Anxiety 101

August 27, 2022

Everyone experiences anxiety. It is a biological component of being human, and there is nothing inherently wrong with having anxiety.


General anxiety occurs when you approach a stressful situation. Your fight or flight reflex (the sympathetic nervous system) gets activated, producing stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These make you pump more blood, breathe more oxygen, and heighten your muscle reactions. This is your body preparing for incoming stress.


What is Anxiety?

An anxiety disorder is when your brain’s constantly on the gas. Any situation, however small or large, can become stressful. With an anxiety disorder, non-threatening moments can cause stress, and stressful moments can cause panic attacks.


Anxiety also takes a remarkably personal shape for each of us. Sometimes just noises, smells, or visual elements can be overwhelming. These specific sources of anxiety are called triggers.


While the scientific community has a general understanding of anxiety, it’s still being investigated, and no sure-fire solutions exist yet. But there is hope for the afflicted! Many simple lifestyle adjustments can mitigate the more common symptoms, and, if the conditions persist, then there’s a wide variety of proven treatments to help manage more intensive cases.


The First Things to Try With Anxiety

Before jumping into therapy or medications, there are simple things you can do every day to help regulate stress and develop an understanding of your anxiety:

  • Remember that anxiety is a biological problem. This really is worth repeating. Anxiety isn’t something you can think your way out of. But you can cultivate your habits to encourage your biological resilience to stress.
  • Regulate, limit, or even stop taking stimulants. Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol all add to stress hormone levels. CBD can be useful, but we’ll get into that below.
  • Eat healthily. And I don’t mean get on a diet. Rather, follow the simple rules of eating well: Eat unprocessed foods, complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein. Eliminate sugar and refined carbs. And eat more vegetables and fruit than meat, fats, and sugars.
  • Exercise every day, until you’re sweating. Lifting and cardio are both great. A strenuous workout makes it hard to be anxious.
  • Sleep. This is perhaps the most important thing to do, and often one of the more difficult, too. Sleep is like the repairman for your mind. Regularly inconsistent or diminished sleep pretty much guarantees you’ll be anxious each day. Exercising and regulating stimulant intake will help good sleep happen, too. Eight hours is ideal, but as close as you can get to that is good. Cutting out screens before bed does wonders as well.
  • Breathe and meditate. Nothing helps you manage your anxiety better, no matter how intense, than breathing and meditation. Here is an excellent resource for a simple breathing exercise to use in anxious situations. Regular meditation also does wonders, but its benefits are more cumulative, and shouldn’t be relied on too much for acute episodes.

The trick with these tools is to keep at them. Like anything that’s truly good for you, results won’t come quickly. Nor will these methods solve your anxiety. But if you develop these habits and skills, then your anxiety will diminish significantly.


Recognize the Thought Loops

Now, I’m someone who lives with quite a bit of anxiety. I’ve been on and off of medications multiple times (something we’ll get into below), and when I was first taught some of the above skills, and began to try to learn them, I found myself developing anxiety about the very process of getting better.


Those looping thoughts are often how anxiety’s claws dig deepest. Likewise, attempts at “letting go” or “moving on” from anxiety are just more ways of avoiding anxiety, and avoiding anxiety only makes it worse. But you can listen to yourself, listen to what it is that makes you anxious, and then figure out how to exercise self-control over your habits, rhythms, and inputs.


Anxiety also causes shame and self-doubt. Hiding your anxiety often builds it up, and it’s important to learn how to accept your feelings rather than avoid them. One strategy for helping this is sharing your difficult moments with a friend or family member you trust. If that’s too hard, you can even just write your thoughts down for yourself. This helps get the thoughts out of your head and into the real world.


Treating Anxiety With Therapy

Oftentimes, changing your daily habits isn’t enough, which is where therapy can help.


Therapy is becoming more and more socially acceptable, and for good reason. Even people who are relatively mentally stable have stressful periods in their life. We are all fighting internal battles, and therapists are simply there to help us through it. Therapy isn’t just for solving the bigger internal problems either. In fact, most therapy works best over the course of years, through your life’s highs and lows.


However, unless you’re experiencing debilitating anxiety, you should go through the methods outlined above before considering therapy.


If you decide you want or need therapy, make sure to do research on the many different kinds that are offered before settling with a therapist. And once you begin, if you aren’t enjoying the method or aren’t seeing results, don’t be afraid to let them know. It can often take some time to find just the right fit.


What About Anxiety Medication?

Intense anxiety can also be treated with certain pharmaceutical medications. While these medications have gotten a lot more effective in recent years, they’re still a blunt instrument and work best along with therapy and lifestyle changes.


A common type of anti-anxiety medication is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which can help reduce anxiety enough to cut out negative habits and jumpstart positive ones. Deeply intensive anxiety (constant suicidal ideation, daily panic attacks, etc.) can require remaining on anti-anxiety medication throughout one’s life. But more often these medications are used as temporary tools to rebalance one’s mental landscape.


A more recent development in the medicinal treatment of anxiety is the use of CBD products. That’s an article all its own, though, which we’ll have up soon.


But let’s wrap all this up: There is no solving anxiety. There’s just managing it and learning to accept that it’s a battle we all have to fight our whole lives. But don’t despair! It’s so much better to understand what it is you’re fighting, and to know how to help yourself through that struggle, than to stumble through the dark.


Disclaimer: Information found in this article or on shouldn’t be taken as any medical or scientific opinion, advice or recommendation. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor before introducing cannabinoids to your body. 

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