After being diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder a few years ago, my life became a roller coaster ride filled with drug-induced highs and depressive lows.
I developed a life-threatening addiction to my anxiety medication and then survived an accidental overdose. This led me to do an entire lifestyle overhaul to overcome my addictions and manage my anxiety.
My doctor insisted that I’d need to be on medication for the rest of my life due to the severity of my disorder. However, with time, faith and a lot of trial and error, I managed to successfully rid my life of all medications, I stopped smoking and learned how to control my anxiety.
Since then, I’ve learned that there are many factors that can contribute to anxiety, including dietary and environmental triggers. Conversely, by making healthy choices, you can get a better grip on all of these conditions.
Here is a list of 10 lifestyle choices that have personally helped ease my anxiety.
1. I buy fresh flowers.
Keeping fresh flowers around the house is a soothing reminder that no matter the soil, with proper nourishment, we can blossom. I love white calla lilies, which are commonly known as a symbol of faith, purity and rebirth.
2. I decorated my home with colorful accessories.
Our moods are often set within a few minutes of waking up. By sprucing up our home with a pop of color, we allow ourselves to see something beautiful when we wake up. I suggest buying a colorful pillow for your sofa or livening up a room with a brightly-colored rug. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive. Even a colorful painting can brighten your room and your mood.
3. I read.
I love self-help books and inspirational memoirs. I find it comforting to learn about other people's experiences, because there is so much value in feeling connected to other people.
4. I get into nature.
Being outside can do more for your health than just provide give you with Vitamin D. In fact, research has found that just being outside makes you more likely to exercise.
5. I eat the rainbow.
I’m sure we can all agree that fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They provide our bodies with the vitamins and nutrients necessary to ward off illnesses and diseases. A simple rule of thumb when it comes to fruits and vegetables? Eat them all. You only get one body, so feed it based on the way you expect it to perform.
6. I "go green" for breakfast.
After becoming an avid juicer, I realized that by drinking a green juice or green smoothie in the morning, I had more energy throughout the day. I didn't get the afternoon crash that’s associated with sugary or caffeinated beverages. To ensure you’re getting the proper amount of greens in each serving (and not overdoing sugar), I recommend the 80/20 rule — 80% vegetables to 20% fruit. You’ll thank me later. (And if you're curious, here's how to make my favorite green juice.)
7. I meditate daily.
So much of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the future. Meditation helps to bring my attention back to the present. If you're not sure how to meditate, start by sitting quietly for a few minutes, focusing your attention on your breaths.
You don’t have to sit in a traditional cross-legged seated position to enjoy the benefits. Just find a comfortable seat and dedicate yourself to your breathing. The idea isn’t to free your thoughts, as much as it is to observe them. This creates a little emotional distance between you and your thoughts and can soften any intense feelings you might be experiencing. (If you're not sure how to start meditating, start here.)
8. I leave work at work.
Set boundaries for yourself so that home is truly a relaxing place. Turn off your work phone as soon as you get home, and don’t bother getting online — the emails can wait.
9. I started a garden.
Gardening combines the benefits of being in nature with the mental focus, awareness and patience needed to grow and maintain a harvest. If you don’t have the resources to plant a large garden, do what I did and start a small herb garden. I’m currently growing organic cilantro, parsley, ginger and basil in small flower pots and Mason Jars right in my two bedroom apartment.
10. I tap into my creativity.
We all have some creative genius in us, and anxiety can fuel our imagination in positive ways. Regardless of what you enjoy, make the most of it and channel that energy into something productive. If you love to cook, take a culinary class. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to tango, visit a local dance studio.
Anxiety does not have to ruin your life. Let it serve as a reminder that there is still work that needs to be done. Remember, the goal is progression not perfection. It's what I tell myself every day.