.
- Start by sitting or lying in a comfortable position that allows your spine to stretch out. Close your eyes and breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Focus on your breath (if you have a hard time doing this, try creating a small sound with your mouth when you breathe out). Do this for a few breath cycles, then bring your attention slowly to parts of your body, starting with your toes.
- Check-in with each part of your body—from your toes to your feet to your calves and upward. How do these parts feel? What are the ways you can honor them in your daily routine?
- If you find your mind starting to wander, don’t get frustrated. Simply acknowledge the thought and bring your awareness back to where you left off. Continue until you’ve checked-in with all parts of your body.
- Close with five or six deep breaths.
- When you have finished your mindfulness practice, take five or ten minutes to stretch parts of your body that felt the most tension during your session. If you found anxiety to be the most overwhelming part of the practice, make yourself a cup of decaffeinated tea or drink a cup of water and read a book or listen to a podcast.
- Consume Less Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
You’re human, and unless you have a religious or personal reason for not consuming alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine, you will likely consume these things at some point in our life (though nicotine is slowly dropping in widespread and continued usage). All these substances can impact your ability to reason effectively, which can worsen stress. But they do more than that. They create a hostile and ill-functioning environment within the body that exacerbates the pre-existing side effects of anxiety disorders.
To begin with, alcohol is a depressant. When used during times of high anxiety, it can seem deceivingly helpful. When intoxicated, alcohol can temporarily relieve symptoms of anxiety and make the body feel relaxed. However, after the period of intoxication (and often during a hangover), anxiety is amplified. There are a few reasons for this.
For one, even people without an anxiety disorder are likely to experience the jitters, restlessness, and nervousness for no reason. These are signs of the body detoxing after a night of drinking, and when you put these symptoms on top of typical anxiety symptoms, it can make it far worse. Additionally, your body does not sleep as well when it is intoxicated, and lack of sleep also exacerbates anxiety symptoms.
Nicotine, on the other hand, is highly addictive—and withdrawal symptoms from nicotine exacerbate anxiety in many of the same ways that alcohol does. Add constant smoking to excessive caffeine intake, and you’re providing the perfect conditions for consistently elevated anxiety symptoms.
- Get Your Eight Hours (and Then Some)
Think you’re getting enough sleep? That’s probably unlikely. A recent study showed that nearly 45% of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. Most of us know that sleep helps the body repair itself—which is why we let people sick with serious illnesses like the flu get as much sleep as they want.
What people tend to forget is that the brain is also an organ and needs time to repair, just like every other part of the body. If you’ve found yourself more anxious or depressed than usual, your first step should be to make more time in your life for sleep. Sleep shuts down parts of the brain and allows them to repair themselves.
If you can’t commit to between seven and nine full hours of sleep per day, be sure to include a nap or two in your rotation. Additionally, if you find it hard to get to sleep, consider taking a supplement and doing a meditative practice as you sleep. You can also support a good sleep environment by:
- Turning off your electronics at least a half an hour before you try to sleep
- Going outside and getting healthy sun exposure during the day
- Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day
- Stopping caffeine intake at least eight hours before bedtime
Finally, you shouldn’t be ashamed about taking a nap or two. Sleep is one of the most effective ways of treating anxiety, and it doesn’t cost a penny.
- Learn about Setting Limits
Often, one of the hardest things for people who suffer from anxiety to do is to set limits on their behalf. Unfortunately, failure to set limits often also increases the anxiety felt by that person. It drives them to work past their point of comfort out of the fear that they will upset the people in their life. A mind functioning without anxiety understands that people set boundaries and that setting boundaries will help those people function at their absolute best.
Practice setting limits in the following ways:
- Acknowledge your anxious thoughts instead of redirecting them. This is a way of setting limits with yourself and coping with your thoughts.
- Set limits on your time. It is okay to ignore calls, reschedule Zoom meetings, or put off doing something that might spike your anxiety. Ultimately, listen to your body and mind before following through with anything that might make you anxious.
- Allow yourself to unfollow people on social media that might be causing you mental distress. We are all-consuming social media a lot more these days, which means we need to make new rules about who we follow and who we don’t—for the benefit of our mental health.
- Eat a Nutritious Diet
Nutritional science tells us that when we leave vital nutrients out of our diet, our body reacts to that missing nutrient. While this is inconvenient, our body’s minor mental or physical ailments are highly advanced survival skills. Eating some of these foods can improve your diet in a mentally-supportive way:
- Nuts: Most nuts contain selenium and vitamin E, which are both antioxidants. We’ll talk more about selenium later, but Vitamin E protects against cell damage—which is crucial if you suffer from increased cortisol levels in your blood.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are rich in selenium, which prevents cancer and reduces inflammation in the body.
- Salmon: Salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely important in the regulation of neurotransmitters. You can find them in the oils and fats of certain fish, including salmon. Salmon is the most popular type of fish that contains Omega-3s, but other fish types include mackerel, herring, sardines, and trout. If you are vegetarian or vegan, there are ways to get Omega-3s that don’t involve harming an animal. Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and flax seeds all contain ample amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eggs (with yolks): The egg yolk is one of nature’s most delicious and nutritious forms of food, and if your diet doesn’t includes eggs, you should actively include more of them in your daily routine.
Egg yolks contain vitamin D and tryptophan, which are both necessary ingredients in a healthy sleep routine. Vitamin D, of course, you know from milk and sun exposure. It regulates mood and, in turn, helps keep you active during the day and helps you wind down during the night. Tryptophan, on the other hand, is a natural key to creating serotonin—one of the things you need to maintain mood and a regular sleep schedule. Combine the two, and you get a natural mood and sleep regulator. With a good night’s sleep and enough energy during the day to get in some exercise, you can better handle the issues that come with anxiety.
These are only some of the more common foods that can boost your mental health. Many more exist, and when combined with nutrient-dense products —like Herbalife Nutrition shakes —you can ensure your body is getting as much as it needs.
- Move in Ways You Find Pleasurable
Despite what social media fitspo accounts might tell you, exercise isn’t all or nothing.
It also doesn’t look the same for everyone across the board. Exercise and movement are endlessly customizable, and for the anxious person, even a little bit of movement can make a difference.
When done regularly, exercise benefits your mental health. First, it reduces the levels of cortisol in your body. Both cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones. If your anxiety levels are elevated, so are your cortisol and adrenaline levels. Over time, this can lead to excess inflammation in the body, which causes pain. Second, it causes your body to produce more endorphins—mood-boosting hormones. Endorphins not only regulate good mood and creating a sense of happiness and euphoria, but they also work as your body’s natural painkillers.
You don’t have to be a die-hard gym enthusiast to reap the benefits of exercise and movement. Set aside thirty minutes a day to go for a walk, do some yoga, or simply dance around your house to your favorite tunes.
- Take the Time to do Activities You Enjoy
Rather than mindlessly zoning out in front of the television each night (we get how tempting it can be), opt to participate in activities that give you a sense of accomplishment. These will be different for everyone. Some people enjoy reading, some enjoy crafting, and others enjoy working out.
The most important takeaway is that not everyone will enjoy the same things. Don’t compare yourself to others. Whatever makes you happy (and is safe to do) is the best spare time activity for you!
- Talk to Someone Each Day – Personally or Professionally
Humans are social creatures, and our social needs have been put on the back burner recently. Even if you typically like your independence, you should try to talk to one person every day. We can learn to live alone, but humans aren’t meant to spend their entire lives without social interaction—doing so has a significant impact on a person’s ability to cope with their anxiety.
First, understand the term “talking to someone” is nuanced. Talking to someone can be as simple as leaving a friend a Marco Polo message or as complex as scheduling a zoom meeting with your therapist. Both have their benefits, but we cannot recommend enough trying out a therapist or mental health counselor at least once in your life if you have anxiety.
Therapists and counselors are privileges that not everyone suffering from anxiety has. A regular therapist costs money and time—and might even ask that you take time away from the people you care about. However, therapists and mental health counselors are also invaluable resources. They can help you better understand the triggers behind your anxiety and find management techniques that work for you. Over time, you might find that you can work through your anxiety without the help of a counselor or therapist simply because you’ve been given the tools to work through your anxieties.
Anxiety is a hard illness to deal with if you don’t have the right tools. But with consistency and support, it is something you can manage to thrive with—despite its challenges.