Stress and anxiety are common feelings for most people.
In fact, 70% of adults in US feel anxious and stressed every day. Anxiety is my old friend too. I have been dealing with it for 6 years now. During that time I have learned what works to reduce stress and what doesn’t.
Here are 7 main principles that I have found to be useful and proven scientifically to reduce levels of anxiety.
Our brain is wired to keep us alive and to keep us safe. So if you have ever been to a car accident or some extreme situation you know that your body shifts to a fight-or-flight mode that you could deal with the extreme. But the main issue occurs when we start feeling chronic stress all day every day. If you haven’t been working with your mind then anxious thoughts can really affect your personal, intimate and professional life.
If you wondering what to do that the anxious thoughts wouldn’t take over your life this blog post is for you.
What causes anxiety in the first place?
The shortest answer is – your mind.
Our brain is a really fascinating thing. It helped us survive through the decades of the evolutionary process so why the heck we shouldn’t listen to it?
Because the time changed, but our brain responds to the world hasn’t, it remained the same. Let me explain.
Why you shouldn’t listen to your brain
What your brain does, especially when you are stressed, it scans the world for what’s dangerous: it’s looking for what’s wrong or broken, it looks for the problems. So that it could fix it and find a solution so that you could change it and stay alive.
You know this process so well if you are reading this post. This is when the heart rate goes up when you are anxious, and your thoughts race or it becomes completely blank, your palms start to sweat.
We usually get butterflies in our bellies, which is oxygen leaving your stomach and going to your limbs so you could run faster and further from danger. And your body is switching into fight-or-flight mode.
So it is great if you are in a real state of danger. If there is a tiger running at you. But for the most part, you are not in a dangerous situation that might cause your death but you are in a constant stress state.
This explains why the same system is switched on when we are in a state of fear and the same system is switched on when we have anxiety.
During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels.
Your brain is indicating the problem, but it is indicating it in the wrong way because it wasn’t designed to perform in the modern world. It was designed to keep you safe and it is our job to help it outperform in challenging situations.
To help you do this, here are 7 proven methods to calm your mind and live at peace with your anxious thoughts.
1. Improve Your Sleep
Lack of sleep might kill you and it’s no joke. Because sleep is a recovery process for your brain. So imagine if you’re not getting enough sleep and trying to push through the day that would be a really stressful situation for your brain.
That’s why it’s important to concentrate on recovery to avoid stress and not to feel overload.
Ask yourself: How well can I recover to push my goals the next day? To move towards my vision?
Sleep, eat, hydrate and move are healthy lifestyle pillars that are all important for your stress levels too. You don’t have to be perfect in all of these, but if you are trying to get most of these right, it’s known it will increase your performance for the day and also consistently.
It is really hard to seek your dreams when you are fatigued and to live in that moment when you are fatigued. And being in a present moment is a great way to reduce anxious thoughts.
This how you can bring these concepts to your life and improve your sleep:
- sleep basics (know when you fell asleep and at what time you woke up and how it varies over time)
- track your sleep (use apps like Sonic Sleep Cycle; Sleep Coach)
- sleep hygiene
dial in your sleep state:
– reduce blue light before sleep; it works like a cup of coffee right before bedtime. Light some candles after 8 pm, this will help your circadian rhythms to normalize
- get unplugged: shut down all screens two hours before bed
- switch to Night Shift mode on your iPhone and iPad
If you know that your brain hasn’t recovered and you slept poorly, don’t put a heavy workload on it the next day. Even small amounts of stress will be damaging for your brain the next day.
Better spend the day concentrating on rejuvenating activities rather than burdening your system even more. By understanding your sleep you will know what choices to make about your day.
2. Mindfulness practice
Mindfulness is about taking the time for yourself in the morning and being intentional how you will show up for the day. Mindfulness work is to notice when you are going away from the present moment.
Science is fascinating and it says that 47% of your mind spend the time wandering. Almost half of your life you spend thinking about the future maybe in the excitement, maybe in an anxious way, maybe worrying or maybe thinking about the past and being frustrated.
Think about that. What could it look like if you could spend just a little bit more time in a present moment?
Where we give your attention there you give your life.
So think about it where in your day are you putting your attention. What seed are you feeding in your mind? Is it toward your goal or isn’t?
There are several methods for increasing mindfulness, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, meditation, breathwork, and yoga.
These exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response. This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.
The thing is with mindfulness practices that you have to practice it when you are not stressed. It’s a pattern that your body needs to learn and use when the anxiety comes.
The great way to start mindfulness practice is, to begin with, self-discovery. It can help you combat the anxiety-including effects of negative thinking too. And that brings us to the 3rd stress reducer.
3. Start journaling
You already know stress really is bemoaning the past and worrying about the future. It’s time to give you some tools to change that.
Have you ever tried setting the vision for yourself? Committing to it and being accountable?
When you visualize where you want to be in one year, what the outcome is that you want to get, your brain will start searching for ways how you can get there.
To start this process concentrate your thoughts that in one year you would spend 80% of your time working on the thing that you love. Write it down.
When you know your vision it is easier to adapt and go through challenges because you know that you are seeking the greater good.
You should love the person that you are and the person that you’re becoming.
That’s why journaling is so powerful. It’s a self-discovery process that allows you to see what does the best life actually looks like for you and how you would organize your days to live in alignment with that.
It’s really about how you showed up at each moment of your day. What if you could bring all of you to each moment?
Sign up for the training on how to set a vision and make a self-discovery process by journaling. This process will help you set the inner journey so you could live in alignment with your vision and help you master your mind and reduce anxiety. Get on the list to get the instructional video to your inbox.
4. Supplements as a quick relief option
These remedies can soothe the symptoms caused by stress but they won’t heal the root cause. So it can be a quick and effective way to eliminate undesirable feelings, but you still should dig deeper and start journaling to find out what’s causing it.
Several supplements that promote stress and anxiety reduction and can be added to the daily supplements that you take. Here is a brief of the most common ones that I use to reduce anxiety symptoms:
Hemp extract: CBD is the ultimate tool in peaceful relaxation. The plant compounds in hemp help you relax and work quickly when you need it. It is increasingly used in Europe and the US to treat mild stress and anxiety.
Valerian: Valerian root is a popular sleep aid due to its tranquilizing effect. It contains valeric acid, which alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to lower anxiety. It is also a great way to get a deep sleep and use it to improve your sleep. I use valerian to make sure I rest during the night and it leads to a great morning.
Ginseng: Referred to as an adaptogen, ginseng is a natural stress fighter that supports the nervous system. It’s subtle supports your brain and helps you better cope with stress. It is my daily staple especially when the gloomy weather starts.
Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition.
5. Cut back caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks. High doses of it can increase anxiety. But people have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate.
Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off.
If you notice that caffeine or alcohol makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back or change it with green tea and/or matcha.
Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants that provide health benefits. It may lower stress and anxiety by increasing the serotonin level. Higher green tea consumption is closely affiliated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms, indicating the potential therapeutic effects of green tea on depression.
A study showed that people who drank ≥4 cups/day experienced a 44% lower prevalence of depressive symptoms than those who drank ≤1 cup/day. So drink your green tea and let the polyphenols make neuroprotective effects on your brain.
Matcha is another powerful drink to reduce anxiety. It activates dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain which are both associated with anxiety and mood. If consuming matcha will reduce your anxiety, then grab a cup of matcha latte when you can instead of coffee!
6. Spend time with animals
Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.
Interacting with pets may help release oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood. And pets have mood enchanting benefits. Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active and providing companionship — all qualities that help reduce anxiety. While I don’t encourage you to adopt a dog or a cat, there are options for serving a great cause and enjoy the companionship of animals. You can visit an animal shelter for a day.
One study showed that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.
7. Exposure to sunlight
Light is fundamental to our existence. Sunlight activates your cells, controls your hormones and your metabolism as much as food. How and when you are exposed to sunlight affect your entire body system and can level up or down your mental game.
Your body is designed to function in the twenty-four-hour cycle. And your hormones and neurotransmitters naturally rise and fall with this rhythm.
But in your daily environment, you are exposed to many artificial light sources that disrupted your natural sleep cycle and rhythms that keep your body optimally functioning.
To avoid that, make sure to spend time outside in the sun before noon it boosts your energy and mental performance. Sunlight makes the vitamin D more available for your body and this vitamin regulates your circadian rhythms (sleep cycle).
I do recommend supplementing with Vitamin D, but nothing can fully replace the full light you are meant to get from the sun.
After all, exposure to the sun is correlated to the process you do before bed and your sleep. So go back to step one and repeat the process again to improve your mental state and reduce anxious thoughts.
Let me know how you applied these seven pillars into your life in the comments.