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by Rory Alyn
Even with your superhuman levels of badassery (and sometimes because of it), you’re going to have days where anxiety gets the best of you. As modern rogues, we take pride in solving our own problems, and the brain is just a fleshy computer made of chemicals and electrical signals. What we understand, we can hack.
The first thing you should do if your anxiety levels are critical is see a psychiatrist and a therapist. We cannot stress that enough. Anxiety is nothing to mess around with. There is no replacement for proper, professional help. But while you're waiting on your appointment ...
Chew Gum. No, Seriously.
Cortisol is a pesky bugger. That's one of the hormones our body uses to regulate or induce the "fight or flight response". When it builds up in the system, things can get real messy real fast. There are a number of ways to help release it, like exercising or having a good old cry, but when your anxiety hits two hours before a big deadline or an important meeting, you can’t exactly take the time to jog or cry until you puke.
In a 2008 study, Australian researchers found that patients reported less anxiety and more alertness when chewing gum. It may sound silly, but human beings have been finding things to chew on outside of nutritional need for as long as we’ve had teeth. I don’t know a lot about evolution outside of what Saint DeGrasse Tyson tells me, but I’m pretty sure we’ve had teeth as long as we’ve been humans. In fact, historians have shown that ancient Greeks, Aztecs, and Mayans chewed on a sort of precursor to gum made of birch bark tar. And if we can’t trust the insight of the Ancient Mayans, who can we trust?
"Hey, stress ... blow me."
In that Australian study, the act of chewing gum saw a significant reduction in cortisol in patients compared with those in the control group, which may explain our ancestors’ obsession with finding things to chew on. The study further showed that habitual gum chewers were less anxious overall, leading some to theorize that chewing gum daily could have a positive effect on overall well being.
So the next time you’re anxious, before screaming and punching a random stranger, try some fruit stripe. It should ease your anxiety for at least long enough to keep you out of jail.
Adopt A Pet. Any Pet. Even A Cricket Will Do.
While some of us at the Modern Rogue like to flex our manly, independent muscles as much as the next gal, we also like to use the hands attached to those muscles to pet fluffy kitties.
Whether you are a cat person, a dog person, or a flying squirrel kind of person (there are only three types, shut up), having a furry friend adds a dynamic to one’s life that can bring a sense of joy and fulfillment. Having a go-to cuddle buddy is a great way to cope with everyday anxiety, and there's an actual scientific reason for that.
Petting animals floods our brains with various happy hormones like serotonin, which can ease anxiety and promote positive thinking. The routine around caring for an animal provides one with a responsibility, which can be a reason to wake up in the morning. You knew that, though. The connection between pet ownership and mental health and wellness has been well documented.
We lost 10 pounds of stress, just posting this. Also, stress is measured in pounds.
The part that most people don't know is this: studies show that literally any pet will do. Not into fuzzy friends? Even pet crickets have been reported to help the elderly cope with depression and anxiety. The simple act of caring for another creature, even creatures we wouldn’t normally consider pets, introduces a routine to one’s life that adds texture and a sense of duty that is simply irreplaceable. Feeding, cleaning and caring for even the smallest of creatures promotes wellness and instills a sense of purpose in those who may feel that their lives are lacking.
So next time your grandma’s feeling down, don’t just send her a card, get her a bag of crickets! Nothing says “I Love You” like swarms of things. Mother’s Day is coming up soon, folks.
Clean Your Damn House, CAROL!
When depression results in several weeks of piled up dishes, that pile can feel like a physical weight on your chest. When our spaces feel disordered, our minds have a tendency to match the state we physically live in. Having a huge amount of aimless clutter in our spaces provides too much distraction for our brains ... so as weird as it may sound, an organized space can actually help organize your mind.
While clutter has a measurable effect on our ability to relax both physically and mentally, emotional baggage has a tendency to pile up, and our physical spaces reflect our minds. If it sounds like we're repeating ourselves, we sort of are. Physical clutter and mental clutter feed off of each other, creating a sort of bizarre feedback loop. A lot of people who are prone to anxiety and depression often find themselves in these cycles: the house and mind get cluttered, depression and anxiety sets in, there's a frantic cleaning spell, and then the whole thing repeats without a real sense of how and why it's happening.
Setting them on fire doesn't count as "doing the dishes".
While "clean your house" sounds like mundane advice, it’s often one of the biggest problems faced by people with depression and anxiety. It seems like it should be easy to just get up and clean, but it’s not. The longer depression and anxiety go unchecked, the more overwhelming and out of reach routine tasks become.
Obviously, if you're in that level of depression, you're going to get help. That's not a question. Stop reading this article and start making calls for help. Here, we'll get you started.
For the rest of you, start small. Satisfaction can come in tackling that pile of dishes one load at a time over a couple of days until they’re done. A sense of accomplishment can come from something as simple as making your bed and organizing the pillows, saving that bigass pile of laundry for tomorrow. They'll wait -- clothes are patient creatures. But hey, if you can work up the motivation to at least put that pile into a basket, even that minor task can make your space feel like a little less of a burden.
Sit Up Straight!
Did your matriarchal figure just scream that header title in your brain? Well, science is backing her up. It turns out that poor posture and slouching (which, weirdly, is made worse by using your phone) can have a subconscious influence on mood. Adjusting our posture to match how we want to feel is important. But there's actually a chemical reason for doing it ...
While those with anxiety know that deep breathing can have a profound effect on anxiety, most people don't think about how their posture can affect their breathing. An anxious, slumped, closed off posture, while achieved subconsciously, is extremely unhealthy and can compound issues related to anxiety and depression. A seated, slumped posture results in shorter, shallower breaths which has an effect on oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
Stop depressing up our office, CHAD!
Poor posture compresses internal organs, inhibits good circulation, and can result in muscle, tendon and nerve pain. Noticing your posture and correcting it can have an immediate effect on your short-term anxiety. Shallow breathing engages the fight or flight reflex known as our "sympathetic nervous system," which in turn has an affect on the ability to think clearly. Strangely, it can exacerbate obsessive thought.
So as mundane as it sounds (noticing a pattern yet?), sit your ass up and take a deep breath. You'll thank us later ... or actually, we demand our thanks right now. We are impatient people.
Eat A Turkey Sandwich. Wait, Not That Kind.
Remember that old phrase, "You are what you eat"? Well, do you want to be a big-breasted wild turkey, or do you want to be a thousand turkeys mooshed up with saline and preservatives? Me too -- big-breasted turkeys are where it's at. This is actually way more important than you may realize.
The foods we eat play an enormous role in our brain's health. While a turkey sandwich made with real turkey breast has benefits like keeping your ass alive, the tryptophan (the chemical that makes you fall asleep after gorging yourself on Thanksgiving) can actually relieve anxiety. It's a short term solution, but it's a natural drug that doesn't suck to swallow.
Not only does natural turkey help take the edge off of anxiety, there's a flip side to the type of turkey you're eating. Your average processed product, is basically just turkey-flavored slabs of salt and gelatin, and it actually has a negative affect on anxiety. Processed deli meats are loaded with saturated fats and added sugars, which have been shown to have a measurable effect on depression and anxiety. If your anxiety is high as balls, it’s a good idea to cut all processed crap out of your diet.
Just be sure to cook it first. Don't eat it in this form.
Non-processed meats are also significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely important for brain health. In fact, in most US facilities omega-3 supplements are given to all psychiatric patients regardless of diagnosis. Omega-3 deficiency is alarmingly common in the western diets due to mass production and over-processing of food.
The issue isn’t necessarily that these deli meats cause anxiety, but a diet sustained on these nutrient-deficient meat products ends up depriving the body and brain of compounds that it needs for healthy function. Focusing on a healthy diet that gives your brain everything it needs is no small part of taking care and control of your mental health.
So the next time you eat yourself into a food coma at Thanksgiving, just remind all of your judgmental family members that you're doing it for your mental health.
Like this article? Check out "5 Ways Your Brain Is Hard-Wired To Scare The Crap Out Of You" and "Do You Faint At The Sight Of Blood? Don't Worry, You're Not A Wuss".