ways to help with anxiety


We’re experiencing a lot of anxiety at this time. The coronavirus pandemic had already taken its toll on Americans when we were flung into a situation of national social unrest. A study taken at the height of the pandemic by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found one-third of Americans showing signs of depression or anxiety.[1]  Even in times less volatile and uncertain, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the country age 18 and older or about 18 percent of the population every year, reports the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).[2]


Chronic stress also can lead to illness. While studies show that short-term stress can boost the immune system, chronic stress has a significant effect on suppressing the immune system that ultimately can result in an illness, according to an article appearing in The Malaysian Journal of Medical Science. For example, suppression of the immune system can lead to viral infection. It can increase the risk of diabetes, especially in individuals who are overweight. And it can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), especially if combined with a high-fat diet and sedentary living.[3]


A good way to eliminate stress and anxiety is to establish a set of activities or daily rituals that help you find your center. You’ll have to set your own regime, but here are some things to consider:


Take a deep breath

Deep breathing can help lower stress.  Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, explains that when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, and in turn, your brain sends this message to your body.  As a result, increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, which occur when stressed, decrease.[4]  You can find many deep breathing exercises online.


Check-in with yourself

Take a minute or two several times throughout the day to ask yourself, “how am I doing?” Are you feeling anxious, frustrated, sad, or overwhelmed? Acknowledging your feelings helps you cope with them and move on. You may also want to consider keeping a journal to express your thoughts and feelings and learn more about yourself.


Relax and refresh

You need a break - everyone does. Also, meditation and quiet walks can help you get back to yourself and maintain your spirit. And there are hobbies. Whether you write or paint or garden or even do jigsaw puzzles, such activities can relax you and take your mind off your worries.


Set aside time to worry

You’re going to worry, but don’t let it cloud your day. Set aside time to worry and include it in your daily schedule.  If you start to worry before your allocated time, remind yourself it’s not time. It may take some practice, but it will become an effective way to contain your anxiety over the things that are troubling you if you can stick to this.


Consider CBD 

Many Americans are turning to CBD (Cannabidiol) for anxiety. A recent survey on the use of CBD found that among those that use CBD, about 55% of those who have tried it say they used it to relax, and another 50% said they were looking for stress and anxiety relief.[5] Research suggests that in addition to impacting the endocannabinoid system (see: Does Topical CBD Provide Pain Relief? Here’s What We Know.), CBD may control the release of serotonin, a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the body and contributes to wellbeing and happiness.


While more research is needed on CBD and anxiety, a 2011 study found that CBD could reduce Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control patients and treatment-naïve SAD patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in control patients' speech performance and significantly decreased alert levels in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels than the control group.[6]


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[1] “Mental Health, Household Pulse Survey,” National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm
[2] “Facts and Statistics,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
[3] Salleh MR. Life events, stress, and illness. Malays J Med Sci. 2008;15(4):9‐18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/
[4] “Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation,” Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255
[5] Kopf, Dan, and Avins, Jenni. “New data show Americans are turning to CBD as a cure-all for the modern condition,” Quartz, April 15, 2019. https://qz.com/1590765/survey-shows-americans-use-cbd-to-treat-anxiety-and-stress/
[6] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219‐1226. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21307846/