I struggle with anxiety A LOT. I also suffer from adrenal fatigue. I have come up with a variety of tricks to not only calm my mind, but also maintain more focus.
Stress itself is actually not bad. Your physiological stress response is an important and necessary part of life, designed to prepare your body and mind for situations in which you need mental alertness and stamina to take action. Small amounts of stress can improve your concentration and performance, while large amounts of stress will deteriorate your central nervous system and possibly (like it did in my case) affect the adrenal functions.
To calm and clear the mind, you must address the following six areas of your life:
- Mental Fitness
- Meditate to Clear your Head
The purpose of meditation is not to relax the mind, but to quiet the mind. It’s a practice of noticing your own thought processes without attachment or judgement, observing the mind without expecting a change to occur. A quiet mind allows you to tap into your intuition, creativity, and energy and develop a different enthusiasm for life.
A meditation practice empties the mind of stories you attach to events in your life and enables you to sit with your feelings as they arise. Benefits of meditation over time are decreased stress, better quality of sleep, increased energy, stronger immune system and overall health…and an increased sense of happiness.
You need practice and patience with yourself as you learn how to sit through the restlessness that occurs during meditation.
Personally, I found my way to meditation through yoga asana (link). The physical practice of yoga prepped my body to sit still for extended periods of time.
Today I am a huge fan of Kundalini Yoga (link), as it leaves me feeling relaxed and uplifted with a razor-sharp mind.
I also am a huge fan of Headspace to start a meditation practice.
2) Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet!
Eat those leafy greens. I know we’ve heard it all before, but to improve your vitality you have to improve your diet.
My friend Donnalynn Civello (link) has really helped me over the years to address my dietary needs. She recommends employing the following eating rules. They can’t hurt, and may just drastically improve your life:
Limit Sugar as Much as Possible. Increased insulin levels typically worsen pain and fatigue dramatically. Limit all sugars, including fresh fruit juices. Whole fresh fruit is the preferred method for consuming fruit products.
If you are overweight or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, also limit refined grains as much as possible, since they are metabolized very similarly to sugars. Also avoid organic unprocessed grains. Wheat and gluten grains are the top ones to avoid.
Eat Fresh Foods. Eating a diet of fresh foods, devoid of preservatives and additives, may ease symptoms triggered by coexisting conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Buying organic food when possible is best, to avoid pesticides and chemicals. However, fresh is better than organic. So if you have to choose between local, fresh, and non-organic, and organic but wilting, go with fresh, and clean properly.
Avoid caffeine. Studies have linked caffeine to an imbalance of brain chemicals that control mood, and it is often linked with inadequate sleep and fatigue. Artificially and temporarily eliminating feelings of fatigue with stimulants like caffeine is tempting, but this approach does more harm than good in the long run. Though caffeine provides an initial boost of energy, it is no substitute for sleep, and is likely to keep you awake when you need to rest.
Try to avoid nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, which may trigger arthritis and joint pain.
Be Careful with Your Fats. Try Omega-3 fats, not trans fats. Omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA (found in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and salmon) have been touted as heart-healthy, and may help decrease pain as well. They can help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. While adding Omega-3 fats, you should eliminate all trans fats and fried foods, as they promote inflammation.
Avoid Pasteurized Dairy. However, many find that raw dairy products, especially from grass-fed organic sources, are well-tolerated.
Avoid Aspartame. The artificial sweetener found in some diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase your sensitivity.
Stay Away From Junk Food. Limit or eliminate fast food, candy, and vending machine products. In addition to contributing to weight gain and the development of unhealthy eating habits, these diet-wreckers may also irritate your muscles, disrupt your sleep, and compromise your immune system.
Credit Donnalynn Civello
3) Exercise: Move Your Muscles, Change Your Thoughts
Exercise is meditation in motion. If you really want to get out of your head, get in motion. Breaking a sweat each day increases your overall health and your sense of well-being. It is uplifting, elevating and offers some direct stress-busting benefits.
According to studies at the Mayo Clinic for Stress Management, exercise gives you these four main benefits:
- It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a “runner's high,” a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
- It's meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you'll often find that you've forgotten the day's irritations and concentrated only on your body's movements.
- It decreases stress and increases focus. As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
- It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, relax you, and decrease symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.
Credit Mayo Clinic
4) Supplement Your Diet
I am a big fan of supporting my body and mind with products from nature. I recommend the following supplements:
Triphala: Ayurvedic blend that effectively balances the (tri-doshic) elements of the lymph, blood, muscle, fat, nerves, bones, and sexual vitality.
Turmeric: Powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal agent.
Magnesium: Old home remedy for all that ails you, including anxiety, apathy, depression, headaches, insecurity, irritability, restlessness. Stress depletes our magnesium levels as well as other vital minerals like zinc.
Maca: Known to balance your hormones. It affects endurance, fertility, libido, depression and menopause.
Lavender: Helps to calm your stomach, mind, and skin. I swear by my doTERRA TriEase oils. They help with the slightest bit of anxiety and give me the best sleep I’ve ever had.
Other herbs that deeply nourish and strengthen your nervous system are gingko, brahmi, mucuna, ashwagandha, gota kola, kava, lemon balm and rhodiola. Try finding some blends that work best for you.
5) Improve Your Sleep
It may be time to consider the quality of sleep that you are getting. I love using my eyemask, ear plugs and TriEase combo (as mentioned above) to get deep sleep in any situation (especially when I travel).
How many hours do you need to feel fully rested? Mostly people need eight hours of sleep.
Also try finding ways to improve the quality of your sleep. You may need a better mattress or pillow. Consider sleeping arrangements with your partner and pets. Try taking a hot shower before bed and making yourself a nice cup of tea. Avoid watching TV before sleeping and limit electronics in your bedroom. Maybe even meditate with your partner before bed. Arianna Huffington gave a great TED talk about How to SUCCEED by getting more sleep.
6) Mental Fitness: Get Your Mind in Shape
Take some serious action and rigorously eliminate the biggest stressors from your life.
Avoid negative self-talk and instead try being kind to yourself. Through meditation and self-observation you can learn to acknowledge your thoughts without judgement, and subsequently strengthen your mind. This will also give you the clarity and ability to discern which situations to avoid so you can excel in life. You will be able to repel stress and set more achievable goals without losing your sense of calm and sanity in the process. You can then learn the underlying causes of when and why stress affects you in the first place. Therapy, coaching, acupuncture, and a healthy social environment and can greatly support you on this journey.