“When did your anxiety start? When did you first notice it?”

My psychologist asked me this during our first session. It still feels a little weird to say “my psychologist,” but you know what? It’s the best thing I could have done for myself!

I said to my friend the other day, and believe with my entire being, that we ALL could use a therapist! It’s been quite a year — between having our twins and becoming a mom of 5 kiddos 5 and under, COVID/quarantine, deciding to leave my nurse practitioner job to be home with my kids and focus on my online health and fitness business — it has been a LOT!

I don’t know when my anxiety began. I do remember being pregnant with Madden (our third kiddo) and experiencing panic attacks for the first time. I’ve always been the Type-A personality with high expectations of myself — I try to wear many hats, and sometimes feel as I don’t wear any of them well.

My psychologist shared this beautiful analogy of a ship... 

We are the ship, and life events are boulders. One by one, they get added into the boat. And if they come one at a time, we can usually handle them and stay afloat by using our typical “landmarks” (aka coping mechanisms). But sometimes the boulders come all at once, and it’s too much for anyone to handle. The boat floods and all of a sudden, the landmarks are no longer visible. 

I have the most incredible support system in my family and close friends. Still, I also honestly believe that sometimes you need a completely unbiased person with a strong skillset & experience to help us through. 

I wanted to share with you what HAS worked so well for me in the past to decrease my stress and anxiety — my “landmarks.” Some are things you’ve probably heard a thousand times. But maybe, like me, there are ones that you’ve heard of or simply never tried. Or, ones that because of all that is going on, you no longer are doing…

If you are going through a hard time and it feels like you’re sinking, know it’s is ok to ASK FOR HELP. You do not have to do this alone. You should not do this alone. This is NOT an easy time, and it’s OK to not be OK!

My Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety:

1. Exercise

This, to me, is my NUMBER ONE stress reliever. It doesn’t matter what form of exercise (although running gives me the highest of highs when it comes to endorphins), but SWEAT is my medicine!

2. Sleep

There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for soldiers. The days that I’ve had multiple wake-ups throughout the night prior are my worst days. The smallest tasks seem overwhelming. 

For me, not getting enough sleep causes a vicious cycle… 

Sometimes, it’s my anxiety that causes me to lay awake in the middle of the night as my mind is racing — thinking of my to-do list or whatever is worrying me. Then, because of that worrying, I don’t sleep well, and then the next day, it’s even harder to get those tasks completed!

Do your best to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. 

3. Self-Care

Personally, the reason I walk our dog daily is mostly for me — to have time to myself & to listen to a good podcast. Our dog would probably be nuts without the exercise, too, so it’s a win-win! But this is my self-care. Sometimes it’s a walk or phone call with a friend — ESPECIALLY right now with social distancing, a simple conversation with someone (if even if it’s 6 feet apart) to me is like a drug! I honestly feel like I have a shot of adrenaline injected that fuels me for the rest of the day.

But maybe for you, self-care is reading a book or listening to music. Paint your toenails. Take a bath. Do yoga. The important thing is that you reset. Take a break and focus on something on something other than what is currently causing you the most stress and anxiety! 

4. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Have you ever noticed your stress or anxiety goes up when you haven’t eaten for a few hours? I know for me (and my kids, HA!) low blood sugar makes everything escalate! Ensuring you get enough calories (and the right type of calories, as you know I will ALWAYS stress) can help tremendously! 

This article I found noted a few different reasons a well-balanced diet can help you feel happier and less stressed:

  • Magnesium, which can you can find in leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, can help us feel calmer.
  • Zinc, including that found in cashews, beef, and egg yolks, may be linked to lower anxiety levels.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce anxiety. This can be found in fish such as salmon, nuts, seeds, and some oils (such as olive oil!)
  • B-vitamins have even been shown to possibly help the release of serotonin and dopamine for a "feel good" effect! You can find these in avocado, almonds, and fortified whole grains.

5. Limit Alcohol & Caffeine

Trust me, I know a glass of wine sometimes seems to be a good solution, but just pay attention to how it’s affecting your anxiety. Personally, I know that if my anxiety and stress are extremely high, I don’t want a glass of wine. And alcohol and caffeine have been shown to increase anxiety and trigger panic attacks.

6. Get Rid of Clutter

This might just be a personal preference, but when there is clutter all around me, my mind feels cluttered. I honestly cannot work. I’m the type that wants the house tidied up and dishes put away before bed. I clean as I cook. This might not bother you at all, but it sure helps cut my stress when everything is easy to find, accessible, and in some sort of order.

7. Get in Some Quality time

Spend time with those you love and those who lift you up. To me, that means quality time reading to my kiddos in my lap, or maybe a fun family adventure. Other times its means happy hour with girlfriends (socially distanced, currently!) 

8. Find Something You’re Passionate About and Enjoy

That could be a hobby or your work. Do you love to draw but haven’t done it for years? Maybe you love photography and want to learn more about it! 

9. Practice Gratitude

I knowhow hard it is at times to do this — especially when things feel really, really hard and stressful. But by practicing gratitude every day, you can actually learn to rewire your brain (ever heard of neuroplasticity? It’s pretty amazing!) 

I found this article I thought you might find helpful and interesting on how gratitude can help with anxiety! 

10. Try a Calming Natural Supplement

Remember above how I mentioned magnesium in foods? Well, I also actually take a magnesium supplement, Natural Vitality Calm, I initially started using this when I was pregnant and having trouble sleeping and leg cramp, but all the reviews I read expressed how it helped with sleep and anxiety — now, I use it nightly and have found it has helped my sleep tremendously! 

Other Tips For Reducing Stress & Anxiety

Things that, honestly, I don’t do often enough! Even though I know they work!

1. Meditation & Deep Breathing

To be totally truthful, aside from my IVF cycle with the twins, I’ve never meditated much. But everyone that has SWEARS by it.

I used an app for my IVF cycle and it was incredibly calming! I would play it nightly as I was winding down for bed, and feel as though it truly put me in the best possible position to cut my stress and anxiety. And I actually haven’t done it since — I know, I know, I really need to!

Lucky for me, I've been chosen to take part in the Test Group for our new meditation program: Unstress!

Okay, the full name is "Unstress - 21 Days of Meditation for Relaxation, Calm and Less Anxiety."

Um, yeah, LONG name, but the 21 meditations in Unstress are SHORT — each day is only about 10-minutes long! You can use them in the morning before you start your day, or at night to unwind and relax.

I can't share too many details from the Unstress Test Group yet, but I'll definitely keep you updated as soon as I get the OK to tell you all about it! Feel free to sign up for my Monthly Newsletter to make sure you're in the loop!

Bonus: this meditation practice is FREE with your Beachbody On Demand Subscription! Don’t have a subscription yet? Reach out to me — I can help you get started with a free trial or help you find the best deal going on (there’s ALWAYS some sort of sale!).

And honestly, with all that has happened this year, I think we all could benefit from this type of program!

Tips to help with meditation:

  • Commit to a length of time each day that works for YOU — maybe it’s just 5 minutes, maybe it’s 20.
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Find a comfortable position.
  • Bring your awareness to the present (the past can cause regret of the “could have, should have, would have… the future is uncertain and can provoke more anxiety), so simply be PRESENT. Think about your surroundings and really take it in.
  • Breath slowly and deeply. Focus on your breathing. 
  • If you find your thoughts wandering, bring it back to your breath. 

Find more tips for meditating here. 

2. Use Lavender

Many have found this helps decrease stress and anxiety. How can you use lavender?

  • Add essential oil to your bath.
  • Add a few drops on a tissue and place under your pillow.
  • Diffuse in your room to help aid in sleep & anxiety.
  • Find an aromatherapy massage oil and have our partner/spouse give you a massage.

Do your best in all that you do. Remember, you will be ok. Most of all, don’t be afraid to lean on others & ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or professional help — you DESERVE to feel happy and at peace.

And know that if you don’t have anyone to talk to, I’m always here... I may not have the answers or know the right thing to say, but I’ll always be here to listen and support you!