You never know what you don’t know…
Just a few months ago, I thought I knew pretty much everything there is to know about anxiety. And I guess I did know a lot. I knew enough to overcome debilitating anxiety in my own life. I knew enough that I felt compelled to share my experiences in a book so that I could let my fellow anxiety warriors in on what works and what doesn’t.
But while I knew what worked, I didn’t always know why. And in the process of doing background research for my book and digging into the why, I was excited to stumble on some new gems. I discovered some lesser-known anxiety remedies that I had not read about in any of the countless “100 Ways To Squash Your Anxiety” articles I had pinned on Pinterest in the past.
And you know what else you never know? You never know if you could be feeling EVEN better. I mean I was already feeling pretty good when I experimented with these new anxiety remedies. I wasn’t drowning in anxiety every second of every day anymore. I wasn’t in the throes of constant physical unease and never-ending worry loops.
I was feeling good enough. So much better than before that I didn’t dare ask for more. But as I’ve started adding these additional anxiety remedies into my routine, I’ve noticed an even deeper sense of calm. A layer of icing on the cake so to speak. 🙂
I thought about just saving all this new information for my book, but call me impatient. While everything is explained in more detail in the book along with a gazillion additional ways to conquer your anxiety and the exact steps to implementing it all, I want to give you a little precursor.
7 Anxiety Remedies You Never Heard About
1. Tape Your Mouth Shut At Night
Say, whaaat? I know, I know… Just reading the words makes you feel like you are suffocating.
Let me explain. I’ve been reading a lot about the benefits of breathing through your nose rather than breathing through your mouth. Nose breathing signals to your brain that everything is a-okay, while mouth breathing is like an emergency alarm.
Nose breathing → rest and digest
Mouth breathing → fight or flight
I discovered that some people actually tape their mouths shut at night in order to train themselves to breathe only through their nose. Initially I said no way Jose. That is C-R-A-Z-Y and I’m not doing it.
But after a couple of weeks of really focusing on breathing only through my nose during the DAY and noticing how that was helping me maintain generalized calm (as opposed to generalized anxiety 😉 ), I decided I wanted more. So I broke down and ordered some tape specifically for this purpose.
Before I put it on at night, I wore it for short periods during the day to get used to it. And once I mustered up the courage to try it, it’s been working great!
2. Set Your Alarm At 6am On Saturdays And Sundays
Does it seem like this list just keeps getting weirder? This is another recommendation that sounds batshit, but actually works. Just trust me. 🙂
Poor sleep exacerbates anxiety. Scientists say so. The single most important thing you can do to fix your sleep is to wake up at the same time every day. Sleep experts say so.
When you keep changing the time you wake up, it’s the equivalent of putting your body through jet lag every weekend.
So whatever time you set the alarm during the week, set it at the same time on the weekend.
I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and the more time passes, the less desire I have to ever sleep in. I get sleepy exactly 15 minutes before my bedtime and I sleep soundly until a few minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning when I wake up feeling well rested and energized.
And please know that there was a time when I thought the words “well-rested” and “energized” would never-ever-ever be uttered by someone like me.
3. Exercise Every. Single. Day.
Ok, you may have heard before that exercise can help with anxiety. I myself have repeated this in pretty much every article on this website and then some. But what I want to focus on here is the Every. Single. Day. part.
I’ve been exercising every single day for a few years now and it has been the BEST thing I’ve done for my mental health. Hands down. But I always had this nagging doubt in the back of my mind wondering if I was being excessive. I knew that daily exercise drastically reduced all of my anxiety symptoms, but what about “just 30 minutes 3 days per week” and “you must take rest days in order to avoid overtraining”.
Well, I don’t have those doubts anymore. Did you know that human beings actually evolved to be on the move? What differentiated humans from other mammals and gave us a competitive edge was not only our big brains, but also the fact that we are endurance runners. We can literally outrun our prey, who may be faster than we are, but just can’t keep it up for as long as we can.
So there’s that.
And the fact that whenever I take a day or two off, I can immediately feel the nervous energy starting to build up.
And the fact that a whole bunch of science now shows the benefits of exercise on your brain and neurotransmitters and what not.
So I wanna keep that system going. Every. Single. Day.
And my advice to you my friend is to join me.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.
4. Put A Mini-Elliptical Under Your Desk
As a matter of fact, exercising once a day may not even be enough. If you have a desk-job, like I do, an hour-long exercise session may just not make up for all the sitting you do on a daily basis.
Studies have already linked prolonged sitting to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease – even in people who exercise regularly. And while this link may not be documented for depression and anxiety yet, I predict that’s coming. They always study the more deadly diseases first, before someone’s light bulb goes off and they decide to look for mental health associations. 🙂
Anyways, do you need to quit your desk job? No. Do you need to find ways to sit less? Yes.
Consider a standing desk. Consider setting an alarm for regular walking breaks throughout the day.
You could even consider a treadmill desk if you wanted to go all out.
5. Baby Your Gut Microbiome
Your WHAT?!? That’s what I said when I first heard about this one. 🙂
Well, it turns out the microbiome is the term used to refer to the trillions of bacterial cells that lead a merry life of their own inside your gut. These bacterial dudes are VIP for those of us with anxiety, because they produce neurotransmitters that keep your brain working right. For example, bacteria named lactobacillus and bifidobacterium make GABA – the neurotransmitter that helps keep you calm.
Not enough GABA → anxiety.
So the microbiome deserves some TLC. Sugar and processed foods tend to produce bad bacteria, and those should be avoided, but you can show the good bacteria love by giving them lots of fiber, veggies, and fermented foods.
I was already eating plenty of veggies, but I started sprinkling chia seeds on my salads for additional fiber and eating sauerkraut a few times per week since it’s fermented. I also started taking a probiotic containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. (Note that probiotics may not be okay to take with certain health conditions.)
6. Get A Dose Of Oxy
When I was pregnant and breastfeeding, I was pretty much anxiety-free. I had high-risk pregnancies and I worried about my babies, but it wasn’t the kind of disordered out-of-control for-no-good-reason anxiety I have experienced at other times in my life. I’m fairly convinced that I have oxytocin to thank for keeping me calm while carrying and caring for my babies.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that is released in high amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding and it has been shown to be associated with relaxation and emotional stability.
The cool thing is that you can activate the release of oxytocin yourself by:
- Full-body hugging a loved one for at least 20 seconds
- Cuddling with a pet
- Rubbing your own face and scalp with your fingers for a couple of minutes
- Massaging the vagus nerve at the back of your head where your neck meets the skull
7. Become Post-It Notes’ #1 Customer
You may have noticed that this list has mostly consisted of things related to optimizing your physical well-being. And for good reason. While mental and physical health have traditionally operated in mostly separate spheres, I believe that the two are very much interconnected. If your body doesn’t have the chemicals with which to produce calm, no amount of rationalizing or “thinking positive” is going to give you the results you are after.
With that being said, I have found that nurturing your mind matters just as much as nurturing your body. As a matter of fact, two thirds of my book is not about your body directly, but about ways to work with your mind. About how to work with your mind to actually do what you need to do with your body. And about how to process fears and worries in your mind before they have a chance to morph into anxiety-monsters.
And what the hell does all this have to do with Post-It Notes? Well, Post-It Notes (or any other scraps of paper) are the bomb when you are trying to implement any kind of mindset or thought pattern change. Switching the pathways in your brain from one way of automatic thinking to another way of automatic thinking requires a whole bunch of reminding and repetition.
And this is where plastering your house with Post-It Notes comes in. They can remind you that you are safe. That you are strong. That you are not alone.
That you may feel stuck right now, but things can get better.