Living with anxiety can be unspeakably challenging. It can leave you feeling hopeless, alone and even unmotivated. While there are a number of natural treatments for anxiety that some have found to be effective, from diet changes to special exercises and even different herbs and meditation practices, if you or someone you love is really struggling with anxiety, it’s best to consult a professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Here psychiatrists weigh in on seven of the best ways to manage anxiety:
1. Do Something Relaxing And Enjoyable
“When at a stressful roadblock, take a break and participate in a fun activity,” says Dr. Jared Heathman. “Hobbies increase the flow of dopamine, which promotes happiness and relaxation.” You could even do something as simple a taking a warm bath or watching TV—anything that takes your mind off your worries and calms you down.
2. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
That morning cup of joe might be delicious and seem like just what you need in the morning, but it can wreak havoc on your ability to manage your anxiety. “Decrease your caffeine intake and try to gradually stop it altogether,” says Dr. Susan Edelman. “Caffeine is stimulating and makes a lot of people anxious.”
“Even a short, 10-minute walk can help reduce anxiety,” says Dr. Carla Manly. “ So, whether someone heads to the gym, the park, or a yoga mat, exercise is a proven anxiety-reduction tool. As with any anxiety-reduction technique, it’s important to customize your exercise regimen to your needs. For example, if going to the gym seems to increase your anxiety, then experiment to see what other forms of exercise actually decrease your anxiety (walking, yoga, hiking, etc.).”
4. Call A Friend
It’s easy to feel alone in your anxiety, and socializing can seem hard when you’re not feeling your best, but it can be very useful to call up a friend and express what you’re feeling. “Sometimes, it really helps to talk to someone supportive,” says Edelman. “Having the perspective of a more objective person can help to change your outlook on your situation.”
5. Recognize Your Triggers
Although anxiety affects many people, each individual’s specific triggers can be very unique, so it’s important to recognize what specific situations cause anxiety for you. “For some people, anxiety is triggered by stress at work, relationship issues, family issues, finances, or other pressures,” says Manly. “In some cases, anxiety can be triggered by smells, certain foods, media images, obsessive thoughts, or certain songs. [You can attain] greater awareness and control simply by paying attention to the specific triggers that create an anxious response. It can be very helpful to maintain a journal for logging triggers.”
6. Maintain A Healthy Diet
“Many clients forget the vital importance of eating balanced meals,” says Manly. “Blood sugar swings can worsen feelings of anxiety, stress, and irritability.” Avoid foods high in trans fat, wheat and sugar, and stick to whole foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats and fish.
7. Find Your Own Calming Strategy
“Calming strategies are vital and work best when tailored to individual needs,” says Manly. “For some, deep breathing, counting, repetition of a mantra, or yoga pose can be very calming. Others find it soothing to journal, listen to music, or make a cup of hot tea. The ‘trick’ is to find a set of strategies that work best and utilize the strategies as soon as anxiety arises.”
What works is different for each person, so it’s a good idea to try different things and find which tips work best for you. “Please remember to get treatment if these tips don’t work very well,” says Edelman. “There’s no shame in asking for the help you need.”