Have you dealt with anxiety in your life? Anyone who has (and most people have at one point or another) knows it can be quite debilitating. Whether it’s a generalized feeling that is a large part of your everyday or something more situational, anxiety is no laughing matter.
The good news is that you don’t need to take prescription drugs to ease your anxious feelings — no matter how they may look for you.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to ease the symptoms of anxiety so you can enjoy life more fully and reduce the health issues that can come along with it.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to a potential threat, which puts your body into a heightened state of arousal to keep you out of harm’s way.
Doctors typically diagnose patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder if they suffer from symptoms of anxiety (constant worry, insomnia, difficulty concentration and more) for longer than six months.
But ALL of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives.
Anxiety causes your heart to beat faster and makes you more alert and prepared for action. Anxiety can be helpful in some situations. The problem arises when anxiety becomes a more permanent state — without any real threats.
When anxiety becomes chronic, it can increase your risk for a number of mental and physical health problems and speed up aging.
40 million Americans suffer from chronic anxiety. If you’re an anxious person, you’ve probably been told not to worry so much — to “stop overthinking things” and “just relax.”
By now, you’ve perhaps given up on trying to feel better and resigned yourself to the idea that there’s just something wrong with you. If you find you spend a good deal of time feeling anxious, then it’s important to take steps to reduce that anxiety before it has a chance to damage your health.
I Suffered from Anxiety
Many people are surprised to hear that I used to suffer from anxiety when I spoke in front of crowds. My biggest moment of anxiety came when I was 19, and I was giving a lecture on “reaching your full potential.”
As I began to talk, I became overwhelmed with nervous energy, shortness of breath and my knees started to shake. After about a minute, I passed out. Everyone thought I had died. Here I was trying to teach a room full of people how they could reach their full potential in life, and I was unable to reach my own.
So how did I get past my anxiety and of speaking in front of crowds?
I took a holistic approach, a did a little work on my mind, a little work on my behavior, and a little work on my body through nutrition and exercise. I also added in some prayer and spirituality which allowed the positive energy to flow through me and ultimately help me “reach my full potential.”
Two Things That Help Reduce Anxiety
1. Make a plan
A large part of anxiety is feeling uncertain about an outcome or the future. Some people have a strong fear of failure, so they stay in contemplation mode. Others tend to consider many ideas without ever trying any of them, so they are constantly researching projects.
Identify the worst thing, the best thing, and the most realistic thing that could happen — in that order. This can help you acknowledge the opportunities and the risks, so you feel safer when making a move. Another trick is to make an action plan if the worst-case scenario were to come true. If you have a plan, then you are more likely to believe you can handle adversity when it strikes, which can be calming.
2. Make a list
Replaying all of your past mistakes in your mind is called ruminating. This can create a bad cycle of anxiety and depression.
A good way to escape the cycle is to come up with concrete steps for moving forward. Making a list shifts your mind into a more productive mode. Write down three possible actions you can take now to better define your options and help you determine the right outcome.
About 1 out of 3 people with anxiety disorders receive treatment, and the majority of that “treatment” is prescription drugs. Anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium are benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines relax you by boosting the neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This, in turn, activates the gratification hormone — dopamine — in your brain.
Benzodiazepines are a poor solution and come with many serious risks, including memory loss and addiction. People who take these drugs are nearly four times more likely to die prematurely than people who don’t and also have a 35 percent greater risk of cancer.
Anti-anxiety medications can be very difficult to quit. The initial withdrawal period can last for a month and includes sudden panic attacks, insomnia, sweating, vomiting, seizures, and extreme muscular pain.
Fortunately, there are more natural alternatives to prescription drugs that will reduce anxiety.
My Natural Solutions for Reducing Anxiety
Part of my approach for overcoming anxiety was to develop guided visualizations and meditations that would put my mind at rest and prepare myself for what I was about to do — whether that be a big talk, TV interview or simply walking around a new, crowded city. I have been doing these visualizations for 40 years, and I attribute much of my success to them.
Besides the guided visualizations, I also made sure I got more sleep each night and exercised three to five days each week. Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help to induce a state of calm. Exercise also boosts serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.
In addition, I changed my diet. I reduced the amount of sugar I ate. There are countless studies linking a high sugar diet to poor mental health. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to panic attacks, depression, anger, and anxiety.
I chose supplements that would help me deal with the panic attacks and repair my body so I didn’t feel anxious anymore. I still take these supplements — some of them every day.
For updated protocols and John’s best recommendations for overcoming anxiety, grab your free wellness guide here.