It always makes me smile when people refer to me as Zen. I often hear “you’re always so calm” (and no, you will not hear these words coming from my husband!). But to the outside world, I appear calm and fast forward to today, I am calm, most of the time. But this was not the case 15 years ago.
From as early as primary school I battled some scary demons. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to please everybody. I didn’t want to upset anybody. Confrontation terrified me. My anxiety got to a point where it was debilitating. The worst moment I recall was when in a bookstore and was having trouble breathing, felt hot and sweaty and lightheaded and couldn’t get out of there fast enough to get some air. When it became unbearable on a regular basis (to the point of losing sleep and not being able to concentrate at work), I chose to get some help because living like that, for me, was not an option, and I knew there had to be a solution. I wanted to change and do something about it. That is the most important realization.
I went through cognitive-behavioral therapy for several months. Basically, the goal of this type of therapy is to change negative thinking patterns or behavior into positive ones or at least ones that don’t generate a negative emotion. I would say that moment in my life opened my eyes to a whole new world. I am now able to see things more clearly. I know that I will never fully get rid of my anxiety, in fact, it is actually normal to have anxiety at some point in our lives, it is a human emotion. But instead of fearing it, and trying to run away from it, I acknowledge it, let it in and let it go (as I channel my inner Elsa). If you are suffering from anxiety, there are some tricks that have come in pretty handy for me:
Caffeine, excess sugar and processed foods are the devil:
Some physical sensations mimic the feeling of a panic attack or feeling anxious such as rapid heartbeat, sweating or feeling hot (hot flashes), clammy hands, feeling lightheaded or dizzy. These sensations are physical and can be controlled to some extent by making changes in your diet. In my case I realize that caffeine and excess sugar was creating the same sensation I would feel when I was having an anxiety attack. Before, I used to associate the situation to the anxiety but then I realized that it was my diet the culprit and not, say my job creating the anxiety! To this day, if I drink a can of Coke in the afternoon, I won’t be able to sleep the night.
Instead a healthy, balanced diet and particularly protein (almonds were my savior) and eating every 3-4 hours are crucial.
Drink more water, stay hydrated!
Dehydration can also induce anxiety-like symptoms. It is important to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. A simple action such as drinking water can help with anxiety-like symptoms. If you are not a fan of plain water, you can have herbal teas or flavored water (mint leaves and strawberries for example).
Sleep is the best medicine
Make sure you get between 7 & 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep disrupts your internal clock like it’s nobody’s business. When we lack sleep our body functions, hormones and regulating systems get out of whack and that’s where we tend to make bad food choices and emotions run high. Sleep, get the rest you need and you will get a handle on your anxiety.
Crank up the endorphins with Exercise
Yoga helped me quiet the mind and maintain focus. It’s a soft, gentle and kind practice that helped me center my thoughts. Up until recently, yoga and walking were the only forms of exercise I practiced. I find that my cardio and weight workouts provide another kind of serenity. Getting your heart rate up ups your endorphins (feel good hormones up!) which works wonders on anxiety. We often just want to roll up in a ball when we are stressed or anxious but pushing ourselves to work out can actually be helpful and bring our focus elsewhere.
Also, it is important to know that you will be ok, accept the discomfort of the feeling and know that it will go away but don’t force it out the door. Be gentle with yourself and realize that it takes practice.
Read more: How to Cope with Anxiety
If you are still struggling, do yourself a favor, get over yourself and seek professional help. This is your Life, make it the best, happiest life you can.
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