Mental Health

How to combat anxiety?

combat anxiety Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Updated on August 25, 2022.

Combat anxiety? Impossible? Let’s have a look!

First, we must find out what anxiety is before knowing how to combat anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Stress is an automatic response from the body when it feels imminent danger. The characteristics are the production by the adrenal glands of stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol) that prepare the human being to react quickly and forcefully.

Anxiety is one of the symptoms of stress.

You may feel anxiety about external or internal factors. We consider daily stressful situations as external factors. Internal factors are thoughts that cause anxiety.

When the anxiety that you feel is proportionate to the danger to which we are confronted, we can speak of normal anxiety, something that all human beings feel promptly.

If the reaction is disproportionate and disabling towards a danger, which in many cases is unreal, one can speak of pathological anxiety. This type of anxiety is recurrent and prevents many of the patients from having a normal life.

The most frequent symptoms are sweating, dizziness, nausea, palpitations, dry mouth, trembling, and chest pain.

To better understand what anxiety is, one must think that before living in our modern society, humans faced many more dangers and even had predators. He used a red alert system to escape or fight to survive. Today this system still exists within us only that in most cases, the dangers are no longer as clear or sometimes even unreal, and very often, it is no longer suitable for us to put ourselves on red alert.

Combat anxiety

combat anxiety
It has been scientifically proven that anxiety significantly weakens the immune system

Today we are going to give solutions that work to combat both cases of anxiety.

First, we will have to ask ourselves the question: What commonly causes these high-stress levels in modern society? It is quite simple. The contemporary human being has too high expectations. He is bound to objectives that he will never be able to achieve. Our subject is blinded by false materialist rewards that result in a feeling of emptiness. To pay for those material things that give you a false sense of satisfaction, you always need more money and get into the routine of 9 to 5. Because he is forced to have to work so hard to pay for all the things he doesn’t need you, he will no longer have time for himself. He feels trapped in the rat race and concludes that he lacks freedom and perspective in life. This situation results in an internal conflict that is difficult to resolve.  Because many of us are not even aware of the situation in which we live. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not telling you to quit your job and go live naked on a desert island. I want to clarify that one of the leading causes that make you feel stressed is conflict; this conflict can also be mental, with other words inside your head. Then, from now on, if you want to improve your mental state, you will have to learn to reduce your expectations and learn to accept that there will always be external factors and events that you cannot control.

Of course, it’s easy to say that you have to think you’re happy to be happy. But it does not work this way, it is a process, and to begin with this process, you will have to activate your mind in it. How do we start to combat anxiety?

Make changes in your life

make changes in life to combat anxiety

We will have to make a couple of changes in your life that will allow you to combat anxiety and be less anxious:

First, to relax, we will have to work on breathing techniques to control our heart rate by regulating the airflow to reduce your anxiety. You will have to start breathing through your nose because it filters the air better and allows the air to penetrate your body better.

The second and most important advice is that you should start breathing through the stomach and stop breathing through the chest. This loss of tension is because abdominal breathing gives your body a signal that it is relaxed, that there is no threat, which instantly makes you calm down and feel more serene.

You should also start taking the time and enjoy listening to the music you like, evade and release bad emotions. On the other hand, writing will help you regain your focus and channel your emotions. Finally, meditation will allow you to open your mind through introspection to regain control and perspective of life.

If you want to practice everything together, walking in nature will allow you to take some fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, practice your breathing techniques, do some walking meditation (called conscious walking) and at the same time, you will be practicing low impact exercise that will allow you to feel relief without stressing your body. All these benefits come with exposure to natural light, which nature gives us for free. Natural light is a real boost to your mood! If you live in a country where the sun is lacking, then you should consider light therapy to compensate.

In short, you can only reduce your stress by regaining control of your life by organizing yourself and having a healthy lifestyle. These changes will give you more time and make you feel energetic, which will allow you to take more time for yourself. This free time will help you with introspective thinking. Analyze your life, find where it goes wrong, and start developing the solution. This new focus will give you a feeling of serenity and satisfaction. It is crucial to have a positive attitude, eat healthily, exercise regularly, and organize yourself. From there, you can regain control of your life and combat anxiety.

Hormonal imbalance

At the hormonal level, it is essential to understand what happens in your body:

It is the hormonal imbalance that results in an emotional imbalance that gives rise to these feelings of anxiety.

In this case, the proper question would be, if we can restore this balance naturally and healthily? The answer is that if we can, and I will show you how we do it.

Increase levels of positive hormones

You can naturally increase the levels of positive hormones in your body:

-Serotonin: Serotonin is the hormone of happiness, produced naturally by your body based on tryptophan. How to get tryptophan? Easy, eating healthy. This long list of foods will help you healthily increase your serotonin levels: oatmeal, lentils, chickpeas, cassava, sweet potatoes, brown rice, spinach, lettuce, avocado, pineapple, blueberries, currants, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, banana, chili, eggs, chicken, veal, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crab, spider crab, nuts, almond, fish, seeds, soy, milk, yogurt, dark chocolate, and cheese.

Even better would be to choose foods that, in addition to containing tryptophan, are natural sedatives such as oatmeal, lettuce, spinach, avocado, salmon, tuna, seeds, almonds, and walnuts. So apart from feeling happier, you will feel more relaxed.

Then favoring a diet high in omega-three fatty acids is a good idea. What are they? They are essential components for your wellbeing that surround every cell of your body. They are vital for the proper functioning of the brain, heart, and blood vessels. Your body does not produce them, so you have to get them taking care of your diet. It is the simplest way to immunize yourself against depression and anxiety! These foods would be oats, salmon, tuna, sardines, nuts, seeds, and soy.

Let’s not forget the antioxidants, which are molecules capable of fighting free radicals, which are the unstable molecules in your body that lost an electron. They are one of the leading causes of aging and cause diseases. To get a good dose of antioxidants, you have to concentrate on foods that contain vitamins C, E, and A. These foods would be: orange, lemon, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, avocado, squash, carrots, dark chocolate, beans, lentils, chickpeas, garlic, onions, oats, almonds, nuts, and seeds.

Forget about processed foods with high levels of saturated fats and salt, start cooking. Ingesting too much salt has harmful effects on your body, such as dehydration that will give you a feeling of discomfort and irritability. Although they are more expensive, I advise you to buy food without pesticides, which is organic food. Anyway, what you save at the grocery store you will spend in the pharmacy.

Now you know that serotonin is produced in your digestive system, and you can help the proper functioning of your digestive system by ingesting probiotics. What are probiotics? They are bacteria, or live microorganisms, that, when ingested in sufficient quantities, help the proper functioning of your digestive system and your immune system. What foods contain probiotics? Yogurts, dark chocolate, some cheeses such as blue cheese, hard goat cheese, Gouda, cheddar, Mozzarella, and other soft cheeses.

In summary, you should have noticed that oatmeal appears in almost all the lists I have mentioned, in addition to being a cheap food it controls the level of sugar in your blood, protects you against cancer, lowers bad cholesterol, promotes your ability to relax, and it does not stress your body because it is a very digestive food. Besides, although it is not a probiotic, several studies have shown that it also regenerates the intestinal flora naturally. Long live the oatmeal!

-Dopamine: Dopamine is known as the love hormone. It gives you signs of pleasure, satisfaction, and wellbeing. Getting a sufficient level of dopamine in the body is quite simple. First of all, you should consume enough protein eating chicken, eggs, veal, fish, nuts, almonds, lentils, chickpeas, lentils, beans, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms, soybeans and drinking milk. You should also start playing sports, no matter what type of sport, running, cycling, swimming, dancing. Start for half an hour a day. The positive hormonal effects of physical activity are that your dopamine and serotonin levels rise and your adrenaline level goes down. Adrenaline is terrible if you are an anxious person. Then your dopamine levels will also rise if you start to relax listening to the music you like, walking or meditating. Please do outdoor activities because sunlight also increases your levels of dopamine and serotonin. Studies showed that after 5 minutes of exposure to sunlight, dopamine, and serotonin levels increase. What are you waiting for? Put on some sneakers and go for a walk in nature!

What are the hormones that will decrease your anxiety and improve your mood?

-Endorphin: These hormones are the natural equivalent of morphine. They are natural painkillers that lower your perception of pain and anguish, increasing your feeling of wellbeing. Although stress and anxiety are a natural way to raise your endorphin level, they will also raise the level of other hormones that don’t work for you. So, how to raise my level of endorphins without awakening harmful hormones? There are several activities you can do to increase the level of endorphin in your body, such as playing a sport, meditating, listening to music, eating chocolate, eating spicy food, or having sex. Yes, do not hesitate; making love is very good for you!

-Progesterone: Progesterone is a female sex hormone, but men also need it for the production of testosterone. This hormone has a relationship with sexual appetite and fertility.

To obtain a healthy dose of progesterone, I recommend the following foods: beans, chickpeas, bananas, nuts, beans, carrots, lentils, broccoli, beets, almonds, spinach, squash, brown rice, and milk products.

Progesterone will help you moderate sudden mood changes and reduce mood swings. The simple fact of being less stressed will naturally help you to have higher progesterone levels in the body because when you are stressed, stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine will signal your kidneys to convert progesterone to cortisol. Later you will read that this is very bad for you.

-Oxytocin: Oxytocin is one of my favorite hormones because it is a very mysterious hormone. We call it the love hormone. It is produced in the hypothalamus, which is one of the oldest parts of our brain and regulates essential functions such as the regulation of body temperature, sleep, thirst, hunger, sexual appetite, and parental relationships, more specifically the paternal or maternal love. Oxytocin transmits feelings of love and empathy. It is one of the most potent relaxing hormones and an immunizer against anxiety and depression. Foods and condiments that stimulate the production of oxytocin are figs, spinach, arugula, basil, cinnamon, peppermint, watermelon, pomegranate, avocado, banana, almonds, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, carrots, asparagus, and oysters. Now you know how aphrodisiac foods work!

You already know what you should do to feel good and relaxed. You learned to combat anxiety, no we will go one step further.

Decrease levels of harmful hormones

The time has come to explain what you should do to avoid being stressed and anxious. Avoid high levels of these harmful hormones:

-Adrenaline: Adrenaline or epinephrine is the activation hormone. Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands that are located above the kidneys. They give powerful signals that are vital to our survival because they help in when you are in need, in dangerous situations, to flee or fight. They speed up the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and give you more oxygen in the blood. Anxiety awakens when you receive these signals but that the danger is non-existent or irrational. In our modern society, the leading cause of high levels of adrenaline that causes anxiety is stress. To relieve stress, you have to combine an active life, a healthy diet, set up a routine, spend time in nature and find a goal in your life, something that makes you feel happy.

-Norepinephrine: Norepinephrine or noradrenaline is the hormone we commonly call the stress hormone. The function of this hormone is basically to prepare the body for action and is the leading cause of anxiety. The adrenal glands also produce norepinephrine. Stress and anxiety are the leading causes of the rise in norepinephrine levels that, in turn, will cause more stress and more anxiety, a vicious circle. But norepinephrine also plays a positive role in the body because a low level of norepinephrine causes negative thoughts and depression.

-Cortisol: Cortisol is also produced in the adrenal glands and is a hormone that serves to increase blood sugar and transform fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy. That way, you have a great source of energy available that will help you if you must flee or fight. If you feel anxiety, as I explained, your body will give signs of danger in situations where there will be no rational danger, and the production of this hormone will be activated.

All foods that contain a high level of refined sugar or saturated fat will raise your cortisol level. Above all, you should stop consuming these products: coffee, soda, Red Bull, sweets, pizza, hamburgers, alcohol, fruit juice, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and all light products that are nothing but disguised junk food. The reason why I tell you that light products are junk foods in disguise is that they contain a carcinogenic and neurotoxic sweetener called aspartame. It can cause nausea, diarrhea, and discomfort. Very similar is the neurotoxic flavoring, monodic glutamate (MSG) found in most potato chips, fast food, Chinese food, and prepared food. It can cause nausea and anxiety. You will also wonder why coffee is on this list. It is because caffeine consumption increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels. An important intake of caffeine will also increase your norepinephrine levels. Do yourself a favor and do not consume any of these foods until you have your anxiety under control.

Consider therapy

consider therapy to combat anxiety

If these tips did not help you fight your anxiety, you should consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This therapy is a mixture of psychotherapy and behavioral therapy that is generally of short duration and whose goal is to change the patient’s behavior, way of thinking, or emotions. Typically a Cognitive Behavioral

Therapy lasts about five months. It focuses on problems, attitudes, and thinking and how they influence behavior and emotions. The therapist will develop with you a strategy to address and solve the issues that have been encountered. You will learn a set of principles that you can use for the rest of your life whenever you need to combat anxiety. It is an effective and scientific therapy to find your emotional balance and control of your life.

Then you will have to choose the therapist that best suits you among online psychologists. It would be better to go to a reputable website with accredited therapists and put filters to limit your search for specific problems, type of therapy, language, country, gender, etc.

Once you have found the psychologist that you think is appropriate, contact him to ask him some questions that you feel are essential. If you found the first contact satisfactory, you can make an appointment for your first session.

If you need more information check out the website of the American Psychiatric Association or join the Turn2Me Online Support Groups to talk to someone.

Interesting questions and answers about anxiety

How do you calm anxiety?

  1. Don’t get depressed: eat tryptophan-rich food
  2. Keep cortisol levels low: stay away from alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and MSG
  3. Reduce stress: practice belly breathing
  4. Use coping mechanisms, like the 3:3:3 anxiety-rule
  5. Practice relaxation: combine daily meditation with exercise, like yoga
  6. Reduce fatigue: get enough sleep, ideally between 7 and 9 hours
  7. Educate yourself about anxiety: the more you know, the less you fear

Why do I have anxiety for no reason?

You are not having anxiety for no reason, you are just not able to identify the underlying cause of your anxiety. Anxiety is characterized by an irrational fear. The cause of your fear is not always specific and easy to identify, often the underlying cause of anxiety disorders is complex because factors like genetics and environment also play an important role. The reason of your anxiety can also be vague, which will make you feel anguished. Or you can feel persistent anxiety due to several causes, in that case we call it generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The best thing you can do to identify the underlying cause of your anxiety disorder is to contact a mental health professional.

How long can anxiety last?

Unfortunately, as long as you don’t resolve the underlying cause of your anxiety disorder, you will have to deal with the symptoms. Anxiety disorders are complex mental illnesses that can last for several years.

What is everyday anxiety?

If you feel anxious and tense on a daily basis, you could be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), that is characterized by an persistent, uncontrolled worry due to several factors.

Does anxiety worsen with age?

Anxiety and mood disorders are more prevalent in older adults, but that doesn’t mean that the symptoms worsen with age. According to several studies, this prevalence of anxiety disorders on later stages of life is due to the fact that traumas and stressors amass over time.

Who suffers from anxiety the most?

Women. Among patients suffering from an anxiety disorder, there are more than twice as many women than men.

References

Marks, I.,  Lader, M. (1973). Anxiety states (anxiety neurosis): a review. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

Butler, G., & Mathews, A. (1983). Cognitive processes in anxiety. Advances in behaviour research and therapy, 5, 1, 51-62.

Torgersen, S. (1983). Genetic factors in anxiety disorders. Archives of general psychiatry, 40, 10, 1085-1089.

Eysenck, M. W., MacLeod, C., Mathews, A. (1987). Cognitive functioning and anxiety. Psychological research, 49, 2, 189-195.

Schuckit, M. A., Monteiro, M. G. (1988). Alcoholism, anxiety and depression. British Journal of Addiction, 83, 12, 1373-1380.

Last, C. G., Hersen, M., Kazdin, A., et al. (1991). Anxiety disorders in children and their families. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 10, 928-934.

Mueller, J. H., Smith, A. P., Jones, D. M. (1992). Anxiety and performance. Handbook of human performance State and trait, 3, 127-60.

Seligman, M. E., Schulman, P., DeRubeis, R. J., & Hollon, S. D. (1999). The prevention of depression and anxiety. Prevention & Treatment, 2, 1, 8a.

Hansson, L. (2002). Quality of life in depression and anxiety. International Review of Psychiatry, 14, 3, 185-189.

Albano, A. M., Chorpita, B. F., Barlow, D. H. (2003). Childhood anxiety disorders. In E. J. Mash,  R. A. Barkley (Eds.), Child psychopathology, 279–329.

Gross, C., Hen, R. (2004). The developmental origins of anxiety. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5, 7, 545-552.

Kessler, R. C., Ruscio, A. M., Shear,et al. (2009). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders. Behavioral neurobiology of anxiety and its treatment, 21-35.

Bateson, M., Brilot, B., & Nettle, D. (2011). Anxiety: an evolutionary approach. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56, 12, 707-715.


American Psychological Association: Better ways to combat anxiety in youth

NY Times.com: Combat Anxiety, One Step at a Time

Sport & Physical Activity.ac.uk: Combat anxiety and stress

Related article by Unconscious Mind: How to overcome fear.

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