I usually groan when my doctor asks if I am eating well, exercising consistently, and sleeping enough. These questions are boring and repetitive when my psychiatrist asks them monthly. However, through personal experience, I have learned there is a reason my doctor is asking me these questions. If any one of these areas is off, my anxiety does begin to rise. There is a reason that basic health habits are important in anxiety recovery.
When these basic health habits and a few others are maintained, my anxiety lessens and becomes more manageable.
It was hard for me to process this at first as I saw my anxiety as something that happened more in the moment as opposed to something that could be prevented or lessened by something I actively did before the panic set in. However, through trial and error, I have learned some habits that help lessen my anxiety. This has been life-changing in my anxiety recovery.
I am going to talk a little bit about what has worked for me. Not everything I am going to mention will work for you, but what is most important is to try and figure out what does work. Healthy habits are important and can make a true difference in your anxiety levels. I invite you to do some experimenting and figure out what makes a difference in your life.
I mentioned three habits at the beginning of the article: eating, sleeping, and exercising.
I am not going to go into anymore details surrounding these habits because if you see any type of doctor I am sure you have been lectured on their importance. All I will say is I have found my doctor is right. When I eat well, sleep enough, and exercise appropriately, I have found my mental health is better. If you are just starting to develop your own healthy habits, I suggest you start with these three things.
Next in line for me after these basics is making sure my living area is picked up and clean. I have had to work hard to make this a habit. I have to write down on a white board what days I will be doing what chores and really stick to the schedule. It’s much less intimidating to do one chore a day than to do all chores on the weekends. I find that when my living space is organized and clean I am happier and can relax more fully.
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Anything that contributes to my relaxation I consider very important in my life.
As I have found with my anxiety, relaxing is difficult and must often be done intentionally. Intentional relaxing is something I have also made into a healthy habit. I have to practice relaxation techniques and my therapist has been encouraging me to make these relaxation techniques part of my daily routine. I can’t attest to how well this works yet, as I’m still struggling to turn this into a habit, but it is something I invite you to try along with me. Simply google relaxation techniques and several examples should come up.
Along with relaxation techniques, practicing relaxing activities is important. This varies person to person. Nothing is silly or too insignificant. It doesn’t have to be a structured activity such as yoga, but something you find enjoyable and anxiety reducing. I find snuggling with my dogs relaxing and I actually make this a part of my bedtime routine. Other relaxing activities I try to make habits include reading, watching Netflix, and listening to music.
Developing any habit that is a type of self-care is important.
Maybe you like to paint your nails — this can become a habit that you engage in regularly because it helps your anxiety to settle. Perhaps you enjoy bubble baths or drawing. I like to make collages out of magazines. I also enjoy journaling although I tend to be careful with that activity as it can easily cross into too much self-criticism. I often focus it by finding journaling prompts.
I worry at times about being selfish as relaxing and self-care activities can seem self-indulgent, but I tend to look at it this way: by making use of my own time to relax and destress, it lessens my anxiety, which in turn allows me to be more present in my interactions with people. I am giving people my best because I have in turn taken care of myself.
I have found my anxiety lessens by maintaining healthy habits in my day-to-day life because I am preemptively taking care of myself and eliminating some anxiety triggers.
I am also practicing coping skills on a regular basis so it becomes easier to use these in a time of extreme anxiety.
I hope you can find some healthy habits to incorporate in your life. I also hope you have some fun doing so! Habits don’t all need to be boring and involve lots of work. Look for something fun to do to help you relax or practice self-care.
I hope you find something you love doing and it can become something that you can do often. Recovery from anxiety doesn’t need to be all hard work nor do healthy habits. Sometimes it can be fun.
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