Anxiety can be scary, there is no doubt about that.
Living with anxiety can feel like you are trapped in your own skin with no way out, or a black hole placed in the center of your life that consumes everything good around it.
It has always been a strong belief of mine that the cheesy quote “knowledge is power” holds its weight in gold.
The only way to slay a dragon is to know its weaknesses.
Once you know what it thrives on and what causes it to starve you can start to get on the offence.
I have compiled a list of the most important things I have learned in my decade long battle with anxiety.
These 10 things have managed to help me stay off meds almost entirely, even when everything around me seemed like it was falling apart.
(This is not medical advice please read the disclaimer)
#1. You Are Not Alone
Anxiety disorders are the number 1 mental health related disorder in the United States.
There are roughly 40 million people currently living with anxiety of some sort in the United States alone!
Re-read that again and let that sink in. That is over 1 in every 10 people!
Not to mention that statistic is before Donald Trump was elected president, I imagine that won’t help.
A nation that is fast paced, financially difficult to get ahead in, and places ridiculous expectations on self image has high anxiety? NO WAY!
It isn’t very hard to see why these rates are only getting higher.
Admist all this, many times anxiety comes with the misconception that the sufferer is the only one dealing with these issues.
This is far from true, in fact, someone, somewhere (much closer than you think) is going through the exact same emotions as you.
It is really easy to feel sorry for yourself when you have been dealing with these problems for a long time and they have taken control of your life.
Additionally it is easy to wonder why a good person such as yourself faces such trials.
Hopefully realizing that it is not “just you” gives you some peace of mind.
The more I open up to the people around me, the more I realize how many people deal with similar situations.
If your problems are bad enough, look for a support group and hear some real insight of other people going through similar situations.
They may even be worse off and help you realize that your anxiety isn’t so bad (relatively speaking).
High quality relationships can be formed and you will have some shoulders to lean on when times are tough.
If speaking out scares you at the moment, a forum is a great place to start. You can still hear great stories and insight and make relationships without putting a face to your comments.
This forum is great and full of supportive people.
#2. Coffee Is Not Your Friend
When stuck in the endless cycle of living with anxiety and fatigue, a cup of coffee may seem like your best friend sometimes.
The fact is, coffee and all caffeine, can extremely exaggerate your anxiety.
You may be so used to drinking coffee that you may not even realize the effects it is having on you at this point.
Eventually, it all just kind of blends.
I recommend that absolutely everyone tries one full week without caffeine. Wean down at your own comfort level, but seriously try your hardest.
I eliminated half my racing, endless thoughts by cutting out coffee completely. Ill admit it wasn’t easy but after the cravings went away it was a blessing.
A friend of mine I used to work with had a similar experience.
He drank roughly 3 cups of coffee a day and ended up taking medication to manage his anxiety.
After not seeing him for a few months, I bumped into him at the gym and naturally we got to talking.
He was quick to tell me after cutting out ALL caffeine his anxiety was literally non existent and he managed to get off his medication entirely!
I always remember that conversation when I crave a coffee now.
#3. Anxiety Creates Anxiety
This one may seem obvious…
There is something troubling you, then your restless mind gets ahead of itself and starts to think this problem will never end.
After a little while longer, you might start to worry about how much you have been stressing, and how bad stress is for you.
Now your heart is racing and all you want is for it to stop, the only problem is; there is no off switch.
One thing that took me a long time to learn is the fact that fighting anxiety only makes it worse.
You need to learn to accept the feeling and allow it to stay there for a bit.
Instead, tell yourself you are bigger than the anxiety. There is no single way that you will possibly let this anxiety bother you any more than it needs to.
Control what you can and let it show itself out.
#4. Natural Supplements May Help But They Aren’t Guaranteed
When living with anxiety, you are exposed to a level of vulnerability and desperation.
Hearing of a new herb or vitamin that may miraculously cure your anxiety may have you throwing cash out of your wallet.
The fact is most supplements only do a very little bit to help.
Just like supplements touted to pack on slabs of muscle, they are sadly, for the most part a cash grab.
Anxiety is complex. If you have a legitimate neurotransmitter deficiency or a hormone imbalance it is very unlikely that a $20 supplement will cure it.
Sure it may help. Don’t get me wrong, herbs and supplements can be great if you meet these requirements.
- You take your diet and exercise seriously
- You don’t have drug or alcohol addictions
- For the most part you are otherwise healthy
Realistically though, your panic attacks wont disappear overnight, and your General Anxiety Disorder won’t cease to exist for the rest of your life.
I wish I knew this many years ago, being so tempted for an overnight cure I wasted hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years.
If only I knew I had adrenal fatigue that was causing a much deeper root problem, I would have saved myself a lot of money.
All this being said there are still a few supplements I take to help with anxiety and depression.
Personally I have noticed slight, but mentionable benefits from magnesium, 5htp, and St Johns Wort among a few others I will discuss at a later time.
#5. Living With Anxiety Can Have Long Term Health Effects
I do not mean to scare you here.
That being said, you should not be sitting around letting your anxiety control you. You need to put this baby to bed as soon as you can.
It is likely something you will have to live with for the rest of your life, but you can learn to control it, reduce it, and crush the effect you allow it to have on you.
Those who have high levels of anxiety are more prone to depression.
While anxiety can be loosely defined as “caring too much about everything” depression can reversely be defined as “not caring about anything”.
When these two worlds collide, quality of life takes a serious nosedive.
Furthermore long term anxiety causes the body to be in a state of chronic stress.
Stress is the anti-christ to those of us looking to reclaim our physical and mental health.
This can take a serious toll on your adrenal glands and adrenal fatigue is a vicious cycle you don’t want to end up in.
I wasted far too many years just accepting anxiety, besides the gym I had no outlet to ground me.
My health suffered dramatically as a consequence of my lack of awareness.
Thankfully I now have many more strategies including but not limited too: guided meditation, spending time in nature, taking a nap, and so on.
Take the steps now so your body and mind can thrive for the forseable future!
#6. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Is Effective
When you feel trapped in an anxious cycle, sometimes it is hard to believe you could actually fix yourself without medication.
Fortunately, for the most part, this type of thinking is wrong. Although some medication may be necessary, putting in some real work can make dramatic changes as well.
In fact medication alone will not be as effective as it would be with CBT.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is basically a hands on program that allows you to change your way of thinking.
Essentially-change your way of thinking, change your life.
Even one of Buddha’s most famous quotes was “What we think, we become”.
Records show Buddha did seem to know a thing or two about peace.
Over the past few months I have been blessed to discover how much changing my state of mind can have a dramatically positive influence on my life.
I used to let myself get down over small, trivial things.
Looking back with my new state of mind I realize how lucky I am in other areas of my life, especially compared to some other people.
Cognitive behavioural therapy has a few other strong principles:
In this instance a person with a specific anxiety will try to slowly expose themselves more and more to their feared situation in hopes of eventually learning that the likelihood of disaster are very low.
Some common examples are:
- A person scared of driving would start by slowly taking local drives until they were comfortable and gained enough confidence to return to more complicated drives.
- Someone who suffers from social anxiety will put themselves in interactions where they are required to speak to people, such as joining a casual sports team or general organization.
In both of these situations, hopefully the person begins to gain more confidence and slowly realize there fear wasn’t as rational as their mind had made it out to be.
This refers to the deepest roots of your anxiety.
Lets say your job gives you anxiety because you are under pressure.
Your hot thought pattern may look like this:
- If I dont get this done on time, I may not get that raise I was hoping for, or maybe I will even get fired.
- What if I was fired… what would my partner think of me?
- How would I feed my family?
Your instance may be very different but in this case feeding the family is the hot thought… the worst case scenario.
This hot thought can often drill itself into your mind and move the chords of your brain like a puppet.
Now, at work you are constantly worried about getting fired at every mistake you make.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to identify what is the hot thought of your anxiety, how to work on preventing it, and also how to plan and accept the worst case scenario.
In the above scenario the worst case was getting fired.
If you had actually gotten fired (the likelihood being very low), money might be tight momentarily, but likely you would have another job within a month.
Not the end of the world.
You will also learn that the worst case almost never happens. At this point you will feel a great relief off your chest.
Most therapists and psychologists work off of CBT related principles. A great free site to get started on is Ecouch, it will walk you through all the basics
#7 Psychologists And Therapists Can Actually Help
Personally, I am a stubborn young male.
I stumbled over my own feet for years thinking I could handle everything on my own.
Thankfully, I am not as stubborn as most, and I finally decided to bite the bullet one day and accept that I could use some help.
Ironically, I went in to see a psychologist to ask to be put on medication for anxiety. I walked out not needing it after one session.
Instead we broke down my hot thoughts. I was stressed about going back to do a heavy course at school and how it would affect my relationship with my girlfriend, my finances, my fatigue etc.
It was the psychologist who suggested I do it part time and make some money on the side. This lifted a huge weight off my shoulder.
On top of that, she gave me some exercises to do and a CBT workbook that help me quite dramatically.
All in all, NO MEDS! I can say I will definitely go back once I finish my workbook and Ecouch lessons, even if I “don’t need it”.
#8 You Need More GABA
Serotonin gets a lot of attention in the medical community for anxiety but GABA still does not receive the light it deserves.
Most doctors prescribe anti depressants to help people living with anxiety. I’m sure this helps some people but in my worthless opinion it is not correct.
GABA acts as your minds breaks and is often referred to as “Nature’s Valium”.
Valium if you are unaware, is a benzodiazepine that acts directly on GABA receptors making the user feel calm.
Without the neurotransmitter GABA, you can not turn your mind off. You will ruminate about even little stresses and you will experience tightness in your chest.
Thankfully GABA is slightly easier to boost with natural methods than some other neurotransmitters. Meditation, yoga, making down time, and taking nature walks are great places to start.
Eliminating most alcohol consumption is also huge for recovering GABA levels.
Far to often, people drink to mask their anxiety while unknowingly disrupting their neurotransmitters and creating a nasty cycle.
In addition to alcohol, cannabis and many recreational drugs may also be lowering your GABA levels.
A few supplements such as l-theanine, valerian root, lavender, and taurine may help increase GABA but they aren’t a replacement for lifestyle.
#9 Allergies Can Cause Anxiety
This is one thing that flew under my radar for years. My experience has primarily been with food allergies but I’m sure other allergies may also have similar effects.
About two years ago in the peak of my anxiety I started to notice I would feel weird after eating wheat based foods.
I largely ignored it, but it continued to bother me, and I was constantly living with anxiety.
Eventually I was motivated enough to get blood work, and sure enough I was mildly allergic to wheat and dairy!
I started to cut these products out of my diet and felt slightly more energy, but more than that was a definite decrease in anxiety!
Being me, I walked the line and when I felt better I tried reintroducing some bread.
Since my body was so unaccustomed to it at this point I got a massive anxiety spike the next day. This has happened on several occasions like clockwork anytime I eat wheat now!
If you suspect you may have a food allergy, it may be worth it to get tested.
#10 YOU WILL BE OKAY
You may not feel like it, your mind may tell you that such a fact is impossible, but trust me things get better!
At my rock bottom I told myself I couldn’t do this for another day, but I always did. I always told myself to just be strong enough for today.
Soon enough life changed. Not by itself. I changed my lifestyle, and my mindset and I am reaping the benefits.
I am still living with anxiety… life is not heaven on earth now.
However, I AM saying you can achieve a great life even with anxiety. You can, and will have great relationships, a great career, and good health.
Like all good things in life though, it takes time and effort. You have to punch in and do the work.
If you want something you fight for it. Changes only happen to those who take steps in the right direction.
Start making life changes and you will hardly recognize yourself in a year I guarantee it.