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3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety

3 Lifestyle Triggers that Relieve Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are a big problem for a lot of people. It feels like this problem becomes a part of who you are.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I have seen people transform from being crippled by depression and anxiety, to a point where they get that feeling of serenity back in their lives. The dark cloud of depression begins to fade and the heavy weight of anxiety gets lighter. They used the 3 ‘lifestyle triggers’ to achieve this state.

The beauty of these particular lifestyle triggers is their simplicity. No side effects. Not emotionally draining. This makes it so easy to stay committed and consistent towards them.

So you probably have one big question right now…

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What Is A ‘Lifestyle Trigger’?…

First, you need to understand what is actually going on with your body when you’re feeling depressed and anxious. Once you can understand the physical problem, you just need to know how to reverse it.

First, some science…

I want you to imagine you have 2 buckets in your body (ok, maybe not too science-y). One bucket is for stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), the other is for feel-good neurotransmitters (these are messengers in the brain responsible for mood). Normally, there is a good balance between these two buckets and they complement each other, helping the body create a state of serenity. I call this balance your ‘Hormone Harmony’, remember this, it’s important for later.

When you’re depressed and anxious, the stress hormone bucket fills to level where it is unmanageable to the body. The feel-good neurotransmitter bucket empties to a level where they don’t work or receive correctly anymore. These imbalances your hormone harmony, therefore ending the serenity and creating all the nasty symptoms of depression and anxiety.

That’s why sometimes you might feel like you have no rational reason for feeling depressed or anxious, but you still feel like crap. You can’t just ‘Snap out of it’. You can’t just click your figures and fix a broken hormone harmony. So don’t be hard on yourself about it.

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You need to reverse the damage done to your hormone harmony, therefore reducing your symptoms. The answer to this is something I call ‘Lifestyle Triggers’. This is a principle I have developed, working as the fitness coordinator at one of the UK’s leading mental health hospitals. The great thing is, they help improve general mental health (memory, energy, mood) as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Basically, these are slight unique changes and factors in your lifestyle, you could look at them as small steps that reverse the damage to your hormone harmony. This is why they can give you quicker relief from symptoms of depression and anxiety compared with traditional psychotherapy. This is because they are fixing the physical root cause of the symptoms… your hormone harmony. I’m not for one moment suggesting you shouldn’t undergo psychotherapy, just pointing out that you’ll need an approach from both angles.

So, the 3 lifestyle triggers I’m going to share with you…

1. Create A Positive ‘Exercise-Stress Axis’

The exercise-stress axis is a principle I created and work by, which allows me to use exercise to relieve depression and anxiety. Let me explain… All exercise is a stress on the body. Your body can either adapt to this stress, thereby lowering your stress hormones at rest, or it can overload the body and actually increase stress hormones at rest. I call this balance your exercise-stress axis. The idea is to create a positive one so that over time your stress hormones reduce right down and improve your hormone harmony.

With me so far? Good, let’s keep going…

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The key is to not use traditional exercise, instead use something I call ‘flexible exercise’. This is different from  traditional exercise as it’s far shorter, 10/20/30 minutes long. These short timely bursts of exercise give the body a chance to adapt to the stress of exercise, therefore emptying the body of stress hormones giving you an improved hormone harmony and relieving symptoms.

2. Avoid ‘Negative Trigger Foods’

The food we eat is constantly affecting our hormones, neurotransmitters and nervous system. I call these 3 systems your power 3 as they can all rebalance your hormone harmony when they are functioning correctly. I call this constant dynamic between the food you eat and the power 3 the ‘Food-Mood Constant’. The idea is to create a positive food-mood constant, therefore relieving symptoms through a better functioning power 3. So a simple way to get started with this is one crucial ‘lifestyle trigger’… Avoid ‘Negative Trigger Foods’, these are all the foods that inhibit the power 3 and trigger a negative response to your hormone harmony. Some of these foods are well known…

Big portions of simple carbohydrates and sugar- will create peaks and lows in blood sugar. This forces the body to increase stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) to try and rebalance it.

Over processed foods- will put pressure on the power 3 and stop them functioning properly. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of these negative trigger foods, some are hidden by clever marketing.

3. Have A Daily ‘Motivational Prompt’

The final lifestyle trigger brings it all together and just helps to ensure consistency and compliance to the first two. Simply create a ‘motivational prompt’ and write it down each day. This is something that instantly triggers motivation for the person that day.

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This is usually a desired outcome of the first two lifestyle triggers like; improve my energy, feel less tired and fatigued, feel less stressed, reduce my anxiety. When motivation is feeling low and you feel like you might not bother doing your 10 minutes flexible exercise workout or you are going to binge on some negative trigger foods, look at the prompt and remind yourself why you are using the lifestyle triggers.

The Beauty Of Lifestyle Triggers…

The beauty of lifestyle triggers is that you are in control of them. Unlike therapy or medication where you may feel dependent on a therapist or pill, you get a real sense self-control which is really empowering and very important to someone depressed or anxious.

This means you are in control of the depression or anxiety, not the other way around. As I have already said, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do therapy or take medication, but you should be using things like lifestyle triggers along with them.

Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, always seek medical advice and talk to a doctor. These things are nothing to ashamed of. If you found this useful please like and share, as it might help someone else going through the same thing. We can beat depression and anxiety together.

More by this author

Ben Jones

Fitness Coordinator

We Feel Empty Because Our Bodies Aren’t Evolved to Cope With the Current Lifestyle How Not to Let Negative Thoughts Trump the Positive Vibes The 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety The 10-Minute Daily “Lifestyle Trigger” That Relieves Anxiety and Depression 2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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