Are you worried?
We all suffer from anxiety from time to time. A little anxiety is somehow helpful, or else we wouldn’t feel that emotion at all. At low or normal “doses”, anxiety serves as an early warning that something is amiss or that something unusual is about to happen. It causes your hormones to start revving up the body (fight or flight mode) to be ready to take on danger. One of the hormones, epinephrine, gets released, which increases your heart rate and breathing, and starts to make you sweaty among other things. Once the threat is over, and your adrenaline(epinephrine is just another name for that) drops, you can feel tired, wiped out, or even just relaxed.
The problem nowadays is that the perceived threat is almost always only in our mind. We rarely have to run from an animal, or even do public speaking for that matter. It is really tough for the body to know when an internalized threat is over, so the anxiousness can stick around and keep cycling the thoughts over and over.
There are many ways to help your body stop the worry loop. A great way to do this is to exercise whenever you feel anxiety. If you feel anxious a lot of the time, practice storing up your thoughts and run through them just before you workout. The goal would be to use the stimulated nervous system the way it is set up to be used—by exercising vigorously for 20-30 mins. Once you’ve semi exhausted yourself, the cool down should help initiate a relaxing period. Another way to help involves strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is your “time to relax” counter balance to the hyped up sympathetic nervous system.
Remember too, you are what you eat. Try to avoid caffeine and highly processed (“junk”) food. There was a recent study that showed eating a healthy whole food diet helped depression and anxiety after just 3 weeks. Alcohol also will interrupt your sleep—don’t be fooled into thinking having an adult beverage to help you relax before bedtime is doing you any good.
You can strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system by doing things like deep breathing, meditating, stretching, working on a quiet activity like drawing, listening to music and so forth. You need to be actively participating in the slower paced activity—vegetating in front of a screen does not work as well. Really focus on what you are doing. The goal is to practice not having active, planning thoughts. You are trying to be “in the zone” where doing your thing is effortless and does not require a lot of thinking.
Talk therapy can also be very helpful if you don’t find relief with the above methods. Acupuncture is also a valuable addition, as it helps balance the nervous system. Yoga incorporates breathing, stretching, and meditation to calm the mind and body. As a member of our DPC practice, you can get discounts on yoga, meditation, counseling and acupuncture. Just ask here at Whole Family Medical Care and we can help you feel better!