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Self-improvement

4 Ways to Deal with Anxiety

Written by Ryota

COVID-19 has drastically changed my lifestyle, disappointed me, and robbed me of my possibilities. However, at the same time, it has given me many hints.

As a person who detests uncertainty and prefers stability, I was unable to adapt to such a big change. As soon as the pandemic began, my mental health dropped significantly, I felt a loss of motivation and purpose, and I turned away from reality.

I have now emerged from that dark tunnel and am in my previous healthy state. In this article, I will introduce 4 methods that helped me in that dark place, based on scientific evidence.

1. Meditation

Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health. You can do it anywhere, without special equipment.

I have been using Headspace for meditation which is an iOS app. It’s a subscription service, but there are various courses, and you can choose the one that best suits your mood and time of the day. There is also a course that helps your sleep and focus.

A meta-analysis including nearly 1,300 adults found that meditation may decrease anxiety. Notably, this effect was strongest in those with the highest levels of anxiety.

Orme-Johnson DW, Barnes VA. Effects of the transcendental meditation technique on trait anxiety: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med. 

2. Exercise

Exercising can improve your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

I have been doing strength training with barbells and dumbbells twice a week at the gym and walking three times a week while listening to my favorite podcasts.

It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity for the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression.

In fact, a study in 24 women who had been diagnosed with depression showed that exercise significantly decreased feelings of depression.

Meyer JD, Koltyn KF, Stegner AJ, Kim JS, Cook DB. Influence of Exercise Intensity for Improving Depressed Mood in Depression: A Dose-Response Study. Behav Ther.

3. Food

・Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your risk of depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own. So I consciously try to eat fish.

If you are not a big fan of fish, you can use an Omega-3 supplement.

While research is mixed, one review of clinical trials showed that in some studies, consuming omega-3’s in the form of fish oil lower depression scores. 

Yang Y, Kim Y, Je Y. Fish consumption and risk of depression: Epidemiological evidence from prospective studies. Asia Pac Psychiatry.

・Nuts and seeds

Certain nuts and seeds are high in tryptophan, zinc, and selenium, which may support depression.

They provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent. 

Nuts are one of my favorite foods. Most of the time, I eat about 50 grams of mixed nuts for breakfast.

In addition, a 10-year study in 15,980 people linked moderate nut intake to a 23% lower risk of depression.

Fresán U, Bes-Rastrollo M, Segovia-Siapco G, Sanchez-Villegas A, Lahortiga F, de la Rosa PA, Martínez-Gonzalez MA. Does the MIND diet decrease depression risk? A comparison with Mediterranean diet in the SUN cohort.

4. Sleep

Mental health issues are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It’s been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality.

Sleep is the most important activity. In order to get high-quality sleep, what you do before going to bed is very crucial.

I set a time to go to bed, avoid electronic devices two hours before, and try to lower my body temperature. Also, I wear a wearable device while I sleep to record my sleep. 

Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without. Therefore, paying more attention to this basic but essential activity will certainly be beneficial.

Hayley AC, Williams LJ, Venugopal K, Kennedy GA, Berk M, Pasco JA. The relationships between insomnia, sleep apnoea and depression: findings from the American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008.

Summary

I have mentioned 4 tips, but if you’re unsure of what to do, focus on sleep, diet, and exercise. These are the most vital, but many people neglect them.

Anxiety is a common problem that we all have. Dealing with this problem well will pave the way for a fabulous lifestyle.

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