Whether you know it or not, the fight or flight reaction controls much of your behavior and reactions. Yes, the same fight or flight reaction that makes your heart beat fast when you see the flashing lights of a police car in your rearview mirror and the same reaction that caused your prehistoric relatives to deal with the threat of a saber-toothed tiger. And it is what is behind much of what you think of anxiety, stress, and even depression.
Since this reaction comes fast and furiously, you must keep your mind and body in peak shape so that it does not negatively affect you.
Here are twenty ways you can make sure stress and anxiety don’t get the best of you.
1. Take a walk outside
Enjoy the sunshine! Studies show that Vitamin D & sunshine can boost your mood & help kick the blues away. Nature has a way of reaffirming your faith in life and connection with the world.
2. Keep a daily magic journal
Make special note of daily coincidences and write them down. Become aware of events happening around you that you may not have noticed because of life distractions – sounds of nature, people/signs/architecture on your way to work, special features of your local environment. Write these things down every day and they will begin to appear like magic.
Every single relaxation technique through the centuries has recommended this. It seems so obvious but when stress and anxiety strike, our breath becomes shallower. Slow deep belly breaths can stimulate the full body’s relaxation response.
4. Get moving
Exercise causes the body to release naturally endorphins, which helps to remove tension & heal your body. It also causes an increase of blood flow to vital organs and the brain. This helps loosen your muscles and clear from the system the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
5. Drink more water
Staying hydrated is important, especially since we are made up of 60% water. Even 2% dehydration can have symptoms similar to anxiety.
6. Avoid foods high in animal fats and sugar
When our brain detects danger or threat, it causes the fight or flight reaction which shows itself as stress, anxiety, or depression. In order to feed this response, our brain causes us to crave fat and sugar to “protect” us from danger. What they do is keep the fight or flight going and therefore the stress, anxiety, and depression.
7. Try supplements
B-complex, a prescription strength B vitamin called Deplin, DHA fish oil, GABA, Magnesium, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Passion Flower, and Valerian root. In addition, organic teas can be very helpful. Green tea leaves contain Theanine a naturally occurring substance that decreases anxiety. Teas with chamomile and lemon grass can be very relaxing especially before bed.
8. Increase your appetite for self-help materials
Spend time watching, listening to and/or reading self-help books, podcasts, programs, CDs, webinars. Look for material that focuses on realistic, practical action.
9. Find support
Look for a friend or head to my website or www.fb.com/CoachMD Facebook page to have a place to share your true feelings, find support, and get daily inspiration, guidance, and motivation.
10. Listen to music
Focus on music that makes you smile or makes you want to dance. Avoid songs that cause you to reminisce.
11. Use affirmations
Feeling stress, anxiety, or depression is the result of your brain perceiving that you are in danger. If you affirm, over and over, “There is no danger, there is no threat, I am safe” this will help calm this. Another one that I find very effective is “I will always find a way, and a way will always find me.” Repeating these throughout the day will be very helpful.
Any type of meditation, practiced daily for 5 – 20 minutes once or twice a day is the most effective anxiety reducer I know. One of my favorite quotes is “Prayer is when we talk to God; meditation is when God talks to us.” There are many different styles of mediation and there is not one better than another. For help getting started, I have several videos on my website, www.CharlesGlassmanMD.com.
Quite often, when we awaken in the morning, there is a small window of time before our pesky brain reminds us of the dangers of the day that await us. The above affirmations are perfect to use upon awakening, but even more valuable at this time is to visualize. Since states of anxiety, stress, or depression may have become commonplace for you, it is time to picture in your mind a state of peace and ability to manage your daily challenges. I outline many methods in my books and programs, but what the methods have in common is trying to help you re-train your brain to make calm energy be your norm and common place reaction, rather than anxiety and stress.
14. Smile and laugh
It is very difficult to feel down when you are smiling. The very act releases natural anti-depressants. Look into the mirror and make goofy faces that make you laugh at yourself. While driving in the car smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Tune into comedy on the radio or television.
15. Stand up straight
The fight or flight response, and therefore anxiety, stress, and depression tighten all your muscles in order to spring you into action to fight or flee. But generally, you are not going to fight or flee so all this reaction does is make you slump over. Improving your posture will help send relaxation signals to your brain. Place your back up against the wall and have the back of your head, shoulders, and heels touch.
16. Don’t watch the news
The old adage, misery deserves company comes into play here. Many times when we feel stressed, down, or anxious we turn to places where others are experiencing it also and maybe worse than us. All this does is diminish your faith and weakens your ability to manage and relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
17. Try alternative medical approaches
Chiropractic, Rolfing, Massage, Acupuncture, Feldenkrais all can be helpful. I have tried each and weekly go for chiropractic adjustments.
18. Try activities that nurture your mind and body
Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, other Martial Arts as Kung Fu/Karate/Tae Kwon Do can be enormously rewarding and provide tools for you to focus and manage stress.
19. Take action and stay organized
Identify one action step you need to take each day and do it. Multitasking can be a distraction from taking meaningful action. Focus on one action at a time and move on to the next only when you complete the current one. Keeping a to-do list with boxes can be very handy and as you check the boxes, the sense of achievement will feel very good. Don’t procrastinate. Procrastination is a short-term gain that leads to long-term pain.
20. Understand anxiety, stress, and depression
You must never feel as though something is wrong with you, that you are weak, that you are losing your mind. These reactions always mean that your brain detects danger and is therefore reacting as it is programmed to do – fight or flee the danger. These are human responses, but you do not have to believe, trust, or take direction from them. As you practice these steps, the physical symptoms will become less believable and therefore less debilitating.
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