Since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading, the magnitude of population reporting anxiety or depression grew exponentially. It has always been a common experience to face anxiety in different walks of life. Anything from finances, job interviews, social gatherings, and other personal vulnerabilities tend to evoke anxiety at times.
These are normal feelings and vanish in some time. However, for some people these experiences can be more than a momentary restlessness, especially in challenging times like COVID-19 or during other personal or professional crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans experienced more symptoms of anxiety disorder during April-June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. According to a survey, around 40.9 percent respondents reported at least one behavioral health condition, such as symptoms of a trauma-and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) associated with the pandemic (26.3 percent) and symptoms of anxiety disorder (30.9 percent). In addition, 13.3 percent of respondents reported to have started or increased substance use to cope with COVID-19 related stress or emotions.
In this hour of tremendous stress, it is important to keep calm and avoid panic or anxiety situations. Here are some lifestyle suggestions that people battling anxiety can adopt to enjoy a better quality of life.
- Staying physically active: Indulging in 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week can help boost mental health. Exercise helps minimize stress by improving mood and maintaining healthy physical health. People with mental illnesses should start out slowly, gradually increasing the intensity and amount of physical activities.
- Eating healthy: Good nutrition is the key to good mental health. Healthy food has a positive impact on management and prevention of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among others. Foods rich in essential fats, complex carbohydrates, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals can improve and protect overall wellbeing. Moreover, consuming adequate amounts of water is also essential to maintain optimum mental as well as physical health.
- Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), around 20 percent of Americans having an anxiety or mood disorder have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. Therefore, individuals battling anxiety or showing the signs of anxiety and other mood disorder should quit alcohol and substance use with immediate effect. In case they find it difficult to get over the addiction on their own, they can enlist professional help.
- Quitting nicotine and caffeine: Some people resort to smoking for its calming effect. However, it is a false perception, as nicotine tends to increase blood pressure and heart rate, the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. Similarly, anxious people should also avoid caffeinated beverages as they can aggravate the symptoms.
- Practicing relaxation techniques: Stress management and relaxation techniques including meditation and yoga can help ease anxiety. While it may take a while to develop a routine for these techniques, these are beneficial in the longer run.
- Getting ample sleep: As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 54 percent people with stress or anxiety experienced increased anxiety about falling asleep at night. Anxiety patients also complained of disturbed sleep in the night, called as midnight anxiety. Such patients should practice healthy sleep habits to enjoy a sound sleep. People facing difficulty in sleeping may also see a sleep expert.
- Socializing: Some people get anxious at a mere thought of socializing. However, socializing can be an effective technique to overcome anxiety. Meeting like-minded people, sharing thoughts and seeking emotional support can go a long way in helping people recover from social anxiety. It can be difficult in the beginning and can be achieved with continuous support from family and friends.
- Seeking and sticking to the treatment: Sometimes, anxiety becomes so severe that it begins to impair one’s quality of life. It is time to seek professional help. Anxiety is treatable; however, it is important to follow the instructions of a medical professional and stick to the treatment plan.