Anxiety Sucks(Obviously) -Lets Do Something About It

Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common affliction of today’s day and age. Our lives in becoming more and more, stressful, overstimulating and fast paced. We spend more hours working, and less hours relaxing. Even time off is filled with immersive video games, distracting technology and fear based media (wow I never thought I’d sound like my parents -damn kids these days with their fancy gadgets). Studies have shown that our brains need down time and silence to process emotions and events. Without it, we become less focused and happy, and more anxious. Always having something to stress out about, whether its your girlfriend not texting you back, or real problems (tongue-in-cheek mate), constantly keeps us in fight or flight. This is our bodies natural system that’s meant to deal with external threats. Originally it was only meant for lions and tigers and bears (oh my), and other real dangers, but it can be turned on by things we encounter everyday like traffic and angry emails. It was not meant to be turned on 24/7, and when it is, it takes a huge toll on the body. For instance it can lower our immune system, impair learning and lower quality of life- meaning its not fun to feel like you’re getting chased by a bear all the time. So now we know how crappy anxiety is  (I’d imagine you did in the first place) what can we do about it? Our bodies want us to chill out and be happy. So it has developed another system to compliment fight or flight, the parasympathetic nervous system (using big words makes me feel feel more justified for taking out huge student loans). It calms and relaxed us so our bodies can go an repair all of the damage that’s happened. A lot of anti-anxiety medication and techniques work because they activate the parasympathetic nervous system. So if you’re already taking Prozac or am tired of taking Prozac, what else can you do? A lot of studies have shown that meditating as little as 5 minutes a day reduces stress significantly. Often the things we are stressed about aren’t necessarily things that are happening to us right now, but are our thoughts. “My boss hates me”, “I’m gonna fail my math final”, “What did she really mean by ‘ok..’). Then we start getting anxious about our anxious thoughts, which makes us more anxious and so on. In Buddhism this is called the 2nd dart of suffering, and is completely unnecessary and just makes our lives crappier. Meditation allows us to view our minds without judgment a let go of stressful thoughts. If you have never meditated just try sitting down for 5 minutes and just try observe what you are thinking without judgement. Another thing you can do to reduce anxiety is try and take time without distraction. When we are trying to relax but are watching TV or scrolling Facebook our minds are not allowed to rest. They are still trying to process the fact that yet another one of our favorite characters died in Game of Thrones or became a zombie. This keeps our fight or flight system on and our bodies can never fully recover, and stress and anxiety keeps growing. Taking time away from over-stimulation can do a lot to reduce anxiety. There have been a lot of studies that have shown that taking a walk in the woods or using a flotation tank regularly, can have just as strong of a anti-anxiety/depression effect as medication. The final tool I’ll give you, and I’ll try not too cliche, is exercise. While the message has been pounded time and time again into our heads since we’re were angrily sweating in 8th grade gym class, it is none the less true. Exercising releases endorphin (essentially happy chemicals) which lower anxiety and depression and actually kind of make us high. Endorphin activate the same receptors in the brain as THC, fun fact (don’t tell your mom or she’ll stop going to yoga, or maybe she’ll go more heck if I know). As far as actually getting high, THC actually increases anxiety, but the CBD in marijuana(stuff that doesn’t get you high) decreases it. A lot of trials using pure CBD oil have shown a large decrease in anxiety. Anyways anxiety sucks, believe me I know, but there’s a lot we can do to manage it in our day to day lives without becoming a Buddhist monk(though that doesn’t sound that bad to me).

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