9 Ways To Ease Anxiety—No Matter What Time Of Day You Feel It
As a doctor who helps women heal from autoimmune disease and balance their hormones, I see anxiety as a symptom of something else. Rather than treat that symptom with medication, I'll often look at what my patient’s body is trying to tell them—and the time of day they feel anxious provides a valuable clue.
Numerous hormonal and metabolic imbalances (besides just cortisol) can affect the way your stress levels vary throughout the day and leave you feeling more anxious during certain hours. Whether you struggle with anxiety more during the day or night, here are nine strategies that can help dial down those feelings so you feel more centered and focused.
1. Reinforce circadian rhythm.
Upon waking, expose yourself to natural light. (You might need a natural light alarm clock.) About two hours before bed, wear amber glasses to lower cortisol levels and increase levels of your sleep hormone melatonin. Eliminate screen time—TV, laptops, phones, everything—about an hour before bed and take a hot bath. Then fall asleep in a completely dark room.
2. Nix sugar.
Putting your body through blood sugar spikes and crashes are a surefire way to increase anxiety. Consider starting a food journal to keep a consistent meal schedule and identify hidden sugar, including processed grains (that your body turns into sugar almost immediately). You can also consider increasing your protein intake at meals, which will keep you full longer and steady blood sugar levels.
3. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
Find a practice that works for you. That could mean Transcendental Meditation, yin yoga, or breathwork. To start, simply spend minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Without judgment, sit mindfully with whatever you feel.
4. Lower inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can cause hormone imbalance, which creates a vicious cycle that keeps inflammation fired up and puts you in a state of panic. Eating more foods like wild salmon and freshly ground flaxseed as well as nutrients like curcumin and fish oil can help ease inflammation.
5. Move big muscles.
Your body wants you to move when you’re anxious. Big-muscle movement—stuff like jump squats, walking, lunging, and kickboxing—can dial down anxiety during the day. But keep in mind that exercising too late can have the opposite effect and wind you up when you should be winding down.
6. Cut the caffeine.
If you’re feeling anxious, giving your body a morning jolt is the last thing you need. You’d be surprised by how many people lower anxiety just by cutting that morning coffee. To transition, try organic green tea, which has a little caffeine but also calming L-theanine.
7. Address nutrient deficiencies.
Eating a restrictive diet for too long (including veganism or paleo) can put you at risk for deficiencies if you’re not being mindful about meeting your body’s needs. Nutrient-depleting medications such as birth control can also feed anxiety. If you're not able to get all the nutrients your body needs from whole foods, consider adding a supplement to your routine.
8. Try calming remedies.
9. Fix your gut.
I realize this is more of a long-term strategy, but you can begin right away by pulling gluten and other inflammatory foods from your diet. If your gut is inflamed, your brain probably is too. Problems like dysbiosis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), parasites, yeast overgrowth, leaky gut, H. pylori, and food sensitivities can impact inflammation and rev up anxiety. Mood disorders often begin in your gut because many feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin get manufactured there.
Jolene Brighten, N.D., is a women’s health expert currently working as the President and Chief Medical Officer at Rubus Health in Portland, Oregon. She received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine and a bachelor’s in Nutrition Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She is the best-selling author of Beyond the Pill, in which she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. Dr. Brighten has been featured in the New York Post, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, ABC News, and The Guardian.