Exercise makes you pay attention to its sensations, such as breathing faster, and the things around you. It also helps you disengage from worry. In one study, by Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD, professor of psychology at UT; he found that exercise slashed anxiety in half! Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects
Yoga sessions three times a week improved people's mood and anxiety levels after 12 weeks in one study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine. The level of GABA, an amino acid in the brain, is lower in people who report anxiety. Among study participants who took a yoga class, GABA levels increased and reports of anxiety decreased after the session. Yoga's deep breathing "stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the ability to relax, says Chris C. Streeter, MD.
Norwegian researchers discovered that sleep-deprived people are more likely to be anxious. Here's why: "Sleep loss activates areas of the brain that are also activated during anxiety," says Jack B. Nitschke, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison. To ward off the willies, aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It is also suggested to refrain/step away from electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime and jotting your worries down on paper.
In anxious people, researchers have seen a deactivation in areas of the brain that govern thought, enabling worries to spiral out of control. Mindfulness meditation helps stop the cycle of worry. Studies have shown that anxiety levels of meditators eased up to to 39%
This heavenly therapy slows the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are linked to anxiety. Research by the University of Miami School of Medicine found that a month of weekly 20-minute massages lowers cortisol levels by 31%. Massage also causes a relaxation response, which eases anxiety.
Taking Kava for 6 weeks eased anxiety for 26% of people with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in a 2013 study. Research shows that it's effective for up to 6 months. Kava is available in capsules and liquid tinctures; follow label directions
Andrea Stewart Roa, M.S.
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