We are a society obsessed with quick fixes. It's natural to want to feel better and less anxious but an increasing number of people are seeking escape in the form of a pill.
To be clear - I believe that medicine can play a role in the comprehensive treatment of many chronic illnesses. But society is way too focused on pills right now. We need to refocus on the emotional, spiritual, behavioral, and familial issues that ultimately impact our wellness.
In fact, more people are now dying from drugs than from traffic accidents, according to new data from the CDC. The death toll from misuse of drugs, particularly pain and anxiety drugs, has doubled in the last decade and is one of the only causes of preventable death that isn't declining.
Prescription drug abuse is like a Category 1 storm raging through America and women are in the eye of it - especially with regard to anxiety medications. Women are more likely to be prescribed anxiety drugs by health care professionals and are also more likely to get prescription drugs from well-meaning family or friends. Women are also juggling more than ever during these challenging economic times.
But the good news is that you can take simple steps right now to manage anxiety in a healthy way. Here are 5 tips to beat anxiety without popping a pill:
Find a support group (online if you can't get to one in person):
Many of the women who we see in treatment for addiction have become so incredibly isolated. Addiction is isolating as is anxiety. People sometimes are so overwhelmed at the thought of adding "another thing" to an already full schedule. Find something that works for you. Taking a few minutes every other day to log-in to a supportive online community or finding a group near where you live or work can really boost your spirit and keep anxiety at bay.
Keep an eye on nutrition:
What you're eating and when can impact your anxiety levels. The more stressed we are the more likely we are to eat what's "quick." What we put into our body hugely impacts our brain chemicals as well as the rest of our body. The more refined the carbohydrate the greater the spike and dip in blood sugar. This causes stress on the system. Reduce caffeine and sugar because both are really powerful and cause only cravings for more and also disturbed sleep patterns. It's easier said than done but can have great payoffs.
Take a walk:
Even if you can't set aside time for yourself to exercise alone - find ways of building activity into your life. Park farther away at the shopping center, walk to the playground with your kids, meet a friend for a walk instead of coffee, do a walking meeting at work, designate an active family outing after work or on the weekends. You'll be surprised how much less anxious you'll feel if you stay keep your body moving.
It seems so simple - yet it's something we all forget to do. Research shows that people who are anxious do not breathe as deeply. As Americans we generally breathe shallow and fast. Many of us have never really learned how to breathe deeply. Find a quiet space even for 5 minutes a day and take 3 to 5 deep breaths from your stomach. These will help you slow down and regain perspective on all the "What Ifs" haunting you. We have our breath available to us at all times. It can literally be a wonderful tool in slowing us down.
Ask for Help:
If you're trying all these suggestions and your anxiety is still so strong that you're making destructive choices that impact you and your family - remember that you are not alone. Help is available. Meet with a professional for a mental health, addiction or behavioral assessment and determine what additional support you may require to live a healthier and more productive life. Remember, asking for help does not make you weak or a failure. In fact, it shows you have the wisdom to know when handling a challenge on your own is not working and the strength to take a step towards a healthier way of life.