FIVE WAYS TO TAME ANXIETY
There is nothing more frightening than waking in the middle of the night with heart-pounding anxiety – or more draining than low-level anxiety that goes on for days or weeks interrupting sleep and all things fun. Introduce these new habits into your life now for long-term management and protection from anxiety.
You already know of the mind-quieting potential of meditation but a group of Boston University researchers set out to prove it. They analyzed the results of 39 studies with 1,140 total participants to assess how effective mindfulness-based therapy really was (they admitted in their conclusion that they were initially skeptical). They found that this type of meditation is legitimately effective in treating not just anxiety, mood disorders and depression, but also other psychiatric and medical conditions – just a few minutes will do the trick. And a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that meditation can lower stress – in less than a week.
2. A Walk In The Woods
On weekends, over-stimulated residents of Tokyo head to the sylvan hills outside the city for the Japanese pastime of Shinrin-yoku, or "forest-bathing." Scientists from Chiba University have found that compared with city strolls, leisurely walks in nature result in a 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate. Those studies have also shown that spending time outside can increase parasympathetic nerve activity by 55 percent, which, the researchers said, is associated with a relaxed state. You can boost your mind in as little as 5 minutes spent outdoors, according to research by Jules Pretty, a professor of environment and society at the University of Essex. An entire day outdoors can bring even greater benefits.
3. A Nice Cup Of Tea
The valerian plant is a hardy perennial whose flowers were once used to make perfume. The root of the plant contains chemicals called valepotriates as well as volatile oils and alkaloids and is widely believed to be a natural sedative. "Tea made from valerian root relaxes the nerves," says Roberta Lee, MD, the vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center and the author of The SuperStress Solution. "Think of it as a very weak Valium." No need to grind your own roots; simply steep a prepared bag in hot water. The taste is naturally bitter, so you might add honey to sweeten.
4. Hug A Furry Friend
In Tokyo there are cafés where people have removed their shoes, are sitting on couches that are torn, and smiling as they look at the ground. Some of them are dangling strings and laughing. Others are on their hands and knees crawling after something. What are they doing? They are petting and interacting with cats and kittens and these are cat cafés. But if you have a cat or a dog, you already know that stroking their fur makes you feel better after a bad day. In separate studies, pets have also helped to lower the blood pressure of high-strung stockbrokers, relax research subjects who were asked to perform a stressful arithmetic task and lower the anxiety levels of hospital patients.
5. Runner's High
Most of us think that the famed runner's high comes from endorphins that flood the brain after intense activity, but research has shown that those endorphins are actually too large to pass the blood-brain barrier. Neuroscientists are now claiming that the credit is due to endocannabinoids, smaller molecules made up of lipids that have a similar affect on the body as does the active ingredient in marijuana. Receptors in the brain and the body allow these endocannabinoids to bind to the nervous system, and this sets off reactions that decrease pain and anxiety and generally help us feel better. 50 minutes exercise has been found to increase blood levels of endocannabinoids (other studies have found that a regular exercise habit—such as a daily workout—can have a protective effect for the high-strung and anxiety-prone).