This post covers some basics on what to do and not do when you suffer from chronic anxiety, including actions you should give up altogether (such as drinking alcohol or smoking). You should also have an annual physical examination to detect any unknown health problems that may have cropped up and could be unknowingly increasing your anxiety levels.
Whenever possible, follow these basic strategies to decrease your overall anxiety levels:
* Avoid caffeine
* Don’t drink alcohol
* Stay away from cigarettes
* Don’t abuse drugs
Avoid or Decrease Your Caffeine Consumption
You may think that extra cup of coffee or tea will help calm you down—and you actually may get a little bit of a lift from consuming caffeine. However, in general, caffeine is not good for anxious people, and should be avoided. Caffeine is a stimulant , and people who are already anxious do not need more stimulation in their lives.
In general, a cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, while a cup of tea may contain up to 60 mg of caffeine. A 1.5 ounce bar of chocolate contains 45 mg of caffeine. So-called energy drugs may include massive quantities of caffeine. It is also true that some over-the-counter medications may contain caffeine, as do some prescribed drugs. Caffeine speeds up the effects of the medication, which is why it is included in the drug.
This does not mean that you should give up your one (or three) cups of morning coffee right away. Suddenly ending a coffee (or chocolate) habit is likely to make you irritable and cranky, and also to give you a very bad headache. This happens because your body is accustomed to the caffeine boost, expects it, and needs it. Instead, try to taper off the caffeine slowly. For example, if you are a three cup coffee drinker in the morning, then taper down to two cups, and a few days later to one cup of coffee.
In one research study of students with severe headaches, the researchers found that all the students were very heavy consumers of caffeinated soft drinks. Once they tapered off the soft drinks, the chronic headache problem of the students resolved itself. Problem solved.
Anxiety isn’t necessarily associated with headaches. But the point is, changing one habit can lead to positive consequences in your body. So slowly reduce your caffeine intake and see if your anxiety abates, at least a little bit. Odds are, you will feel much less distressed.
Alcohol: Avoid It
Some research has shown that at least half of all the individuals who are treated for their alcoholism also suffer from anxiety. Many experts believe that alcoholics use the substance in a futile effort to self-medicate their psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression.
People who abuse or are dependent on alcohol should receive treatment to improve their physical and psychological health. However, the process of withdrawal from alcohol significantly increases the person’s anxiety levels, which is why people undergoing withdrawal may be given anti-anxiety medications so that the process is more tolerable. Note that people withdrawing from alcohol should receive treatment in a treatment facility or a hospital, because of the medical risks of detoxification outside a treatment setting. There are many medical risks with a sudden withdrawal, up to and including death.
Smoking increases a person’s overall anxiety levels, and should be avoided. If you have already started smoking—and many smokers started as teenagers—then you need to stop. Some research has shown that at least 20% of people who smoke also have anxiety disorders. Smoking also leads to many health problems, such as cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, and other serious health issues. If you already smoke, ask your doctor about treatments that can help you to kick this very bad habit.
You’ll probably have some increased anxiety when you first start your anti-smoking regimen, but after your body stabilizes, your anxiety levels should be down significantly.
SAY NO TO DRUG ABUSE
Whether the drug is a prescription narcotic that is abused or it is an illegal drug, such as heroin, drug abuse increases a person’s anxiety levels. Some people apparently self-medicate with drugs in a misguided attempt to decrease their anxiety. However, even if the anxiety seems temporarily abated, it will recur.
Some people abuse prescription drugs, including some anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanas (alprazolam). This is not only illegal, but it is also very dangerous to the body, and this behavior also can lead to a problem with addiction. When Xanax is combined with alcohol, as happens far too often, this can lead to a fatal interaction.
Although marijuana is increasingly accepted in society today, and even used to help some individuals suffering with severe chronic pain, research indicates that some individuals become more anxious with regular marijuana use, rather than more relaxed. Of course. if marijuana increases anxiety in a person, then that person should avoid using marijuana.