Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health condition in the U.S. Forty million adults (18.1% of the population) struggle with some form of anxiety every year, so you’re not alone.
What makes you unique is the effort you’ve put into finding relief from anxiety. Some people with anxiety disorders seek treatment and see their symptoms completely disappear. For others, their anxiety may go away for a while and reappear at another stage in life.
For the best chance at complete remission, you’ve already taken the first step: TMS treatments. Now that you’re an HPR Treatment Centers alumnus, positive changes to your lifestyle can act as a vital defense against anxiety.
How to Maintain an Anxiety-Free Lifestyle
Physical activity is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety because it releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers—a type of “feel-good” chemical. Endorphins help:
- Lift your mood
- Calm your mind
- Improve your sleep – Restful sleep is essential for anyone prone to anxiety. Sleep problems can worsen an anxiety disorder.
Types of exercises that help include resistance training—like exercising with dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, and resistance machines—and aerobic exercises —like walking, running, spinning, hiking, swimming, dancing, and boxing.
The food you eat can have a massive impact on your well-being, with certain foods triggering or intensifying the symptoms of anxiety. These include:
- Caffeine – Increases the risk of panic attacks and lead to feelings of nervousness and irritability (common anxiety symptoms). Caffeine can also contribute to physical symptoms of anxiety, like trembling and shaking.
- Sugar – Decreases your energy and increases nervousness and sleep problems.
- Alcohol – Like sugar, it decreases your energy and increases nervousness and sleep problems. It’s common to experience “hangover anxiety” after a period of drinking. This can be especially pronounced for people who have—or have previously experienced—an anxiety disorder.
Limiting your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol consumption can help protect you against anxiety.
Foods that have been shown to lessen anxiety include:
- Probiotics – As a supplement or in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi
- Whole, fiber-rich grains
Many studies highlight that a regular practice of mindfulness meditation can help you live an anxiety-free life. The aim of mindfulness meditation is to simply notice whatever arises in the present moment in a non-judgemental way. You watch anxious thoughts, feelings, and sensations without getting carried away by them.
If you’re completely new to meditation, an app like Headspace® can help you understand the basics of the practice. Headspace provides specific instructions on how to deal with anxiety. Sitting for 20 minutes with your eyes closed, simply watching your breath—and whatever distracting thoughts and feelings pass through your mind—can produce a feeling of calm and could help you sleep easier.
Restful sleep is important in living an anxiety-free lifestyle. This is because it’s crucial for cognitive function and emotional health. When you suffer from lack of sleep, which happens when you have racing, anxious thoughts, your anxiety can worsen the next day.
Consider decreasing habits that worsen your sleep and increasing ones that give you a good night.
Using devices like laptops and smartphones before bed can cause sleep problems. This is because these devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, resulting in a feeling of alertness. This makes it difficult to both fall asleep and achieve true rest.
Other lifestyle habits that can lead to worsened sleep include:
- Frequent or late-night partying
- Eating late at night (especially overly fatty or spicy foods)
- Drinking caffeine close to bedtime
The Signs of Returning Anxiety
Sometimes an anxiety disorder can return. This could be due to chronic stress, a major life event, or reasons that relate to your lifestyle. In order to look after yourself, you need to be able to spot returning anxiety. This will help you to respond appropriately with another round of TMS therapy and/or lifestyle changes and make sure negative thoughts and feelings don’t become worse over time.
Signs of returning anxiety include:
- Catastrophic thinking
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Cold, numb, sweaty, or tingling feet or hands
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
What to Do If You Feel Anxiety Returning
If your anxiety is returning and you are struggling to cope, don’t worry. Another course of TMS can offer you the relief you need. For many of our patients, follow-up sessions of TMS can restore and maintain well-being. They often keep anxiety from becoming intense or out-of-control.
TMS therapy has been shown to be highly effective at reducing and even eliminating the symptoms of anxiety. It’s also a great way to reset if you feel your anxiety returning. After your TMS sessions, take a little time to design a healthy lifestyle for yourself that includes self-care. The strategies above can help you to maintain the benefits of TMS!