Whether you have seasonal frazzles or are managing an anxiety disorder with your doctor, here are strategies that can help you feel some peace on Earth.
Out-climb Your Worry
Rock climbing helped people reduce anxiety related to phobias and lower their depression scores, German researchers found. Wall-scaling promotes skills useful for bolstering mental health, like trusting yourself and others and being present in the moment. But any physical activity can be beneficial. Research published in Psychiatry
Research found that exercise in general has benefits on par with common anti-anxiety medications—perhaps because physical activity increases a protein in the brain (called BDNF) that helps you learn that something you initially thought was dangerous really isn’t. Aim for at least 2½ hours a week of moderateintensity exercise, like brisk walking.
Put Worry to Bed
Rumination, a hallmark of anxiety, may stem from insufficient sleep. Binghamton University researchers asked people prone to this type of thinking to look at positive and negative images and followed their attention using eye-movement tracking. Sleep habits were also recorded. Those who got fewer zzz’s focused on, and had a harder time disengaging from, negative images. Sleep-deprived brains are more likely to perceive something that’s no big deal as a threat. Plus, tired people lack the mental resources needed to break away from negative thinking. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of snooze time nightly.
Headlines like “I Gave Up Sugar and It Cured My Anxiety” make us cringe because demonizing one food is overly simplistic. Australian researchers found that improving your overall diet may be a better tactic. After going on a Mediterranean-inspired diet, participants saw their anxiety scores improve by about 30 percent. Yes, they ate fewer sweets, refined carbs and fried food, but none of these were totally forbidden. A healthy diet may impact anxiety through the gut-brain connection. What we eat impacts the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome that, in turn, produce mood-moderating chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and tryptophan.
Get Your Magnesium Up
Spinach, cashews and black beans: think of these magnesium powerhouses as your new comfort foods. University of Vermont researchers found that taking a 500 mg magnesium chloride supplement lowered people’s anxiety scores (based on a questionnaire) by 4.5 points, moving many participants from the moderate-to-severe anxiety range to one considered mild. Magnesium plays many important roles in the brain, including regulating hormones and neurotransmitters that influence mood.