A young couple relaxes at home on the couch while deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety.

Everyone experiences anxiety on some level. Minor stresses, a worry, concern about a potential outcome all fall into the category of anxiety. It’s a part of life, but it’s not all bad. Anxiety and stress are a way to let your body know that danger or threats are nearby, and even excitement.

At times, anxiety can build and eventually prevent you from being able to perform to the best of your ability. Anxiety is often connected to symptoms of depression, so understanding one can lead to a better handle of the other.

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by a wide range of factors. Usually anxiety is connected to worry about outcomes of future events. Are you going to get that promotion? Will you make that deadline? What if something goes wrong on your vacation? One major misunderstanding is that anxiety can only come from negative events. This can lead to individuals not recognizing that they are actually experiencing anxiety.

What happens during an anxiety attack?

Anxiety attacks are often confused with panic attacks. In general, panic attacks are seen as far more extreme according to Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP. Panic attacks are a symptom of panic disorder, while anxiety has a specific trigger. Someone may start to experience an anxiety attack when presented with a specific scenario or problem.

Anxiety attacks are characterized by a gradual build in intensity, and grow out of a general feeling of anxiety. During an anxiety attack, a person can have an elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing, irrational thoughts, and sense of fear. There is not a specific duration for how long an anxiety attack may run, but because of the way they build up, it is possible to recognize them as they happen.

By identifying the onset of an attack, it’s possible to enact calming behaviors to help alleviate the anxiety. Knowing the best ways to prevent and process anxiety attacks at home can reduce the severity of an attack.

Reduce Caffeine and Nicotine

Smoking cigarettes and drinking caffeinated beverages can lead to increased anxiety. These chemicals actually raise blood pressure and heart rate. The same up and energized feeling you get from a sugary drink or a strong cup of coffee is not so dissimilar as the feeling of an oncoming anxiety attack. It may even trick your body into going into the same response!

Get Plenty of Rest

When you don’t sleep enough, your mind and body aren’t working at peak efficiency and are more susceptible to bouts of anxiety.

Attack Your Diet

Some research has shown that your diet overall may be contributing to higher anxiety levels. If your diet isn’t well balanced and deficient in key nutrients, your mental health can actually suffer. Incorporating leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, and foods high in zinc have been connected with a reduced anxiety levels.

Physical Activity

Maintaining a positive level of physical activity can reduce stress. It’s important to focus on a healthy amount of exercise. This includes stretches, aerobic exercise, and keeping up a regular routine has been shown to not only improve physical health, but also mental. Don’t overdo it though. Overworking your muscles can actually lead to all of the negative effects of not working out at all. Keep a healthy and moderate routine in order to enjoy the benefits.

Treat Your Senses

Aromatherapy has been found to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Because olfactory senses are so closely tied to emotions, it’s possible to use your sense of smell to influence your body’s response to anxiety. Calming scents like lavender, ylang ylang, and clary sage have been used to ease the effects of anxiety attacks.

Acknowledge and Overcome

Recognizing what is happening is the first step to getting through an anxiety attack. Knowing that the feeling is fleeting and that you have the tools to get past it make dealing with anxiety that much easier. Reining in anxious thoughts early on can prevent the rampant spiral that happens during an attack. Breathing deep and working to focus on you and how you will go on beyond the anxiety is an excellent way to process anxiety.

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