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Self-Care Tips to Lessen Your Anxiety
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Arrgggh! Why can’t everything just slow down and let me catch up!
If you’re anything like me you’ve had that feeling before. A lot. The modern world is a hectic stress-filled place, the pressures of work, rolling news and social media combine to create an atmosphere of almost constant anxiety. Being constantly stressed and anxious can have seriously implications for your long-term mental health and all manner of repercussions on your physical health too.
So what to do? Well, you could of course unplug completely and go build barns with the Amish or move to a meditation centre. But if you have annoying things like a mortgage to pay off, or things you are quite attached to, like a family – then those option may not work for you.
There are however a few life hacks you can implement that can have a big impact on your stress levels. Read on below and I will explain more.
1. Get more sleep
This is my number one top tip for, well, almost any of life’s problems. I am a self-professed sleep addict. Since I learn to stop worrying and love the nap time my anxiety levels have dropped considerably. I have also lost weight, but that’s another story entirely.
And you don’t just have to take my word for it, I have science to back me up. Research has consistently shown that individuals who sleep more have lower levels of stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide.
While we sleep our body regulates the amount of cortisol in our system. Cortisol being the stress hormone. You know that tightening in your stomach when you realised you’ve forgot to prepare for today’s presentation? Well that’s caused by cortisol.
In terms of survival it plays a vital in keeping us safe from danger, bears behind trees and such, but unchecked it can also mess up our mood, and lead to countless problems with stress and anxiety. Sleep can help fix this.
But what if I am too anxious to get to sleep? I hear you, my next two tips should help you here.
2. Get sweaty
Getting sweaty, by that I mean getting some exercise every day, will do amazing things for your stress levels. And nothing will help someone fall asleep quicker than being properly body tired when their head hits the pillow.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll which found that whopping 83% of individuals reported sleeping better when they exercised, even if that exercise was late at night, compared to when they didn’t exercise at all.
Like sleep, exercise helps the body to regulate the levels of cortisol in the blood stream. The reason for this is again related to that bear behind the tree. Back in our caveman days when faced with danger, cortisol would flood our system and trigger the “fight or flight” impulse necessary to keep us alive.
Today when we get stressed, say if we have a bad meeting in the office, we still get the same fight or flight sensation but we tend not to run out of the room or punch our boss in the face. As a result the cortisol in our system isn’t depleted.
Exercise is the modern world’s version of “fight or flight”, running on a treadmill or hitting a punching bag can replace feeling from that bear and help reduce our stress and anxiety levels
So strong is the power of exercise that according to studies exercise can be a far more effective form of stress relief than medication.
3. Go on a screen diet
Our addiction to screens, in particularly our smartphones, plays havoc with anxiety levels. Firstly the blue light that our devices emit, not to mention the constant cognitive activity required to work them, overstimulates your mind instead of helping it to relax.
Secondly, their screens actually block the production of serotonin and melatonin; two neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating a whole host of bodily functions, including the ability to help us keep calm.
Each time we get a like, get tagged in a photo, or even just receive a reply to a message, our brains get hit with a little shot of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Think of it kind of like a doggy treat for our mood. Sounds great but the downside with this is it can lead to increased anxiety when your phone isn’t beeping and the ‘like machine’ isn’t being fed.
Earlier I joked that one way to reduce your anxiety levels was to forsake modern technology and join the Amish. For most people this isn’t practical advice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from our neighbors in Pennsylvania.
Giving yourself time away from your phone can do wonderful things for your anxiety levels. Take small steps. Ban phones from your bedroom for one and start leaving it at home when you do simply things, like running to the shop for errands or going for a walk. It sounds counter-intuitive but there are also handy apps that will limit the amount of time you can spend on social media.
Well, there you have it three simple suggestions, sleep more, exercise more and spend less time on your phone. By themselves they may not have a huge impact but in combination these three will hopefully help you to recapture a sense of calm.
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