In our previous post, we spoke about Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), the symptoms, and the possible treatments. Today we look at lifestyle changes that lessen anxiety and preventative measures.
While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes also can make a difference. Here's what you can do:
- Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
- Avoid alcohol and other sedatives. These substances can worsen anxiety.
- Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
- Use relaxation techniques. Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.
- Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you're getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren't sleeping well, see your doctor.
- Eat healthy. Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish — may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.
Coping and support
To cope with generalized anxiety disorder, here's what you can do:
- Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed. Keep therapy appointments. Consistency can make a big difference, especially when it comes to taking your medication.
- Join an anxiety support group. Here, you can find compassion, understanding and shared experiences. You may find support groups in your community or on the Internet.
- Take action. Work with your mental health provider to figure out what's making you anxious and address it.
- Let it go. Don't dwell on past concerns. Change what you can and let the rest take its course.
- Break the cycle. When you feel anxious, take a brisk walk or delve into a hobby to refocus your mind away from your worries.
- Socialize. Don't let worries isolate you from loved ones or enjoyable activities. Social interaction and caring relationships can lessen your worries.
There's no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop generalized anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you experience anxiety:
Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
Prioritize issues in your life. You can reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy.
Avoid unhealthy substance use. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a treatment program or support group to help you.