With all the uncertainty in the economy, more and more people are asking about how to manage anxiety. Although several types of medications can be helpful in coping with anxiety, some of them (drugs in the group of benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan) can actually have a negative impact on your memory. Other patients whom I see simply don’t want to take medicines for their anxiety. Since anxiety and stress can make your memory worse, managing your anxiety should be near the top of your brain fitness list.
Top ways to manage anxiety without medications:
Find out what you’re anxious about, and do something about it. Many patients have vague anxiety and aren’t quite sure what it’s about. See if you can figure it out. Talk to a friend about how you feel. Sometimes just talking about a problem can help make it clear. Another person’s viewpoint may help you to see a problem in another light.
Exercise. Both aerobic (walking, running, bicycling, swimming) and nonaerobic (weight training) can help you manage anxiety. People usually feel less anxious after exercising. If you aren’t exercising now, check with your doctor to make sure it’s OK to start. Even 10-15 minutes a day of walking can make a difference.
Relax and breathe. Researchers long ago noticed that it’s almost impossible to breathe deeply and feel anxious at the same time. Take 10 minutes twice a day to sit quietly, relax the muscles in your neck and back, and breathe fully. If you do this for a week you’ll feel better.
Meditate. Researchers have shown that almost any kind of meditation improves anxiety. I believe that meditation that helps you develop attentional focus will not only relieve stress and anxiety but also improve your memory. Mindfulness meditation is one form of meditation that is very helpful.
Distract yourself. Sometimes you can’t solve a problem but just have to live with it. Even after you exercise and meditate, you may still have to confront a problem over which you have little control. Try to find things that you enjoy doing that can help give you a break from feelilng anxious. Hobbies can often help people distract themselves. Doing something that is intellectually challenging is also good for your brain health.