A healthy lifestyle as treatment for anxiety. Mind and body connection.

If you’re an anxious, insecure woman, that keeps searching for different solutions to reduce your anxiety levels and feel better in your own mind and body, this article is for you.

I am writing this article because I have met so many women stuck in their own emotions, asking what can they do to feel emotionally free, stable and peaceful. And many times I mention the word “body”.

But if I am struggling with anxiety, why are you talking about the body?, you may ask.

Because there would not be an anxiety emotion, if there wouldn’t be a body to feel it, right?

So we can’t talk about emotional well-being if we don’t involve the body in the process of healing anxiety.

anxiety and insecurity

Why do I feel so much anxiety in my body?

Do you feel pressure in the chest, stomach butterflies, heart racing, shoulder and neck pain, muscle tension, sweating?

Most probably, your anxiety comes from a combination of three elements.

  • Trauma from the past
    • Different levels of trauma or setbacks you had as a child or as a teenager. Even if you are feeling it today, your anxiety might be based on past negative experiences, and your body has stored those negative emotions.
  • Your belief system
    • During the years of growing up and building your mindset, you have learned a lot of beliefs, some that support your growth and safety in the world, (“I can do this”, “I am a good person”), some that make you fearful or insecure (“I am unworthy”, “I will fail”, “They will judge me”). Based on those beliefs, you also developed behaviors. (some positive, like walking in the nature, some negative, like eating too much sugar when stressed). Therefore, your system of believing and behaving is influencing your anxiety today.
  • Lifestyle
    • Most of the times, people who struggle with negative emotions also struggle with balancing a healthy diet, exercise, enough rest and living in the present moment, because they get too caught up in their mind and get disconnected from their body

Therefore, today, we are taking about lifestyle choices in order to create self-care and body mind connection.

Why is self-care essential for health?

Extensive and longitudinal research published in journals like Frontiers in Psychiatry (2018), American Journal of Psychiatry (2017), Journal of Psychiatric Research (2017), Nutritional Neuroscience (2020) and Psychological Medicine (2018) showed that regular physical activity,  a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamins B and D, together with adequate sleep, contribute significantly at reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, prevent incidence and recurrence, being in some cases as effective as medication for these disorders.

So my intention is not to tell you should eat a strict diet, count your calories, or to go to the gym every day in order to treat your negative emotions or feel more confident. Not at all.

The message I want you to take home is that healing is an attitude.

anxiety and insecurity

How can I make self-care an attitude?

What I’m trying to say is that you can choose to see self-care as a privilege, an opportunity for a better life and better health, instead of a burden.

Every action you take comes from your mind, but also goes through your body. Every pleasure, happy moment, hope, positive emotion, helps you regulate your immune system, by releasing important hormones and neurotransmitters (serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin)- so you can positively control your health.

With negative emotions and stress you secrete cortisol, which makes you get sick and gain weight- so you can end up stuck in health problems.

So, depending on how you treat yourself, your body will react.

Too much suppressed anger, being caught in people pleasing and ignoring your physical needs will lower your immunity and you will struggle with unexplained symptoms, like constant headaches, pain, gastritis, recurrent infections, bloating, skin issues.

If you are always in a hurry, thinking you don’t have time, you end up depriving yourself from the permission to cook a good meal or to buy nutritious food, to rest with no guilt, or to spend enough time or money on your enjoyment and relaxation- elements that are essential for well-being.

Therefore, the attitude of taking care of yourself is the first step to consider when you want to heal anxiety and insecurity.

Also, in order to have enough mental strength to achieve your dreams, to get better in your relationships, career and finances you do need a strong body, one that can move with ease, use instant energy and recover fast from illness or setbacks.

And the body is a wonderful system. It regulates itself and does magic when you sleep. But it only asks for your kindness and support, like offering it proper fuel: movement, nutrients, rest, relaxation.

10 examples of self-care in order to heal anxiety and insecurity

  1. Listening to your body: if it needs rest, a doctor, hydration, care, take it seriously, always
  2. Eating enough vegetables and fruits, avoiding processed foods and sugar
  3. Supplements like omega3, vitamins and minerals
  4. Exercise: cardio, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, pilates, tennis, dancing
  5. Sleeping enough and having moments for not doing anything-just existing
  6. Mindfulness practices: nature walks, breathing exercises, body scan, mindful eating, journaling
  7. Meditation practices: guided meditation, progressive relaxation meditation, breath counting meditation,  mantra repeating, visualization(check online for free examples)
  8. Self-talk practices: looking in the mirror and saying beautiful things about your body; asking for forgiveness from your body if you exhausted or abused it;
  9. Gratitude: saying thank you to your body for helping you move, speak, travel, work, hug your loved ones.
  10. Using beliefs that support health: “I avoid sugar, substances, alcohol, junk food because I love my body and I protect it”. “I choose my health as my priority and everything else will follow”.

To have a healthy lifestyle means to wake up in the morning and consider your needs as a whole. It’s not about just waking up and having a list of to do and ignoring yourself (being too busy to finish tasks, spending all day on a chair or sofa, eating just so you have something in your stomach or drinking coffee instead of having lunch). It’s about connecting with yourself, with your body.

It’s about feeding yourself kind words, natural foods, movement, breaks, a positive attitude towards your health, moments of joy and laughter, connection with quality people, small accomplishments.

healing anxiety
healing anxiety

5 signs you need to connect more with your body

  1. Sleep problems (waking up during the night, difficulty falling asleep, needing pills to fall asleep)
  2. Emotional eating (feeling tense and searching for relief from eating sweets/snacks/too much food)
  3. Drinking too much coffee or alcohol, using substances (smoking, sedatives to numb emotions)
  4. Avoiding eating, no appetite
  5. Using pain killers often for chronic pain or symptoms

And if you are having these problems now, resist the urge to criticize yourself for not doing better already. Be kind, you are already struggling, look for ways to help yourself, without judgement.

So please remember: healing is an attitude. Your attitude towards yourself can translate into how you treat your body. And the more you treat your body with respect, honor it, let it move, spend time in nature, nourish it, listen to its messages and requests, the more you will feel connected, heard and seen…and in balance. And you create a healthy cycle instead of a vicious cycle.

How to replace bad habits naturally: 5 steps

Instead of feeling ashamed or critical of yourself for not having the lifestyle you desire, understand that self-criticism brought you here in the first place. Adopt a fresh attitude.

Try this instead: see self-care as an opportunity, a chance to find more peace and be more present.

For example:

  1. Become curious: which are your unhealthy habits? (you procrastinate, eat emotionally, use screens too much, stay inside all the time, cancel working out etc).Write them down.
  2. Become curious why you do that unhealthy behaviour: ask yourself “what am I thinking right now that makes me do this/not do this?” “how am I feeling right now?” “am I feeling scared, worried, angry, sad, ashamed, guilty right now?” “do I need to distract myself from something by doing this?”
  3. Become curious of the message from your body: What is my body telling me right now? (it needs support, reassurance, rest, movement, hydration, food, relaxation, fun experiences)
  4. Become creative: “What would truly help me right now?” (get out of bed, go exercise, eat something nutritious, stop scrolling, talk to someone, set a boundary).
  5. Choose your attitude and own your health by doing that thing you truly need.

Choose an attitude of curiosity about your emotions, openness to hear your own needs, willingness to support and protect yourself and your body.

Instead of focusing on what you are not doing right, focus on what can you do to really help yourself.

And every small gesture you do as self-care is valuable and will count for your body.

Soon enough you will feel more aware instead of fearful.

anxiety and insecurity

Top 5 mistakes to avoid when practicing self-care

  1. Criticizing yourself for bad habits
    • Focus of understanding and look deeper into recognizing your patterns, start keeping a journal of your bad habits (write down all binge eating episodes or over snacking, drinking or smoking and see what was happening in your thoughts and emotions at that time). Observe which thoughts keep bothering you when you get these episodes. This way you can identify what mindset and emotions are keeping you stuck and start changing that mindset.
  2. Overcompensate
    • Avoid punishing yourself for unhealthy behaviors (exercise double time or skip a few meals, because you overate or skipped a workout). Better to accept your mistake and continue life by going back to health and moderation, not to shame and guilt.
  3. Perfectionism and strict rules
    • Avoid strict diets, exercising without resting enough, being obsessed with self-care. You want more flexibility and moderation, not the loop of controlling everything.
  4. Thinking it doesn’t matter
    • Avoid thinking small self-care gestures aren’t good enough. Every single small gesture piles up like a penny in a jar for your health. And also, it contributes to you liking yourself more and creating healthy habits long term.
  5. Taking your body for granted
    • Avoid thinking you will live forever and that your body will just endure the lack of self-care. Your body is the only one you’ve got and is your responsibility to protect it, in order to enjoy good, long years, even when you will be the old version of yourself.

The mindset of a healing journey

The mindset of self care is to choose things that will make you healthy today and will also make you healthy tomorrow, in a few years and long term.  It’s telling yourself you’re improving constantly. It’s telling yourself that every day that’s passing, you get the chance to feel better. It’s about counting what you did right and how many things are yet to bring more health. A self-care mindset means to identify when you are doubting your progress, and encourage yourself with kindness that it’s not a race, but a journey, with small steps, that should be enjoyable and natural.

Search for simplicity. The idea of self-care is to make your life more simple. Create a schedule or routine that gives your life order and stability. Eat simple things, as close to their natural state as you can. Walk, play, try things, as you were a curious child. Move your body, let yourself feel all your emotions, keep yourself and your environment clean. Give yourself permission to rest and relax.

Use your imagination to become your healthiest version you can be. Imagine yourself getting strong, shinny, full of energy. Imagine yourself cooking healthy meals, waking up rested the next day, getting fit, feeling proud after having a day with no sweets or substances or losing weight.  Picture yourself moving easier, being happier. Being content with your body, feeling calm and peaceful. Walking more or exercising, feeling grateful for all the self-care you are doing.

So please remember, healing is an attitude: keep searching for what you need to feel better. No one knows better than you what you truly need in order to feel healthy and peaceful. Give your mind kindness and acceptance and your body movement, nutrients and rest and peace will follow.

If you need any help with healing anxiety and insecurity, heal traumas or adopt a healthy lifestyle contact me and I will support you through the process, making things easy for you.

Teodora Goloiu,
clinical psychologist, therapist and trauma specialist with 12 years of experience.

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