7 Simple Strategies to Decrease Anxiety
Anxiety and stress are often the root cause of many diseases and harmful health behaviors. Anxiety has a physiological impact on our body that causes our heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate to increase. At the same time, our ability to burn fat and digest our food decreases during times of stress. When our stress hormones are pumping, we also default to some of our most impulsive coping mechanisms - overeating, smoking, and drinking to name a few! Our bodies are on overdrive and our behaviors are on autopilot! While there is no replacement for mental health support from professionals, there are a few simple strategies you can do on your own to decrease anxiety.
01 - MAKE A DECISION
For many of my clients, especially those with a history of IBS and chronic dieting, a decision as simple as "what to eat" can lead to a downward spiral of worry, frustration, and self-destruction. According to neuroscientist Alex Korb, habitual indecision is a major cause of anxiety that affects your mood, thoughts, and actions. Overthinking can lead to mental exhaustion and decreased productivity. In my experience, decisiveness is also one of the biggest challenges and crucial first steps toward positive behavior change. Lurking beneath the surface of indecision is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong decision - hello FOMO! Decision making can therefore be a simple yet powerful tool to decrease anxiety, and increase productivity and empowerment.
02 - REDUCE YOUR OPTIONS
Less is more when it comes to decisiveness. Having too many options can be overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. Limiting your options to as few choices as possible makes it easier to decide. Making a decision calms your mind and frees mental space for more important thoughts.
03 - MAKE IT QUICK
Don't give your brain enough time to obsess about outcomes. Give yourself a strict yet fair time limit to make decisions and stick to it. Making even the smallest decisions can help you feel accomplished, which boosts your confidence and makes things feel more manageable.
04 - WRITE IT DOWN
Make a decision and commit to it by writing it down or taking action right away. Add your workouts to your calendar, pick up the phone and make that important phone call, plan your meals one day in advance. These simple steps turn decision into action.
Recommended Reading: How to Instantly Improve your Mental Health
05 - PAY ATTENTION TO ONE THING
When you are anxious, your mind is thinking about a million different things. Focusing your attention to one thing is an incredibly powerful way to calm the mind and body. Try listening to music and focus intently on the lyrics. Read a book and focus on the words on the page and not the uncertainties of the life.
06 - PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Shifting your focus on what you can control instead of what you can't control calms your mind and grounds you in reality. Ask yourself "what do I have control over in this situation?" You will find that you have more control than you think. Focusing on what you can do is a great way to increase self-efficacy and boost your confidence.
07 - PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
Living in the moment means focusing all of your mental thoughts on what is happening right now. Ask yourself "What does this moment look like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like? Smell like? Where is your mind right now?" When you are focused on the right now, you are not focused on worry, self-doubt, and fear.
Try any or all of these simple strategies next time you feel like anxiety is getting in the way of your happiness and productivity. There is no right or wrong way to do any of these strategies, and the best strategy is the one that works for you!
What are some of your favorite strategies to decrease anxiety? Share the love in the comment section.
Tamar Samuels, ms, rdn, nbc-hwc
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