With so many people living hectic and stressful lifestyles these days, it’s no wonder that as many as forty million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder every single year. This is a situation that is mirrored around the globe, and there is no doubt that the changes that have taken place in the way people live over the last hundred years have had a part to play in making this problem so increasingly common.
The demands and expectations of modern life can sometimes feel like more than we can cope with, and when we develop an anxiety disorder the strain can become unbearable.
As you have probably experienced, anxiety disorders can have a huge effect on the way you live your life, preventing you from living it to the full. But the relationship between your anxiety and your lifestyle works in the other direction as well. Your anxiety has a negative effect on your life, but your lifestyle can also have a bad impact on your anxiety.
My personal battle with anxiety and panic attacks started at a time in which my lifestyle was not ideal and I was living with a great deal of stress, and I have since heard from many other people that their problems also began during a similar period of time in their lives.
For some people it’s the busy, fast paced stressful lifestyle with little time for themselves. For others it’s the dissatisfaction of a boring, inactive life, maybe unemployment, fears for the future and money worries, and the responsibilities they have to their families that they struggle to live up to.
Even if your anxiety problem was not initially caused by your lifestyle, an unsatisfactory way of living will only add to your anxiety and cause your condition to have a greater negative impact on your life.
Take a good look at your current lifestyle, and ask yourself honestly if there are any areas of your life that are currently causing you difficulties and concern, or maybe aspects of your life that need attention but that you have let slip.
The following advice will give some common areas in which we sometimes need to make an improvement to reduce our anxiety
Our jobs are important both in the sense of purpose that they provide us with and the demands that they place on us. People who work in jobs which offer little responsibility, and in which they have a very limited amount of control over what they do, can often find their jobs unsatisfying.
Those that are forced to work long hours with very high demands placed upon them can sometimes find their jobs to be too stressful. Neither situation is good for our state of mind.
In addition, some people’s jobs are not particularly secure, and the threat of redundancy can cause a great deal of anxiety over future prospects. Whereas for other people it can be the absence of employment causing negative feelings of self worth and creating a great deal of anxiety.
Take a look at your working situation and make a list of the things you would like to change and what you could possibly do about it. This could mean considering changing jobs to something which will give you a more satisfying or less stressful life. Even if that comes at the expense of how much we earn, it can be worth it if it improves our quality of life.
2. Home life
The quality of your home life can have a massive effect on your state of mind and your anxiety levels. Your home should be a place in which you feel happy, safe and secure. A place that you enjoy coming back to after time spent away from it.
If this is not the case then it could be having a harmful effect on you. Maybe you don’t like the area you live in, maybe you don’t like the town or city, or maybe your relationship with the people you live with is difficult.
Family life can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience, but it can also be stressful if you don’t get along with the people you are living with, or if one of them treats you in a way that makes you unhappy. When there is tension in your home life it can be very difficult to relax, and an increase in anxiety is inevitable.
Think about ways you can improve your living arrangements, or the relationships you have with those you live with. If you identify a situation that causes you stress and anxiety you may need to change it.
3. Commitments and Responsibilities
These can place a lot of stress on your everyday life. Sometimes the amount of these we take in can reach the point at which it becomes overwhelming, and this can make it even harder to cope with the other stresses and strains that are present in your life.
If you are feeling too much pressure, then now is the time to carefully analyse these and cut back your load to the essentials, to give you a little more time for yourself to help you relax and unwind.
4. Diet and Exercise
Taking good care of this aspect of your lifestyle really is essential for both your mental and physical health. Eating a healthy balanced diet, high in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains has been shown in studies to make people less likely to experience excessive anxiety. Stay away from eating too many processed food items and food that is high in saturated fats.
Regular aerobic exercise has also been shown to have a significant effect on anxiety levels. Exercise can help to burn off excess adrenaline in your system and studies have shown that regular sessions can have a similar effect on anxiety levels as taking a common anti-anxiety drug.
Are you living a healthy lifestyle? If not, then improvement made in this aspect of your life could have great benefits for your well being, and is probably one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make to help yourself.
It can be difficult for some people to motivate themselves to change their lifestyle. We often feel more comfortable with situations that we know, even when that situation is far from ideal. But if you don’t make the changes required to reduce the anxiety in your life, it will be very difficult to achieve a long term solution to your problem.
It is your responsibility to change your lifestyle. Take a careful look at all the areas of your life that might be adding to your stress and anxiety, and write a list of things you need to change and a plan of how you are going to change them. Keep it somewhere where you can look at it often to help motivate you.
Change can also cause stress, and people who suffer from anxiety disorders can be especially vulnerable to its effects, so try and make the changes carefully and at a pace that you are comfortable with. It’s no good rushing into major changes without sufficient thought, and then regretting the decision. But this doesn’t mean putting it off forever.
Changing your lifestyle for the better will help to reduce your anxiety and will make it easier to cope with your disorder. But it is only one part of what you must do to overcome this problem for good. The fulfilling, happy life, free from anxiety, that you dream of can be yours, but you will need to find an appropriate course of treatment to help you put these problems in the past.