21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge Wrap Up
In May we focused on natural remedies to reduce anxiety. During the 21 Days to Less Anxiety Challenge we used exercise, meditation and food to bring a little more calm into our lives. These small adjustments can make a huge impact on lowering overall levels of anxiety. Here are a few small shifts you can think about incorporating into your everyday life.
1. Be mindful. Not just while you’re practicing meditation, but all the time. Limit distractions – music or TV constantly playing in the background, screen time before bed, always having a phone on you, etc. – and take the opportunity to really be present in whatever it is you’re doing. Pay attention. Stop trying to multitask. Listen. Observe. Breathe.
2. Eat real food. With lots of protein. Remember that protein doesn’t just come from meat. Beans, nuts, tofu, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk are good sources, too. Try to start your day with around 20 grams of protein at breakfast. Reduce consumption of caffeine, alcohol, preservatives and added sugar if you want to take it a step further. Think about swapping coffee for green or chamomile teas. Focus on eating mostly real foods in their natural state – fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meat and fish, whole grains. This is the perfect time of year to plant a garden or take advantage of local farmers markets.
3. Move. Studies have shown that it only takes 20-30 minutes of exercise to trigger a release of mood-boosting endorphins. Exercise can be a powerful tool to help manage anxiety and depression. Choose an activity you enjoy. It can be anything that elevates your heart rate. Aim for at least 20 minutes of continuous movement every day.
4. Be prepared. Planning is a major key to adopting new habits. Plan meals for the entire week or several days at a time and shop accordingly. Don’t bother keeping junk food around if you’re trying to avoid it. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy choices to avoid temptation. Come up with a schedule for exercise and meditation, and be consistent.
5. Think moderation. It’s fine to do an occasional cleanse or fast to eliminate certain things from our diet. But I think it’s better to adjust to figure out how to make those changes sustainable in our everyday lives. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t think you can say goodbye to added sugar, coffee, alcohol or processed food forever. Instead of total elimination, think about ways you can cut back. Know that every little bit helps. Of course it’d be great if we could meditate for an hour every day and go to the gym 5 times every week. But that’s not always practical. Don’t be discouraged. Do a bodyweight workout at home. If you only have 5 minutes to meditate. Then meditate for 5 minutes. If you can only fit exercise in 2 days a week. At least it’s a start. You can build from there. Don’t get so overwhelmed by the thought of not having enough time that you end up doing nothing.
6. Use mantras. The longer we allow ourselves to dwell on anxious thoughts, the harder it can be to let go of them. Repeat your mantra when you start to feel yourself getting anxious and take a few slow, deep breaths. You can use any word or phrase that brings you back to the present moment to help release your anxious thoughts. Choose something that resonates with you.
7. Write it down. Keeping a journal to write down what you eat and any reflections on meditation or exercise only takes a few minutes, but can be a huge help to keep you motivated and accountable. Knowing that you’ll be writing down everything you eat introduces an element of mindfulness into your food choices. It’s not about shaming yourself out of eating. It just makes you think about whether you’re actually hungry vs. using food to fight off boredom or emotions. Reflecting on your exercise and/or meditation will give you insight about yourself. It’s also a way to acknowledge milestones and set/track goals.