Anxiety is a potentially debilitating condition that affects at least 40 million Americans and tens of millions of others around the world. There are many reasons why people experience mild anxiety, ranging from meeting new people to starting a new job. The nervousness or worry associated with a new endeavor is normal and tends to dissipate over a short period of time.
Moderate or severe anxiety, also known as general anxiety disorder (GAD), may be a more significant issue; especially if it interferes with major life functions, including eating, sleeping, hygiene or other normal life functions. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for anxiety; these range from medication to therapy. Recently, several studies have demonstrated that a healthy diet and exercise program may be among the most effective treatments for anxiety.
General anxiety disorder tends to manifest itself through constant or persistent worry about minor or non-specific events. Examples of GAD may include extensive worry about safety, job security, finances, or health of self or loved ones. While a normal amount of attention to these issues are normal and healthy, those suffering from GAD may not be able to keep the level of anxiety in a normal or appropriate perspective. Suffers generally fixate on the worst case scenario, and are unable to focus on anything else; this has the potential to interfere with sleep, work and personal relationships.
Causes of GAD
While the exact cause of GAD is not clearly understood, medical science has identified many factors that seem to contribute to the condition. As with many physical or mental health conditions, your genetics appear to have a significant role in development of the disorder. Anxiety is also affected by the levels and ratios of neurotransmitter, the chemicals in your brain responsible for controlling mood and other mental functions. Traumatic or significant life events, including tragedies, death, or other unexpected life-changing events may also contribute to the development of GAD.
Symptoms of GAD
While there are several specific categories of anxiety, including general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic attacks, they all tend to demonstrate themselves through one or more of the following symptoms:
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate, heart palpitations
- Overlying sense of fear, terror, alarm, or panic
- Overlying sense of helplessness or vulnerability
- Sleep disruptions
Treatment for GAD
Treatment of GAD often depends on many factors, including conditions surrounding the anxiety and the severity of anxiety; options including therapy, medicine, alternative treatments and engaging in an effective diet and exercise program. While therapy appears to be the most widely recommended method of treatment for anxiety conditions, medication is often prescribed to help control anxiety symptoms. A growing number of people are opting to treat their anxiety through homeopathic approaches; these may include meditation and deep breathing exercises, journaling, acupuncture and yoga. Regardless of the method of treatment selected, combining it with a healthy diet and regular exercise program demonstrates improved results.
Diet and Exercise and Anxiety
Effectively treating anxiety often requires significant lifestyle changes, the two most common being diet and exercise. General dietary recommendations for supporting improved wellbeing and lessened effects of anxiety include:
- Eat a high protein, low-fat breakfast
- Eat complex carbohydrates for energy and increased serotonin
- Avoid processed and sugary foods
- Stay hydrated by drinking a lots of water
- Avoid or limit trigger foods; or foods that cause your anxiety to increase; this includes caffeine and alcohol.
While exercise is a proven mood-lifter, releasing endorphins that make you feel great, more and more studies are indicating exercise demonstrates similar results in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
Specific Exercises to Treat Anxiety
Although any increase in physical activity has been shown to relieve anxiety, aerobic exercises appear to be most effective. So, while weightlifting and muscle-building exercises are beneficial, it is best to opt for at least 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping in the target zones. Great aerobic exercises include:
(consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regime)
Anxiety is a difficult and confusing disorder; medical science has made many developments in medication and therapy designed to assist with the treatment of it. A healthy diet and consistent program of aerobic exercise, in combination with treatment and medication administered by medical professionals, had shown to be an effective way to manage the symptoms associated with anxiety.