Taking care of your mental health is a topic coming up more and more in everyday conversations; it’s breaking its taboo. Mental health professionals across the country are seeing more patients with anxiety and depression than ever before. Here are a few tips from Psychology Today on how to deal with anxiety.
Anxiety leads to obsessing about worst-case scenarios. Take notice of your daily routines, and get clear about what hasn’t changed: still going to work or school? Enjoying time with friends and family? Walking the dog? Tucking the kids in at night? Try shifting your focus to what’s actually happening in your life every day, and find joy in what you have the power to change. Surrender what you can’t control.
Identify what concerns you most. Is it the economy, the environment, the welfare of refugees? Research organizations that represent issues you care about and get involved: donate, volunteer, organize. Write letters to your representatives, or consider running for office yourself! As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Author and master yoga teacher Max Strom addresses the topic of anxiety and stress in his book “A Life Worth Breathing.” He identifies that our cultural idea of “normal” is unsustainable for our mental and physical well-being, and offers five ways to help you relax.
1. Listen or read the news no more than once a week. Let’s face it, news is addicting, Facebook is addicting. We are easily pulled into a vortex of worry and overwhelm just by checking our feed. Most of what we watch, hear or read isn’t essential to our lives. If something big happens, we can count on hearing about it from someone else, and can take action if we choose.
2. Read inspiring, life-affirming books before going to sleep at night. Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Does your bedtime routine involve a phone or television? Studies show this negatively affects the brain’s ability to find deep sleep rhythms. Strom suggests reading something that will bring you hope and inspiration, by or about one of the “great souls in history.”
3. Avoid violent or disturbing images on TV or at the movies. This seems pretty obvious. If you’re already worried about Armageddon, filling your brain with violence and destructive images isn’t going to help.
4. Get to sleep by 10 p.m. Strom says, “According to traditional Chinese medicine, the period of time between 10PM and 3AM is the most vital for the body to replenish and repair itself.” This is also true in Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga. Getting to bed early, having a peaceful bedtime routine, and getting good quality sleep will have profound benefits on your outlook.
5. Give up caffeine. Yes, this is a hard one. But according to Strom, caffeine triggers the fight or flight response in the brain, which perpetuates the experience of stress and anxiety. Strom promises you’ll end up with more energy, not less.
There are many resources to bring support in times of anxiety. Yoga and meditation are incredibly beneficial for regulating the nervous system. Massage, acupuncture, and other forms of body work can bring physical relief. Music, prayer, and laughter can also help. Whatever you do, know that you have the power to change your mind, or your mood. Elect yourself as the empowered leader of your own life. The world needs you healthy, happy and engaged.
If you continually feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, please seek professional help.