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Easing Anxiety in the Year 2020

The wrath of 2020 has spared no one and anxiety is becoming somewhat of a runoff pandemic. Even those who generally slide past the burden of anxiety have found themselves in her grasp. Anxiety is more than a deliberating mental experience. It can cause physical aches and pains, mental illness, loss of productivity and can weaken your immune system. Stress and anxiety release the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in your system prohibits virus killing T cells from doing their job.
Whether you've dealt with anxiety your whole life or it's a new experience for you, incorporating these practices into your daily routine can help you find the clarity you deserve.

Set Boundaries.

Applying boundaries to all areas of your life can work magic for your mental health. It's one of the main factors that has given me my life back after struggling with mental illness for most of my life. When we think of boundaries we often think of setting them with certain people in our lives, but this practice can be applied to almost every aspect of our life from our loved ones to our playlists. In times of high anxiety take inventory of who and what you're investing your energy in that day/ week. Maybe you need to distance yourself from texting your best friend for a week or two. Perhaps a family member has been draining your energy lately and it's time to step back and spend some time alone to refuel. I'm not telling you to cut ties with the people you love. Explain to them that this has been a heavy year and you need to spend some time working on building your mental clarity back up so you may not be as available as you usually are for a while. Your loved ones will understand. Remember, they want you to be happy and healthy. Also, take inventory of that you're absorbing on a digital level in your daily life. Has your playlist been sad or unfulfilling lately? Maybe it's time to explore a more upbeat or inspiring genre of music. Are you jumping on social media in the morning and heading straight to the controversial comment section first thing in the morning? How much time are you spending on social media each day? What shows or movies have you been watching recently? Perhaps it's not the best time to watch The Purge or Grey's Anatomy

 In one of my favorite books, You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

Perhaps you are in contact with too many negative elements. You have looked at, listened to, and touched many things that are negative in nature, such as fear and despair. These negative forces are everywhere. When you turn on your TV, for instance, you run the risk of ingesting harmful things such as violence, despair and fear. At that moment you say to yourself 'I don't need these things. I refuse to watch these programs. I am going to seek out things that are refreshing in nature, healing and helpful things'. 

Give Gratitude.

It's a challenge finding gratitude during an apocalyptic year such as this, but I promise you can find at least three things for which you can give gratitude. Instead of getting on social media in the morning or at lunch try writing down at least three things you can show gratitude towards. It can be something as simple as I'm thankful for this quiet moment or I have so much gratitude for the sun giving me warmth and vitamin D. I know it might sound a little elementary but when we start showing gratitude for the thing in our daily lives it helps us realize how much we really have. It helps us remember that despite all of the pain, chaos and uncertainty in life, there is still beauty in the world. 

Stay Hydrated.

When the physical state of your body is stressed from lack of hydration or proper nutrition it causes our mental state to become stressed also. Staying properly hydrated is hands down the easiest thing to do on this list of easing anxiety. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day (more if you are particularly active). It's not going to be an in your face change of mental states, but under the surface it's kick starting your body into being able to manage it's systems without the extra stress of dehydration. 

Bonus points if you're also minimizing processed foods (junk food/ pre-made box foods), sugar, and alcohol while maximizing veggies, fruits, and healthy whole food meals. Don't underestimate the power nutrition has on your mental health. 

Just Breathe.

Yes, this is much easier said than done when you're in the midst of an anxiety attack and it's already hard to breathe. Intentional breathing is extremely effective in calming you down when in panic mode, but let's focus more on how we can be proactive with our breath. Just 10 minutes of intentional breathing every day helps lower your blood pressure and decrease anxiety. It's a form of meditation that helps properly oxygenate your body resulting in less stressful states internally. 

When we are fully in the moment with our breathe we aren't worried about yesterday, tomorrow, or the pain of the world. There are many methods but I recommend starting with a 4, 7, 8 breath. Inhale extending the belly while counting to 4, hold breath for 7 counts, and exhale fully for 8 counts. Breath work is a great way to begin a mindful meditation practice. Adopting mindfulness throughout your daily life has a magical way of causing anxiety to melt away. I'll admit, this one does take a while to build up as it can be hard to quiet your mind especially when so much is going on in the world. If you're having trouble silencing your mind enough for breath work or meditation try incorporating sound therapy. It induces brainwaves to reach meditative states with ease. Fun Fact: Just one hour of sound therapy is equivalent to eight hours of sleep. Check ours out here!

Sleep Hygiene.

I know it's tough to get that good sleep right now. You're probably waking up at all hours of the night worried about something. The state of the country. The state of your job. The state of a loved ones health. The list goes on for all of us right now. That's why it's so important for us to do everything we can to at least try and get a restorative night's sleep. Sleep is the renewal process for your body. Without proper sleep your mental health declines and your immune system can't properly function. We might not be able to help how many times we wake up through the night but we can set the stage for better sleep. Make sleep a ritual. In the modern world rituals are becoming somewhat taboo, but rituals help things become habitual. The key is repetition and tricking your mind into remembering that it's time to rest at this time and for this amount of time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

  • Thirty minutes to an hour before bed turn your thermostat lower, change into actual sleeping clothes, and turn off the tv and phone. Listen to calming music, read or meditate and drink tea in a room other than your bedroom. 
  • Take your tv out of your bedroom. It's too tempting to just turn on when you can't sleep. Also, there is talk that electromagnetic frequencies from the tv can disrupt your sleep even when turned off. Do not keep your phone by or in your bed. Keep it away from your bed. I promise you can live eight hours without it by your side. 
  • Use a sound machine if the silence is too loud and make your room as dark as possible. 
  • Don't drink alcohol or eat too close to your bed time. You might think a glass of wine helps you sleep but it actually causes disruption through the night.
  • Set a bedtime that allows between 8-9 hours of sleep. Even if you know you're going to lie in bed anyway for an hour before you fall asleep just do it! It takes a while but your body and mind will get used to that being the time you get in bed. 

 

Look, I know it's tempting to follow every second of our ever unfolding drama, but you have to prioritize your sanity for the sake of staying healthy. This is not about ignorant bliss. I'm not telling you to stop watching the news forever, never watch a TV drama or stop listening to sad songs for eternity. This is about listening to your body and knowing when it's time to step away and rejuvenate your energy. You know your energy has been drained this year, and while you can't control what's happening in 2020, you can control how you respond and care for yourself.

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