Thoughts and programming experiments.

About Anxiety

Last Updated: August 29, 2023

What this article intends and who it's for

The intention is to convey my own personal experience with effective methods I've found for anxiety reduction and it's for anyone that has anxiety and wants to learn about more options for reducing it.

What I've listed is what has helped me specifically and I will list them in order from most immediately effective to least.

0. Therapy

Finding out the actual cause of the anxiety is definitely the best way to go. In my case, I would not have made meaningful progress to reducing my anxiety long-term if I didn't go to therapy.

1. Meditation

"Meditation is different than just sitting around, because there is an intention of being still, mindful, aware, and nonjudgmental."

I was desperate to reduce my stress back in July 2015. I ended up taking a course to learn Transcendental Meditation. They suggested meditating for 20 minutes twice a day (once in the morning and again in the afternoon). I don't think learning TM is necessary. I think any form of meditation (e.g. from Headspace or Calm) could work. The hardest part about meditating is building the habit. In that sense, doing the TM course helped tremendously as it got me meditating in 4 days. On the other hand, it felt kind of culty so I don't recommend TM specifically.

I would instead recommend simply using an app and being consistent.

2. Breathing exercises

You've probably seen one of these animations before:

An animation of a ball rolling fro 5 seconds and being repositioned for 5 seconds

During a therapy session my therapist explained that rythmic breathing (e.g. 5 seconds on the inhale, pause 1 second, 5 seconds on the exhale) activates your parasympethic nervous system. I don't remember why but look up PNS if you want to know more about what this system does.

I also found the Wim Hof Method to be useful. Not the cold exposure. I never really tried this, but I did try the breathing portion. I suppose it works for the same reason that the 5/5 breathing works. Although in the WHM there is a retention portion: you hold your breath until you feel the sensation to breath again and then you start another round of inhaling and exhaling. This retention portion causes me to be very present but there is also a risk of fainting using this method. I mention this one because I found it useful and have personally never had any negative side effects. That said, do your own research on it.

3. Sensory Deprivation Tanks

I wrote an article about them:

4. Being in nature

By "nature" I mean out in the woods or mountains. I used to go the Fells a lot and would walk for one or two hours. At one point I did this almost daily during a particularily difficult time.

5. Exercise

This would also include simply going on a walk. It's honestly a bit annoying how much this helps but really any form of exercise should work.
A word of caution: It can be easy to overdo exercise so be mindful of that. Don't hurt yourself from doing too much. I over did this with running and not only had injuries from it but also I became dependent on it to feel good. If it didn't run for more than 2 or 3 days I'd have a very intense feeling of anxiety and sadness. I have since stopped running and do other exercise instead and don't experience this problem any more.

6. Thoughts on supplements

I also tried:

  • Rhodiola-Rosea

    I honestly don't recall the impact. I didn't take notes. Although my instinct is that it wasn't helpful for me.

  • Probiotic | Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum

    This was taken during a time when I had very bad IBS so I was recommended by a doctor to start taking probiotics. I've had great results both with my digestion and anxiety. I try to use probiotics which also contain these particular strains: Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum as I've noticed the most postive impact with these supplements.

  • Ashwagandha | Reduces anxiety

    Taken by itself I recall feeling as though I couldn't feel my emotions any more. I don't know how else to explain it.

    I now take a probiotic which includes 350mg of ashwagandha and blueberry but don't have the aforementioned problem. I don't know the exact amount of ashwagandha in the dose I take but I think it's much lower than what I initially tried. In any case, it seems to work for me.

  • Kava | Reduces anxiety.

    No noticeable impact for me.

  • 5HTP | It increases seratonin levels

    I'll have to double-check my notes, but from what I recall it didn't have a noticeable impact.

  • Alcohol | Increases dopamine levels

    It was done in small doses (less than half a serving daily) as an experiment for about 1 or 2 weeks. It didn't yield any useful results. I do not recommend this as it can be highly addictive.