Anxiety attacks can be disruptive and stressful for those who experience them. Many people who experience them wonder, “How do you prevent anxiety attacks?” Understanding how to prevent anxiety attacks requires a good understanding of what anxiety attacks are and what causes them.
Anxiety is a natural response to stressful situations. Your body uses anxiety to provide the extra energy and focus needed to overcome the stressful situation. However, some people may experience more anxiety than is normal or anxiety that is not related to a stressful situation. In these cases, anxiety is no longer helpful and may be disruptive. While there is no precise or completely accepted definition for anxiety attacks, most people generally accept that an anxiety attack is an episode of anxiety that is normally disruptive and difficult or impossible to control.
Anxiety attacks are different than panic attacks, which have a strict, clinical definition and describe an episode of extreme panic that is completely debilitating and impossible to control. Sometimes people will mistakenly refer to panic attacks as anxiety attacks, while some may refer to minor anxiety attacks as panic attacks. Those who suspect they may be having a true panic attack should see a doctor for professional help with managing the attacks.
While true panic attacks may require professional help to control, anxiety attacks can often be controlled without the help of a doctor. There are several natural ways to prevent anxiety attacks that you can do by yourself at home.
It is well known that exercise helps anxiety. Scientists have found that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins that help promote relaxation and well being, helping to reduce anxiety overall. In addition to helping to produce endorphins and relaxation, exercising also promotes an increased sense of control of one’s environment and body, potentially leading to a decrease in anxiety caused by a reduced sense of control.
Many people are aware of this relationship between exercise and anxiety but think that exercising means they have to start training for a marathon or do 45-minute workouts five times a week. While regular vigorous exercise is healthy and good for anxiety, psychologists who study the effects of exercise on anxiety have found that reduced anxiety can be experienced with just a ten-minute walk. While more vigorous exercise may have more lasting effects, taking a walk each day is an easy way to start exercising and reducing the chances of an anxiety attack.
Meditation has been found by multiple studies to help reduce anxiety, and the use of meditation for anxiety has been practiced for many years. While this may not be practical or desirable for some people, there are easy and practical ways that anyone can practice meditation.
While meditation practices vary, meditation essentially consists of clearing one’s mind and focusing on the present. Meditation does not have to be a religious experience or be focused on achieving a specific goal. Most types of meditation that people use for anxiety focus on breathing and being mindful of the present.
One way to start practicing meditation for yourself is to start by finding a quiet place where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Try to clear your mind of worries about the past or future and focus on something specific. Many people find it most effective to focus on their breathing and to think about each breath as they slowly take deep breaths in and out.
If you are having problems focusing or find that your mind is wandering, you may want to try using guided meditation for anxiety. This method consists of having someone speak to you and help you to focus, typically on your breathing, and help to keep your mind from wandering. While you can do this in person, you can also find online resources that will help with this. There is a known connection between meditation and anxiety, and even short, five-minute periods of meditation can help to decrease the occurrence of anxiety attacks.
3. Practice Yoga
Yoga is similar to meditation when it comes to reducing anxiety. Most people who have used yoga for anxiety found it to be useful in reducing symptoms. Essentially, yoga combines the benefits of exercise and meditation, creating physical activity that releases endorphins, while simultaneously creating the mindfulness and focus that meditation creates. Research shows that yoga can be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and could help reduce episodes of anxiety attacks.
Yoga can be practiced by using in-person classes or at home. Classes often last for about one hour and are usually offered by local exercise clubs or fitness centers. Yoga classes offer the benefit of being in an environment that is more conducive to relaxation and creating accountability that will encourage people to continue these classes.
Yoga at home is another option that may be appealing to some. At-home yoga can be facilitated through purchasing a video course or using free yoga videos that may be available online. If you are considering yoga as a possible treatment for anxiety, you can look for a class that focuses on relaxation or for videos that recommend yoga poses for anxiety. Yoga can promote relaxation and may help to reduce the frequency and severity of anxiety attacks.
4. Get Plenty of Rest
There is a clear connection between anxiety and sleep problems. Sometimes sleep problems can lead to increased anxiety, and sometimes the anxiety is influenced by poor sleeping habits. Either way, getting better sleep and rest helps reduce anxiety.
Those struggling to sleep or those who want better sleep can improve the quality of their sleep by following some simple tips. First, try going to sleep at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Following a regular sleep schedule helps your internal clock to better time sleep cycles and promote better sleep overall.
Avoid snoozing the alarm in the morning. Your body puts itself into a light stage of sleep around the time that you are supposed to be waking up. When you snooze your alarm instead of getting up, your body may go back into a deep stage of sleep, making you more groggy and sleepy throughout the day. Try to get up when your first alarm goes off.
Another sleeping tip is to try to use your bedroom only as a place for sleep. If you use your bedroom as a workspace or for watching TV, your mind and body may not relax properly when it comes time to sleep. Ensure that the bedroom is dark while sleeping and is free from noise or only has white noise, such as a fan, in the background.
A major way to achieve better sleep is to avoid screen time before bed. Watching TV or using your smartphone before bed puts light directly into your eyes, keeping your brain alert. Try spending the last hour or two of time before bed not using a smartphone or by watching TV. Instead, try reading or other activities that do not involve using a backlit screen.
5. Try Visualization Exercises
Visualization exercises, also referred to as guided imagery, can help reduce anxiety.
Visualization exercises for anxiety involve imagining yourself relaxing and seeing yourself in a relaxing place. This practice seems like meditation to some people, but differs in that meditation focuses on clearing the mind and focusing on the present, while visualization exercises focus on relaxing and envisioning yourself in a relaxing environment.
Visualization exercises are best attempted in an environment where interruption is unlikely and where it is quiet or there is gentle music that softly drowns out any background noise. Like meditation, visualization exercises can be self-guided or can be done using either an in-person guide or a video guide from a purchased video or free online resource. Using visualization exercises two or three times a week or when a stressful situation is anticipated can help to reduce the frequency and severity of anxiety attacks.
6. Eat Healthy
While there is no such thing as a medically-recognized anxiety diet, there are several foods that help with anxiety. These foods contain minerals and nutrients that are known to alleviate anxiety symptoms.
Deficiencies in magnesium can increase anxiety. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are full of magnesium and provide a good source of magnesium. Zinc is another important mineral that is linked to anxiety. Ensuring that there is enough zinc in your diet can help with anxiety. Some good sources of zinc include beef, egg yolks, oysters, liver and cashews. Omega-3 fatty acid has also been shown to help reduce anxiety and can be found in certain fish. Probiotics have recently been found to help with anxiety, and eating probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and kombucha can help with anxiety. Asparagus is known to be a healthy vegetable and is thought to have anti-anxiety properties. Foods that are high in B vitamins, such as almonds or avocados, may also help with anxiety.
Part of healthy eating is maintaining a good schedule and portion size. Going without a meal can cause lowered blood sugar, which can lead to increased jittery and anxious feelings.
Another important aspect of managing anxiety through food is to be moderate in portion sizes. Eating unhealthy foods or giving in to food cravings may help to alleviate short-term anxiety. However, if someone finds that they are consistently using food as a way to manage their anxiety, it can lead to obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle which will not help manage anxiety. Eating regular, healthy meals with moderate portion sizes can help lead to a long-term reduction in anxiety.
7. Take Supplements
While there are not specific supplements for anxiety, there are several minerals and vitamins that are known to help manage anxiety. Some of the more important supplements that can help with anxiety are magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
While eating foods with these nutrients is ideal, it is not particularly convenient or realistic to consistently examine daily meals and plan to get every nutrient every day. While there are many different vitamins that can help with anxiety, a good multivitamin can contain all of these nutrients. Taking a multivitamin each day can help you to avoid any nutritional deficiencies.
The other main supplement that can help with anxiety is probiotics. Probiotics help to balance the bacteria found in the intestines. Taking a probiotic regularly will help to balance these bacteria and promote good gut health, leading to improved mental well-being.
8. Stay Hydrated
Anxiety and hydration are related. There is evidence that dehydration can raise the risk of a panic attack and that dehydration by itself can sometimes cause anxiety. Your body is highly dependent on water, with 45% to 70% of your body consisting of it. Lack of water, even in relatively small amounts, can lead to significant stress on the body and increase your risk of anxiety and anxiety attacks. Staying hydrated involves regularly drinking water, but also involves avoiding dehydrating drinks such as soda, coffee, tea and alcohol.
Recent guidelines recommend that the daily level of water intake should be guided by thirst, but should generally be 3.7 liters (15 cups) for the average adult male and 2.7 liters (11 cups) for the average adult female. This amount does include the amount of water that is found in food. While these amounts are good general guidelines, the best strategy is to always drink water when thirsty. Your body knows when it needs water, and drinking water when thirsty will help to avoid dehydration. By staying hydrated you can help your body maintain its optimal function and reduce the risk of anxiety attacks.
A vital part of reducing anxiety is taking time to relax. While there are several relaxation techniques for anxiety, such as meditation, yoga or visualization exercises, simply taking time off and relaxing can greatly help with anxiety. Modern society often focuses on business and productivity, sometimes at the cost of taking time to relax. This constant stress will build anxiety over time and can lead to anxiety attacks.
Using relaxation techniques, such as meditation, helps reduce anxiety, but these relaxation techniques cannot replace taking meaningful time away from stressors and just taking time to do something relaxing. Sometimes it is necessary to stop and look at life and to decide what is important. Being financially successful at the expense of your health, or being in a relationship that constantly causes stress may not be completely worth it if it is consistently bringing anxiety. By cutting stressors out of your life and taking time to relax, anxiety and anxiety attacks can be reduced.
Why It’s Important to Find Ways to Prevent Anxiety
Anxiety prevention techniques are very important. Increased anxiety and stress throughout one’s life can cause a shortened lifespan. By preventing anxiety you can live a healthier life.
If you find that no matter what you do, you still consistently struggle with anxiety, you may have an underlying anxiety disorder and should consider speaking with a doctor to see if there is an underlying cause of your anxiety. Certain types of anxiety can be treated with medication or therapy, and if you continue to experience anxiety, even after trying natural treatment methods, then you should consider talking to a doctor about an anxiety treatment plan.
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Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.” 2018. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Corliss, Julie. “Mindfulness Meditation may Ease Anxiety, Mental Stress.” Harvard Health Publishing, October 3, 2017. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Harvard Mental Health Letter. “Yoga for Anxiety and Depression.” April 2009. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Sleep Disorders.” 2018. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Naidoo, Uma. “Nutritional Strategies to Ease Anxiety.” Harvard Health Publishing, April 13, 2016. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Woods, Tyler. “Vitamins for Anxiety.” Healthfully, August 14, 2017. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Griswold, Denise. “Can Anxiety Be Caused by Dehydration?” Calm Clinic, October 28, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2019.
One Medical. “Do I really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?” August 21, 2017. Accessed June 11, 2019.
Meier, Sandra; et al. “Increased Mortality Among People with Anxiety Disorders: Total Population Study.” British Journal of Psychiatry, September 2016. Accessed June 11, 2019.