Your diet can have a big influence on your anxiety levels. Too much consumption of sugar spikes your blood sugar and results in a deep crash of your blood sugar level. Depending on how used your body is to those extreme movements, it will react with nervousness to the falling blood sugar.
Another example would be coffee. Caffeine also makes anxiety stronger through speeding up certain processes inside your cells.
So, looking at your diet can be good first step without even confronting the fear upfront. I personally would suggest something like a slow carb diet. I became pretty much a carnivoure style eater over the years, but you have to find out what works for you. My personal advice would be:
- Avoid sugar, take a cheat day every week and consume as much sugar you want on that day, but avoid it on every other day
- Avoid caffeine. I personally feel it when I drink 2-3 cups of coffee that my nerves are getting pumped. You might be more or less sensitive to it, that´s something for you to find out. However, my personal experience is that a „bulletproof“ coffee doesn´t has the same negative side effects, probably because of the added calories
Your breathing pattern is a good signpost if you´re getting anxious or not. Is your breath shallow and fast or deep and slow? There are many different breathing methods out there, for our purpose we only look at two methods for your breathing.
In his book, „A Comprehensive Guide to Daoist Nei Gong“, Damo Mitchell describes the 5 different qualities your breath should inherit over time. These are:
- at ease
- slow and gradual
- cotton soft
To inherit these qualities over time, you only have to do one thing: Concentrate on making your breathing quiet. All other 4 qualities will come through that naturally. So sit down for a few minutes and try to make your breath as quiet as you can. However, don´t force your breath! If it gets louder every now and then, just relax, let it be and try to still it with the next breath.
Where should my breath go?
This is more a technical description which can change and shouldn´t be forced, however, to make your breath deeper it should go into your belly naturally. Next time, when you feel nervous, try to be aware of the location of your breath.
Is it going more into your chest, or into your belly? You probably will have movement in both areas, but the more it is stuck in your chest, the faster and more shallow it will probably be.
Exercise: Next time you sit down for your breathing exercise, be aware of the location of your breath. Ask yourself these questions: „Does the location change the stiller my breath becomes?“ „Has the degree of relaxation inside my body an effect of the location of my breath?“
This practice consists of different parts:
- Becoming aware of your body
- becoming aware of different qualities inside your body
- release your nervous system and let go of certain qualities inside of your body
Becoming aware of your body
To change the state of your nervous system, you first need to be able to feel your body. The breathing method above will help with this, movement in general can help, and just plain practice will help.
So, the first thing is to bring your attention inside. Just feel your body gradually, from the top of your head downwards. Bring your awareness down layer by layer. If you have difficulties feeling certain, but no problems with others, that is normal and will probably subside over time and practice.
Becoming aware of different qualities inside your body
In the method I learned, there are four qualities inside your body that are signs for blockages in those areas where they pop up. These qualities are:
- muscular contraction
- feeling of strength
- a weird feeling (for ex.: cold, heat, numbness, etc.)
For our purpose, we will only look at the first quality, muscular contraction. When people get nervous, they tend to contract certain areas inside their body. Hands, chaw and the neck are all parts that get a lot of tension when people are under stress.
So, when you went through your body once to get aware of it more in a general way, go for a second round. This time, look out for parts inside your body that hold tension. You don´t have to do anything with it for now, just become aware of those parts.
The third part of the exercise is releasing your nervous system or let go of the tension inside your body. So, go for a third round, from your head downwards to your feet. This time, when you feel an area with tension, try to stay, with your awareness, on this part.
Try to keep a very soft focus on this bodypart and be aware of what is happening there. The softer your awareness, the softer the bodypart should become, try to relax it more and more. However, don´t force the relaxation!
The funny thing is, real relaxation can´t be forced. So, if you feel like your stuck and there won´t be more progress in this region for now, move on. Move your awareness down to the next tensed part in you body you want to relax, and repeat the process, until you end it under your feet.
Sidenote: This exercise, like all exercises described on this website, is a process. Meaning: It doesn´t has an final endpoint, at least not that I´m aware of. So, take your time with it and don´t bully yourself for „failure“
Here, I just want to introduce to you certain exercises that can help to train your focus and get more in touch with your body and yourself.
Be aware of your senses
Just keep your awareness on certain senses. Like: Can you really eat and taste without getting distracted by the chatter inside your head? Can you feel the ground you´re walking on? Hear the music you´re listening to? I think you get what I´m getting at
Like I wrote above, body exercises help to bring your awareness inside. For me, it doesn´t really matter what you do. Go running, do yoga or qi gong. Dance (that´s also a good one for social interaction). Try things out and see whatsticks with you.
Cold showers/ Sauna
Those not only train your mind with staying in somewhat uncomfortable enviroments, they are also pretty healthy. It seems they reduce inflammation inside your body, which seems to be a factor by depression and, in my estimation, could have an influence on anxiety also.