Six tips on how to relieve daily stress and anxiety
Guest post written by graduate, Anna Rienstra, NTP
Anxiety is a loaded word and could unfortunately be my middle name. Anxiety, anxiousness, worry, nervousness — whatever you want to call it — has hung out with me like an unwelcome friend as long as I can remember. Years of insomnia, panic attacks, and extreme discomfort haven’t been for nothing though. I have developed some incredibly helpful anxiety management techniques that truly saved my life. If you’re struggling with an anxious mind, you’re not alone and you’re not out of luck! Below I have included my favorite anxiety reducing techniques that I developed through research, education, and lots of trial and error.
We’ve all heard it a million times, “exercise helps combat anxiety”. Even though it’s a common recommendation to combat anxiety, it’s not bad advice at all! I recommend a workout routine with a mix of high-intensity intervals and something more calming like yoga. Those with anxiety have an overactive stress response. Even the smallest triggers can lead those who are anxiety prone to an anxious state of mind. High-intensity exercise trains the body and mind to know when to be stressed and when to calm down. Yoga is great as well because it focuses on slowing your breath.
Speaking of yoga, meditation is a great way to combat anxiety. The benefits of meditation are endless, but I think the most important benefit for those with anxiety is to focus on your breath. I really like the Simple Habit app’s On The Go section. They have 5, 10, and 15 minute meditations for all types of situations. Starting with 10 minutes a day can work wonders.
3. Cold exposure
This is a slightly less conventional recommendation. But, I swear by cold exposure for reducing my symptoms. When the body is cold, we can’t think about much else except being cold! Those who struggle with anxiety almost never feel present. Exposing yourself to really cold temperatures can train your brain to be more present and to breathe through uncomfortable situations.
4. Scaring yourself
Oddly enough, scaring yourself has been shown to lower levels of anxiety. When we’re freaked out because of a scary movie, giving a public speech, or even riding a rollercoaster it evokes a primal survival response in the mind. When the mind is preoccupied with staying alive generalized anxiety usually can’t take root. I’m a backcountry skier; skiing something that scares me is an amazing way to combat anxiety.
There is so much research on what diet is best for those with anxiety. In my experience and opinion, the following three factors are the most important when it comes to managing anxiety through diet:
- 1. Proper digestion – if you’re struggling with any digestive upset, gas, bloating, or any other digestive symptoms, you’re not properly digesting your food and therefore not absorbing your nutrients. Proper amino acid digestion is especially important for managing anxiety.
- 2. Adequate levels of protein from high-quality sources – proteins break down into amino acids in our body, amino acids are what create our neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter deficiency is a likely cause of anxiety. Neurotransmitters (like Serotonin and GABA) are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that create feelings of calm and ease. Aim to take in at least 100 grams (more if possible) of bioavailable protein sources. My favorite sources for protein are grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild-caught seafood.
- 3. Balancing blood sugar – can be one of the most important factors when it comes to managing anxiety. Considering a diet low in carbohydrates or even a ketogenic diet could be very helpful for keeping yourself calm and even throughout the day.
6. Additional recommendations
- a. Visiting a counselor – even though our friends and family want to help and support us, sometimes they’re too invested in your life to confide in. It’s remarkable how helpful speaking to an unbiased professional can relieve anxiety. So many of us assume counseling/therapy is only for crazy people or people who are too self-indulgent. This is an outdated opinion of therapy. Put your ego aside and find some help!
- b. Look into supplementing to support neurotransmitter production. 5-HTP, GABA, L-Tyrosine, and Serotonin are just a few great options. If you’re already on an SSRI (anxiety medication) you may not be able to supplement with certain or all amino acids. Make sure you do your research and talk to your doctor for possible cross-reactions with medications. If you’re not on a medication, I recommend researching neurotransmitter supplementation or working with an NTP or NTC to see what supplement would be right for you.
Please let me know if you have any questions! I’ve struggled with crippling anxiety and it can be isolating, intense, and makes it difficult to function day-to-day. Please let me know if you’re interested in staying updated as to when my program on Anxiety Reduction will be available online.
Anna Rienstra, NTP and Personal Trainer lives in Golden, Colorado. She loves recipe creation, outdoor adventures and challenging herself daily. After struggling with a workout addiction and an eating disorder in early adulthood, she had to completely redefine what “healthy” meant for her. Anna is currently accepting new clients who want a well-rounded and foundational approach to movement and nutrition. You can find Anna over on Instagram @annacestral_health. Her website AnnacestralHealth.com will be up in running in May 2019.
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