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Amira McLaughlin

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We just discussed yoga as a form of self-care and exercise. It combines several strategies that help to curb the toxic effects of anxiety. If yoga doesn’t seem like your thing, that’s okay. There are plenty of self-care methods that you can take up instead. The important thing is that you mindfully set aside time that’s dedicated only for yourself. This time is spent doing something you enjoy, not completing a task or other duties in your life. This is important because your self-care choice must actively interrupt the fight or flight cycle, your mind is going through when feeling anxious if you hope to get past the anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at this process and how taking time for yourself to short circuit it helps.

Whether what’s causing your anxiety is a real threat or merely a perceived one, your mind and body will react in the same way. So even if you’re experiencing a mini panic attack with no logical cause, the symptoms will still be felt. The response to threat sets off a cycle in the amygdala of your brain, which then goes onto the hypothalamus — we discussed in a previous post. These signals set off a chain reaction of various hormones to be released. Cortisol and adrenaline are the main hormones involved in the stress process. Individual symptoms will vary, but some of these are:

  • Shaking
  • Tunnel vision
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flushed face
  • Slowed digestion

These feelings add to anxiety, which can lead to a host of negative associations. The cycle that starts in your brain must be interrupted to overcome these crippling symptoms. That’s where self-care comes in. 

By proactively taking time to engage in something to take your mind off of the anxiety, you’ll be purposefully shutting down the fight or flight response of your brain. Acts of self-care often involve your overall health. Things like eating well, exercising regularly, and indulging in other self-care rituals often come to mind when we think of this concept. However, self-care can be practically anything you enjoy leading you to feel relaxed. 

The key to choosing an effective method of self-care is that you deliberately are involving yourself in an activity that isn’t likely to lead to stress — something you enjoy. A much-loved hobby, a regular social night with good friends, an appointment to get your hair done, a shopping trip, or even some quiet time to read a book will do the trick. You’ll be amazed at how doing kind things for yourself changes your anxiety levels and mindset. 

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