Healthy habits for anxiety?
September 17, 2013 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for healthy habits to help fight anxiety.

I've got tons of anxiety, especially when I sit down to work, which sure doesn't help with the effort to get things done and improve my financial situation. Since I don't have health insurance, I'm doing everything in my power to fight the anxiety without medication. Here's what I currently do:

* Mediate daily (I'm currently at 12 minutes, but I hope to get up 20 minutes.)
* Yoga 3x a week
* Running 3x a week
* reduced my caffeine intake (no more coffee or soda, hoping to cut down on black tea too.)
* vitamin D daily (Not sure if this has any effect on anxiety.)

Here's what I plan to do:
* Reduce my sugar intake. (I crave it so hard, feel good for ten minutes after eating it, then it seems to turn on me and exacerbate the problem.)

Can you suggest anything else?
posted by bluecore to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Socialize regularly.
I find that socializing regularly helps me not live so much in my head (which is a major source of anxiety for me). It is also nice to get fresh perspectives on whatever issues are stressing me out.
posted by Kevtaro at 6:20 PM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

You could get alot of ideas from this book: The ten best ever anxiety management techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:20 PM on September 17, 2013

Eat pumpkin seeds before bed = tryptophan = has a calming effect, increases serotonin production. Zenbev is also a good supplement.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:24 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

A certain degree of anxiety actually helps with productivity.

That being said, exercise, yoga and cutting out caffeine will help tremendously.

Depending on the severity of your anxiety, CBT techniques help a lot and so does take-as-needed medication.

For supplements, L-Tryptophan/5-HTP supplements help a lot of people as does Passionflower Tincture and chamomile tea.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 6:27 PM on September 17, 2013

Feeling Good (the CBT book) helped me tremendously. I used it alongside therapy, but you don't need to. I also talk to myself, aloud, usually in the car. Stuff like, "Okay, you're freaking out about this? Well, what's the worst that could happen?" and I'll outline an outlandish worst-case scenario. Then I'll say, "What's the most likely thing?" and talk about that for a while. By the time I'm done, I'm much calmer and I'm able to think realistically about the situation instead of catastrophizing. Talking aloud seems to keep me from falling into unproductive thought patterns or glossing over the helpful ones.
posted by linettasky at 6:37 PM on September 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

Regarding sugar: As a life-long sugar addict, my sugar cravings went away when I switched a diet rich in protein and fats (i.e. eggs, avocados, and occasional butter) along with reasonable amounts of carbs with every meal.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 7:12 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Both covered above a little but I find the best two things are socialising with people you aren't afraid to have a good honest chat to and self-talk.

When you can't socialise, talking to yourself in a structured way can really help. Define what is making you anxious and talk through that with yourself in a clear and logical fashion. Explain to yourself what is reasonable, what you are going to do about it and also, most importantly, what you are not.

Don't be afraid to talk to yourself out loud. Maybe do this in private, although my partner is quite well aware I do this and accommodates it without a raised eyebrow.

Listening to music can be good too.
posted by deadwax at 7:28 PM on September 17, 2013

Vitamin B (there is a common stress B combo vitamin) and a good multimineral did wonders for me.
posted by Clustercuss at 7:43 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Diaphragmatic breathing This helps a LOT, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed at work.

L-Theanine supplements

Magnesium supplements

Mindfulness: not sitting meditation, but being fully present to whatever is happening in the moment. Notice your physical sensations, really look at the scenery, pay attention to whatever you are doing. This I find especially useful when I am anxious, but the thing I'm anxious about is not happening now. I try to really notice and enjoy the times when crappy stressful things are not happening, and let myself relax.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:03 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Stop fighting it. Stop the mindset that it's a battle you need to win. Acceptance is key to overcoming it.

Sit in the moment, notice you're anxious. Don't judge it, don't show it any emotional energy. Just look at yourself and say "Wow. I'm anxious. How about that?" and then continue on with exactly you were doing without letting anxiety stop you.

It's harder than it sounds. Chances are the first couple of times you try it you'll get close to panic. Practicing emotional acceptance is key to living a life where you can cope in difficult emotional situations and I promise it'll be worth it.

Anxiety is fed by three specific behaviours:

* Avoidance
* Reassurance Seeking
* Distraction

PT has a really good article on what those behaviours are in context. I'd advise you to read it.

So acknowledge it and move on. Accept that it will always be there. In a lot of situations it's a good emotion to have and it lets you be wary of dangerous situations. In these situations where it's overactive it needs to be trained to slow down. You can only do this by repeatedly proving that it's wrong.
posted by Talez at 8:09 PM on September 17, 2013 [27 favorites]

Taking magnesium supplements and a vitamin B complex helps me a lot with anxiety, as do some herbal teas with no added flavoring or sweetener - try chamomile tea. And while it has caffeine, I find green tea much more relaxing than black tea if I only have one cup of it.
posted by wondermouse at 8:23 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am just now beginning to deal with some long-standing anxiety issues. Something that's been helpful to me at night is Calms Forte. It's naturopathic, and may just be placebo, but whatever works.
posted by fyrebelley at 8:33 PM on September 17, 2013

This highly depends on what your lifestyle allows (and what your possible SO's lifestyle allows), but I will just throw this out there -- DOG.

Changes your life. FOREVER. He or she will be your unwavering best friend, and you will never feel lacking confidence with your dog around. My dogs changed my life, but I also had to change my life for the dogs.
posted by jms18 at 8:34 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

lifting weights feels really good. it's something you can fight at. fight the weights! get into it!

read realllly absorbing books.
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:32 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you are doing many proactive things and the suggestions above are great, but I'm going to be that person and suggest that some anxiety requires medication and/or therapy even without insurance. Unfortunately, mind over matter and holistic/environmental/behavioral changes don't always address the issue and, while that can be very hard to except, that's okay. If you are candid about your lack of insurance and the financial hardship, there are psychiatrists that will work with you with that in mind (some even have sliding scales for sessions) and same thing goes for therapists.

That said, I would also look at your sleep patterns/behaviors. Aromatherapy, color therapy, and even music/environmental sounds are three other ways to address anxiety. Personally, I find aromatherapy the most effective of the three, and lavender can be a great soother of anxiety, as well as comforting colors and aesthetics. For going to sleep, eye pillows or a truly darkened room and/or a sound machine can be really helpful. Honestly, a solid 8 hours (give or take an hour or two) can make a world of difference. Melatonin (over the counter, varying doses) can also aid with quality sleep.

Lastly, I find a lot of my anxiety stems from being overwhelmed, so breaking things down into smaller steps (often with plenty of lead time) and not allowing yourself to get ahead of things, can be a HUGE help. I could go on and on, so please feel free to message me, but, regardless of what combination of things work for you, just know your anxiety is treatable and does not need to be the status quo, so if something doesn't work, explore other possibilities. As challenging as it can be, there is a solution, even if it requires some trial and error and tremendous patience on your part.
posted by katemcd at 9:54 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

What is your anxiety about? I feel like that would really inform a more focused response to your question.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:58 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aromatherapy has helped me a lot with my anxiety, particularly lavender oil at bedtime and whenever I'm feeling anxious. Also chamomile tea is very calming.

The book The Anxiety and Phobia workbook was also very helpful to me, particularly in reducing the negative self talk and going over and over things in my head.
posted by hazyjane at 10:02 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Moderate to heavy aerobic exercise, and if you can fit it in, some weight training too. The least anxious around hard situations and new people I've ever been was during an intense 3-day move in summer heat. Exhausting, but during rest periods, my mind was much more calm and I wasn't worrying.
posted by WasabiFlux at 10:20 PM on September 17, 2013

For me getting enough sleep and staying on a proper sleep schedule helps. So does avoiding caffeine. So does exercise. So does keeping my living spaces tidy and organized.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:12 AM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Try MoodGYM. It's an online, free, cognitive behavioral therapy workbook. It's really well done and helped me a great deal. Sometimes, when I'm feeling really anxious, doing something online (instead of sitting down with a real book in the world, for example) is easier, because it feels like less of a commitment, so I offer it to you as an option.

Anxiety used to shut me down like a panicked pill bug; all I could do was curl into myself and be scared until whatever it was either did (or did not) happen. Now I can talk myself off of the proverbial ledge. I haven't gone to therapy, so MoodGYM was a big part of that. I highly recommend it.
posted by colfax at 12:47 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Epsom salt baths really help with anxiety if you ever have trouble falling or staying asleep. Your body absorbs magnesium from the salts, which as others have said above, helps with anxiety. This combined with a warm bath feels great.

Also, if you do get into more intense exercise to fight anxiety, Epsom salts help with muscle soreness and recovery, too.

(Pretty much every answer I've had to an Ask question has been Epsom salts lately. They are great!)
posted by shortyJBot at 3:26 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Taking my Celexa everyday.

I used to cowboy up and power through my anxiety provoking things. I used to wake up with panic attacks. It got old.

Now, I'm on a small dose every day and my life is SO much better.

Talk to your doctor, it may be that just a small amount can make a huge improvement in your life.

I can now drive over bridges, freeway flyovers and through tunnels without breaking out in a sweat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:52 AM on September 18, 2013

Lots of great suggestions here, including L-Theanine and magnesium supplements. Also, make getting enough sleep a priority. Doing that is the foundation for everything else. And, consider reducing overall carbs, especially wheat, as they affect blood sugar levels and hormone production as much as the sweet stuff.
posted by rpfields at 7:54 AM on September 18, 2013

As a fellow sugar addict, it is often MUCH harder to "reduce" sugar than to just go cold turkey (hah! you should actually eat more turkey!!) for a week or two and then reintroduce small amounts at times that you control, like a small piece of cake at a special birthday instead of a whole box of Extreme Moose Tracks Caramel Caribou ice cream bars as soon as you get home from work (ask me how I know, sigh).

I quit 7 days ago and I've walked several times through the Halloween candy aisle just saying: no thanks, not interested. And I'm really not interested. It feels FANTASTIC to have that craving off my back. And it REALLY helps with the guilty feelings you would get afterward, which I'm sure are not good for your anxiety either.
posted by CathyG at 8:28 AM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

As fellow anxiety sufferer - cut back on coffee and eliminating it will help.

Also, keeping track of the actual amount of time it takes you to do things versus what you imagine is the amount of time it takes you. I get anxious about how much (or how little) time I am spending on things. I used to have very little sense of actual time I spent on things or the actual time it needed to do certain things. I now use the pomodoros to time myself. E.g. I used to love reading my morning newspapers with breakfast, but 10 minutes into it the anxiety tick-tock would start in my mind and ruin the experience for me. I now allow myself a certain number of pomodoros and have since realized that I did not really spend that much time "procrastinating on breakfast" before starting to panic about how much time I had spent. The same happened for much of everything - cooking food, cleaning up (I always felt it took me too much time to do these things, but since I started keeping track of how much actual time it takes me, it isn't all that much, and that realization has tamed my anxiety a LOT).

Also, the realization that living takes time - like the common everyday experiences of sleeping, eating, cooking, cleaning up, exercising take time and its OK. I used to psych myself up earlier about how much time I was wasting and not using the same time to work, but I've since started practicing to myself that not every waking (and sleeping) moment of mine should be dedicated to work - that living itself takes time and its OK.

Deep breathing helps, but as a person who has had anxiety forever, I've found it doesn't help me as much. Maybe I need to learn to do it better.
posted by greta_01 at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am thinking of low anxiety phases of my life and what were the 'constants' in all of them. Maybe take a stock check of your own life:

But here are some things I can think of:
1) orderly room
2) 7 hours of sleep at regular hours
3) daily social interaction with people who are 'wholesome' (i.e. not draining or excessively negative)
4) genuine laughing on a regular basis
5) actively working towards my goals where I turn a particular outcome into a project
6) regular routine exercise
7) someone to talk to (e.g. a therapist) and air out my anxieties. Saying them out loud helps me to clear out my brain clutter
8) eating well, low caffeine (helped by regular sleeping) and lots of fresh vegetables.
9) a routine, knowing what will be happening this time next week

If I have these things in my life I am O.K. Supplements and meditation on the other hand remind me how anxious I am and are associated with an unhealthy self-image of 'I'M CRAZY AND DIFFERENT FROM ALL THE EFFORTLESSLY CALM PEOPLE'. Which I disliked. So I think if I were in your position I would sit my butt down and think up a routine which incorporates all of the above.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 7:50 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

(7) I also wanted to add that in my darker days when I didn't have access to a therapist and my close friends were going through hectic periods of their life... I know this sounds CRAZY and maybe it is but I would write down questions my therapist/girlfriends would ask me for example 'what's wrong?' 'why do you feel this way?' 'what would happen if...' 'why do you think this is?' and then answer them out loud to myself. Crazy maybe but it really helped to keep me to cope with overwhelming situations.

I know how hard and draining big anxious phases are... But this too SHALL pass.. Hang in there!

Also wanted to add general self-talk. Make an effort to 'be your own best friend' and if you are FREAKING OUT just say to yourself 'calm down whew breathe' and then slow down and calm down before you try to tackle the problem on hand. This becomes a habit and anxiety becomes easier if you have a better relationship with yourself.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 7:57 PM on September 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This may sound outlandish, but it's the only thing that works for me:

Go on YouTube and search for "binaural ASMR". Put on your headphones and watch a bunch of videos from the search results. Subscribe to channels that you really like. Watch/listen when necessary. If you have trouble sleeping, download a few to your phone/ipod and listen to them before you go to bed.

Now I don't get ASMR listening to those videos, but they really calm me down and keep the anxiety at bay. I especially like the ones with tapping/scratching/crinkling sounds.
posted by fix at 11:42 PM on September 24, 2013

« Older Possible reasons for engine idling higher, and...   |   Help me switch my phone from one provider to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.