By Dr. Adi Moorman
Some seasons bring out the best and the worst in people. We enjoy the holidays but we tend to sleep less, make poor food choices, drink more, and spend more money than planned for gifts. Also, social gatherings and meeting family may trigger anxiety. As a result, we depart from the holidays feeling tired, worn out, and tense. The cold months and the short days leave us feeling more isolated and stressed. And some people during this season experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. In my previous blog, I discussed depression that is prominent during this time of year. In this blog, I will address anxiety. Although anxiety may occur at any time of year, some people experience more stress during the winter months.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety disorders may be the result of medical issues, brain chemistry, genetics, substance abuse, and other factors. However, the most common factor to trigger it in our life is stress. Symptoms may include: excessive worrying, restlessness, feeling agitated and irritable, feeling fatigued and tired, having a hard time concentrating, difficulties sleeping, and feeling restless. Some people may also experience panic attacks, irrational fear, and avoidance of certain situations.
What can you do to reduce your anxiety?
Start With The Basics
Eat a nutritious and balanced diet. Avoid caffeine or smoking as they may increase your heart rate and tension. Also, limit your alcohol intake and avoid illegal drugs since they may interfere with your emotional balance. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night and practice good sleep hygiene.
Regular exercise is proven to reduce your stress and improve both your sleep and mood. Even consistent moderate exercise such as walking will produce many benefits. If you are open to mind-body activities such as Yoga and Tai chi, you may experience their impact on reducing your stress level.
Manage Your Time Better
Many people feel stressed due to pressure at work and the constant need to complete tasks. No matter how hard they work, they cannot keep up with the endless tasks at work and home. Try to manage your time better. Create lists of items and make sure to provide enough time to complete them. It is beneficial to break down big assignments to small mini-projects to reduce the overwhelming feeling. Try not to overfill your plate and learn to say “No” to avoid setting yourself up for failure.
Practice Deep Breathing
It is amazing how just a few deep breaths increase the sense of calmness without requiring too much time and effort. Many people spend their entire day breathing from the chest, missing the stress-relieving benefits of deep diaphragm breathing. To enjoy the restorative benefits of deep breathing, steal away quietly 2-3 times a day and consciously breathe deeply from the diaphragm, inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth. Repeat this several times while dropping your shoulders and relaxing your muscles.
Take Mindfulness Walks
Mindfulness activities have been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. Mindfulness meditation is the conscious direction of your attention on something, usually toward an object, person, idea or external stimulus. Achieving a state of mindfulness requires mental focus. Nature walks, as a stimulus of concentrated attention, are excellent for sustained-focused mindfulness activity. As you walk in nature, gather one experience with each of your senses: one sound, one visual, one taste (if possible), one touch, and one smell. At the end of your walk, sit down and relive each of the five experiences that you gathered in your walk. Doing this activity daily or a couple of times a week is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and maintain healthy brain firing.
What else can I do?
There are also the options of seeking professional help from a mental health provider and medication from a physician. If you wish to set up an appointment with a mental health clinician, please call 703-636-2888, ext. 4 or send an appointment request to firstname.lastname@example.org.