This is going to sound harsh but I am saying this because I don’t want you to continue to live a life of anxiety and panic.
If you aren’t willing to do these 3 things, you are going to remain stuck.
Whenever I experienced a panic attack, I said I’d do ANYTHING to make it stop, but I was consciously making decisions that made it impossible for me to overcome anxiety and panic. I know that if I had committed, I would have overcome anxiety and panic YEARS before I did.
1. Remove caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants from your diet
If your first reaction is “heck no, Shannon!” I get it, but stick with me! Caffeine and alcohol are both typically used as stimulants, and if you have anxiety, a stimulant is only going to increase anxiety. Even if you don’t use caffeine with the intention of it boosting your energy, or alcohol to alter your mood, these things will still have unintended consequences.
I used to drink coffee every day. I preferred my coffee black simply because I loved the taste of coffee. And I even drank decaf because regular coffee always made me feel noticeably anxious.
I also enjoyed a glass of wine or two in the evenings and when I went out with friends, but I was the girl that drank because I enjoyed the way it made me feel and not the taste. I thought that it helped me to socialize and be less anxious, and it sort of worked in the moment, but then I always ended up paying for it hours later or the next day. Whether you are using alcohol to “help” with social anxiety, or you just like the taste, it’s ultimately having the same negative effect.
I also smoked cigarettes for years, which was obviously super unhealthy, but also a terrible addiction for someone with anxiety. Nicotine gives your brain a quick boost, and that boost typically raises anxiety. So although it might feel good, it can also be causing you to become anxious.
All of these things increased my anxiety. And even though I sort of knew this then, I just didn’t want to give these things up because I really enjoyed them in the moment. Now I think, was I crazy?
First I eliminated smoking, then coffee, then alcohol. It was hard, and still is sometimes! But I know that these things are anxiety triggers, and they aren’t worth me not being able to enjoy my life.
Start small. Make a plan. Switch from regular to decaf coffee. Then work to remove it altogether. There are a lot of coffee alternatives out there, as well as some great replacements like tea (caffeine free)! Reduce your intake slowly. Set a date in which you’ll be free of stimulants and make it happen!
Ask yourself, is coffee, alcohol, or cigarettes, really worth the anxiety and panic? Like, really ask yourself this question! I betcha you’ll say no.
2. Put yourself on a sleep schedule.
Did this just bring you back to when you were a kid? Okay, but seriously. Sticking to a sleep schedule will help reduce anxiety and panic tremendously.
I work full-time, I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I dedicate as many hours as I can to helping others struggling with anxiety and panic, but I still get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, no excuses. Moms, I know this isn’t always feasible with a baby, but do your absolute best to soak up every minute of sleep that IS possible.
If you’re anything like me, your brain is on ALL DAY LONG and it’s sometimes a challenge to get it to slow down. And anxiety makes your brain work so hard. Your brain needs to rest. This is important.
Back when I starved my brain of the rest it so badly needed, it was as if I was living the same day, day in and day out. I felt like I would never have a day where I felt calm, clear-minded, and energized. My brain would feel foggy and empty. And I was to blame.
Now, I skip doing the things before bed that can wait, or the things that don’t even need to be done at all. I say no to Netflix and social media. And my house might be messy and I may not have showered that day, but I am going to make sure that my brain gets the rest it needs so that I can wake up feeling my best and give myself the best shot at the next day.
Start small. Make a sleep schedule (one that you can stick to), and slowly work to get yourself there. I am in bed by 9:30 p.m. every night, no exceptions, and I wake up at 5:45 a.m. I follow this schedule even on the weekends because I’ve found that my body thrives on a solid sleep routine. And, you’ll benefit from slowly pulling yourself away from falling asleep to the TV and/or checking social media right before you attempt to doze off. Although we convince ourselves that these things are sleep aids, they are actually keeping you up!
3. Pay attention to what you put into your body and how it makes you feel.
Your diet is so important. This isn’t about eating more fruits and vegetables, this is about not consuming things that make you feel bad. Typically if something makes you feel bad, it’ll also trigger anxiety.
Going back to my teenage years, I always struggled with stomach issues. Whenever I felt sick to my stomach, it’d trigger anxiety for me because I was worried that I’d either get sick or have to run to the bathroom (especially in public).
People ask me why I don’t consume gluten or dairy, and my simple answer is, I just feel better without it. I saw a doctor at one point that suggested I eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet, and even though I was skeptical, I was willing to try it to relieve the symptoms and anxiety. I stuck with it for a few months and I could honestly feel a substantial difference, especially eliminating dairy from my diet. And guess what, no more feeling sick to my stomach and having to run to the bathroom!
I always thought that anxiety was the cause of my symptoms, but sometimes it was actually the food that I was consuming that was causing anxiety and the symptoms!
For my husband, it’s too much sugar. If he has chocolate or a sweet dessert, he feels jittery, anxious, and run down, so he avoids eating things with added sugars.
If something makes you feel bad after consuming it, chances are, it’ll also increase anxiety.
People with anxiety are typically much more in tune with their bodies, aka you probably notice how everything makes you feel. So if something makes your stomach feel upset, makes you run to the bathroom, causes you pain or uncomfortability, chances are it’ll likely raise your anxiety. Why do this to yourself? Although eliminating things from your diet might be hard at first, you will adapt and your body and mind will be so grateful for it.
Trust me, I always hated when people would say, I feel so great now that I started this new diet (or whatever the new thing was)... But I can honestly say that since I’ve cut gluten and dairy out of my diet, the anxiety surrounding what I consume is gone, and I feel healthier and more energized.
Start by writing down what you eat so that you can identify what makes you feel bad. And when you eliminate things from your diet, make sure to find replacements. It can be really hard removing something like cheese from your diet, so make sure you research some alternatives.
These 3 things - Removing stimulants, getting on a sleep schedule, and eliminating things from your diet that make you feel bad, WILL relieve anxiety and panic. Start small!
You are capable of making these changes.
You are capable of pushing past anxiety and panic!