I Was Diagnosed With An Anxiety Disorder 10 Years Ago—These Daily Habits Help Me Live Anxiety-Free Today

It seems like everyone has anxiety these days. Influencers and celebrities often talk about their anxiety struggles, much more than what we saw when we were growing up. When I was in graduate school, I was also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and given medication to take. But today I live anxiety-free (and medication-free) thanks to lifestyle and diet changes.

By Gina Florio3 min read
happy woman

It seems like every other celebrity these days has a story to tell about their anxiety disorder, from Shawn Mendes to Selena Gomez to Jonah Hill. This isn't just happening in Hollywood. Anxiety and depression have been on the rise over the last decade, according to various research, and the United States is a leading country when it comes to rates of anxiety, especially compared to developing countries. There was also recent research released suggesting that depression isn't actually caused by a chemical imbalance, leaving many people facing the uncomfortable truth that lifestyle and diet are largely the reasons why so many people suffer from depression in our society.

When I was in graduate school, I had acute anxiety that would keep me up at night and cause me to chew the skin around my nails until I bled. I did what many other students did—visit one of the university psychiatrists. He told me that I had a general anxiety disorder and quickly prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication. I took it for some time, but it wasn't really helpful and made me feel more groggy than anything else. A few years later, I became interested in the world of holistic health. Since then, I have changed my lifestyle for the better and haven't faced anxiety since. These are four daily habits I incorporated in order to kiss anxiety (and anti-anxiety medication) goodbye.

I Spent More Time Outdoors

It really does make a huge difference to spend more time outside when it comes to stress and anxiety management. Being in the sun boosts serotonin (known as your happy chemical) and testosterone (the hormone that improves mood and makes you more alert) while also regulating your sleep/wake cycle. I found that just being out in the sun on a regular basis and listening to nature helped me relax and look inward to ask myself what the root of my stress was.

Being in the sun boosts serotonin.

This isn't to say that anxiety is cured when you go outside for an hour one day. It has to be a habit that you accumulate over time so that you're benefiting from nature and the sun regularly. I made it a point to spend at least 60 minutes outside every day, and in times of acute stress, it has been extremely helpful, especially if I put my feet in the grass for a while.

I Stopped Drinking Coffee

I used to love coffee—the smell, the ritual, the energy boost. But caffeine is no friend of someone who is prone to anxiety, and I didn't even realize how much it was affecting me until I gave it up. Although coffee does give you a boost of energy, it's artificial energy that sends your body a signal that it doesn't need to produce any energy of its own. That's why you wake up tired every morning and need that cup of joe before you get the day started. Additionally, coffee gives you an afternoon crash and affects your sleep, even if you don't realize it. After about a month of giving up, I felt so much better and much more relaxed throughout the day, especially in the late morning.

I Turned off Electronics At Least an Hour before Bedtime

The blue light emitted from your phone, tablet, and TV is stimulating and can even increase levels of cortisol in the body. It makes you feel alert and awake—which is the exact opposite of what you want to feel when you're winding down for sleep at night. Getting high-quality sleep on a regular basis is extremely important when you're trying to manage anxiety, and even though you may be in bed for nine hours, that doesn't necessarily mean your nervous system is allowing your body to fully relax. When I cleaned up my bedtime routine and was more diligent about putting away the electronics an hour before bed, my tracker told me that I was getting more deep sleep (which is the most relaxing, restorative part of sleep) and I felt more rested when I woke up in the morning. All of this eventually helped me lower my anxious feelings and be more prepared for the day.

We often underestimate how powerful it is to spend time with loved ones.

I Connected with Someone I Loved

We often underestimate how powerful it is to spend time with loved ones on a daily basis, especially when you have nervous or anxious tendencies. I was someone who tended to keep to myself when I was in graduate school, and it wasn't good for my anxiety. I made it a point to connect with someone I loved every single day, whether it was my mom on the phone or a friend at lunch. Having a loved one encourage you or even just talk about your day with was helpful for me to feel more at ease with whatever was going on with my life. It may seem silly or trivial to call someone you love every day, but I promise it will make a huge difference.

Closing Thoughts

There are all sorts of ways to treat and reduce anxiety, but these were the easy habits I was able to stack on top of each other. Of course, this all should be paired with regular movement (even walking every day) and a clean, nutrient-dense diet that is free of processed and packaged foods. This is a fantastic start to at least reducing the anxiety you face in your life.