Does this sound familiar?
‘I can’t get my mind to stop… it’s driving me crazy!’
‘He’s late—he was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago! Oh my God, he must have been in an accident!’
‘I can’t sleep—I just feel scared and worried… and I don’t know why!’
Everyone gets anxious sometimes, but if your worries and fears are so constant that they interfere with your ability to function and relax, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is mentally and physically exhausting. It drains your energy, interferes with sleep, and wears your body out.When you are living with GAD you feel you can’t relax and are always on alert for danger. Worry has become a protection mechanism. You can also feel persistently joyless, frustrated, and frequently depressed. Sleep patterns can also become regularly disrupted with an inability to sleep becoming yet another reason for worry and concern. Unlike a phobia, where your fear is connected to a specific thing or situation, the anxiety of generalized anxiety disorder is a general feeling of dread or unease. This anxiety is less intense than a panic attack, but much longer lasting, making life difficult at times.
This can happen because structurally, the brain and body of the ‘you 20,000 years ago’ are no different from today. The natural responses that kept us alert and alive back then – the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response still works within us today. Modern life has replaced being hunted or fleeing danger to relationships gone bad, financial worries, unresolved traumas, bad bosses, fears of not fulfilling expectations adequately, bad diet, and excessive consumption of stimulants.
You may feel like your worries come from the outside—from other people, events that stress you out, or difficult situations you’re facing. But, in fact, worrying is self-generated. The trigger comes from the outside, but an internal running dialogue maintains the anxiety itself. When you’re worrying, you’re talking to yourself about things you’re afraid of or negative events that might happen. You run over the feared situation in your mind and think about all the ways you might deal with it. In essence, you’re trying to solve problems that haven’t happened yet, or worse, simply obsessing on worst-case scenarios.
All this worrying may give you the impression that you’re protecting yourself by preparing for the worst or avoiding bad situations. But more often than not, worrying is unproductive—sapping your mental and emotional energy without resulting in any concrete problem-solving strategies or actions.
So what can you do to overcome GAD?
Exercise – Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals. Any exercise that engages both your arms and legs—such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing—can be especially effective.For maximum relief of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days
Deep Breathing – When you’re anxious, your heart pounds, you breathe faster, your muscles tense up, and you feel light-headed. When you’re relaxed, the complete opposite happens. Your heart rate slows down, you breathe slower and more deeply, your muscles relax, and your blood pressure stabilizes. Since it’s impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time, deep breathing can reverse anxiety symptoms
Meditation – Research shows that mindfulness meditation can actually change your brain. With regular practice, meditation boosts activity on the left side of the brain responsible for feelings of serenity and joy
Sight – Take in a beautiful view. Look at treasured photos, works of art, or funny videos online
Sound – Listen to soothing music. Call an old friend. Sing or hum a favorite tune. Enjoy the sounds of nature: birds singing, ocean waves crashing on the beach, wind rustling through the trees
Smell – Light scented candles. Smell the flowers in a garden. Breathe in the clean, fresh air
Taste – Slowly eat a favourite treat, savoring each bite. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or herbal tea
Touch – Pat your dog or cat. Wrap yourself in a soft blanket. Get a massage
Movement – Go for a walk or run, dance around, jump up and down or gently stretch
Social interaction – Talk with someone who cares about you, someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted
Know who to avoid when you’re feeling anxious – Your anxious take on life may be something you learned when you were growing up. If your mother is a chronic worrier, she is not the best person to call when you’re feeling anxious—no matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem
Healthy Eating – Start the day right with breakfast, and try to eat regularly to avoid getting too hungry between meals. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel anxious and irritable. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only do complex carbs stabilize blood sugar, they also boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter with calming effects. Amongst useful foods to reduce anxiety, dark chocolate and cacao thanks to its great capacity to generate emotional well-being. Although it is not ideal for you to eat a bar of chocolate every day, you can rely on cacao and dark chocolate to make you feel well and change your outlook
Limit caffeine and sugar – Stop drinking or at least cut back on caffeinated beverages, including softdrinks, coffee, and tea. Caffeine can increase anxiety, interfere with sleep, and even provoke panic attacks. Reduce the amount of refined sugar you eat, too. Sugary snacks and desserts cause blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling emotionally and physically drained. But sweet foods are only part of the problem: a lot of processed and convenience foods are packed with sources of hidden sugar. Read the labels and focus more on eating clean unprocessed food like fruit and vegetables and healthy lean sources of protein
Avoid alcohol – Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but it actually makes anxiety symptoms worse as it wears off
Get enough sleep – Anxiety can cause insomnia where your thoughts are racing and you can’t get to sleep. But lack of sleep can also contribute to anxiety. When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to handle stress is compromised. When you’re well rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with anxiety and stopping worry. Improve your sleep at night by going to bed every night at 10pm in a dark cool room without TV. Keep a notebook and pen beside your bed and write down your worries – when you write down all your fears, many times, you start to see how many situations you shouldn’t worry about and that are not worth it
I hope this helps
Suzanne The Lifestylist