In 2017, I struggled with anxiety big time. When I wasn’t giving into the “flight” response, I would use some fighting tactics like reaching out to others for prayer, taking medication, seeing a therapist, and private journaling to cope.
Over the next year, my anxiety weakened as I clawed towards full-recovery. I had to return to “normal!” The process was back-and-forth; my anxiousness flared up at random times. At best, anxiety would hover in the background like a buzzing wasp ready to sting. I couldn’t ever fully shake it.
But finally, there’s been a big improvement in my life. I think there were two changes that made the difference.
Less sweet and more sweat!
It started back in December. After Thanksgiving last year, I had a bad recurrence of anxiety that sent me back to my therapist. I also saw my doctor and discussed my diet, which was suspect. There seems to be a direct link between gut-health and the brain.
So I decided to reduce sugar in my diet, which was huge for me! And my biggest daily intake (addiction) was – coffee! – with cream and sugar. But I didn’t know how I would pull this off. I figured I could survive for one week and see what happens. I’d drink coffee as usual but not add any sugar.
And you know what? Somehow I made it that first week. So I tried a second week. Then I also limited my overall sugar intake. One week led to another. And to this day, 3 months later, I still do not add any sugar to my coffee!
How does this help make a difference in my anxiety levels? I think it improves my gut-health because I no longer have those sugar highs followed by crashes. And the result is that my up and down mood swings are mostly gone! Feeling less grumpy at times, less negative, I also feel less anxious.
There’s also been one other big change in my life recently. In January I rejoined my karate class! I had been out of practice for over a year (initially due to the anxiety). So I quickly began to exercise and train for an upcoming test to rank up a belt. Part of that test is vigorous physical exercise to push you to your limits. Naturally, this impelled me to get my sedentary butt into shape – fast!
As you know, exercise just makes you feel better! And it gets you more focused on your physical body and what’s out in front of you rather than staying stuck in your head in a rut of mental rumination with the brain tumor of worry.
Exercise excises anxiety!
Less sweet and more sweat – good for your health! I think that’s been instrumental in reducing the amount of anxiety I deal with on a regular basis. It no longer seems to lurk in the background of my life, waiting to strike like a viper.
Mentally, I have greater fortitude and resilience. The random negative-voice type thoughts that creep into my brain are fewer and farther between, and I’ve been able to cut them off before they can take root.
Now, I’m not doing a victory dance here. I don’t presume to be fully healed or have a changed personality. Anxiety attacks are not that far behind me; I haven’t forgotten how terrible they are. I’m not letting my guard down, lest I be blind-sided by them again. I still sometimes have what you might call mild anxiety-aftershocks or tremors.
I’m simply saying that – surprise – exercise and diet do positively affect one’s mental (not just physical) state! I know there are other factors to consider. I’m not a psychologist and I’m not giving medical advice. This is my anecdotal evidence I guess.
I’m also saying to you that I’ve been there, in anxiety’s death-grip, and I’ve gotten better over time. There really is hope.
Do you struggle with anxiety? What have you tried to help?