What Are We Getting Wrong About Anxiety?

Anxiety sucks. When it rears its ugly head, it can take over all of your mental space. And even give you some pretty distressing physical symptoms. It can interfere with the way you live, work, and socialize. So it’s only natural that if you’re living with anxiety, you probably curse the dreaded condition. And you might spend a lot of time thinking about the easiest, quickest, most effective ways to banish it from your brain. 


But let’s slow down a bit here. One of the hallmarks of anxiety is overthinking things, right? You might actually be overthinking how you “get rid” of your anxiety. And even, according to some experts, misunderstanding this condition and missing some of what they call “benefits” of it. Sure, it’s pretty tough to think of benefits when it comes to anxiety. But let’s hear them out, as well as look at what we all might be getting wrong when it comes to working with our anxiety.

What Anxiety Looks Like

Before we look at some of what some experts say are the common mistakes we make when it comes to anxiety, let’s remind ourselves of what anxiety looks like. Anyone can experience run of the mill anxiety. Say when doing some public speaking, but anxiety as a disorder can mean excessive anxious feelings that interfere with your life and can even become all-consuming. The signs of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety


And remember, there can be other types of specific anxiety, like phobias and social anxiety, so you might experience other signs in addition to these.

What Many People Are Getting Wrong

If you’re experiencing the symptoms above, it’s only natural that you’ll want to find some relief. Therapy is a great idea; in fact, if you don’t deal with your anxiety in a therapeutic setting, it could get worse. But outside of that, you might have strategies to work on your anxious feelings on your own, which is not a bad thing. But some experts warn of being careful about making the following mistakes:

1. Believing you can think your way out of your anxiety illustration of a large head with wires jumbled in it's brain and someone standing outside of the brain unraveling the wires

This is a big one. You know you’re intelligent and can think your way out of problems. But when anxiety hits, your thinking can get clouded by overwhelming feelings that aren’t necessarily rational. That means trying to think your way out of it can just lead you into a confusing maze of thoughts and feelings, which can in turn lead you to trust yourself even less. You might then become even more anxious. 


So instead of trying to think your way out of anxiety, psychologist Alice Boyes, Ph.D., suggests that you “Make a short list of your choices. It can often help to involve someone else in this to uncloud your thinking. Include any choices you’ve ruled out as being too anxiety-provoking. With a bit of space and perspective, you may realize your best option is one of these.”

2. Thinking you should find a “perfect” way to move forward

If you’ve got anxiety, you’ve got to give yourself some grace. There is no “perfect” solution to anything, and that’s especially true with anxiety. If you talk to someone and they see something that you don’t in a certain situation, you can’t beat yourself up and think you somehow “messed up”, and should’ve done something differently. Just remember it’s ok to “muddle your way forward,” as Boyes says. And don’t let your perceived “imperfection” stop you from opening up and getting other people’s perspectives.

3. Pausing your life while you “solve” your anxious situation

If you’ve got anxiety, you’ve been there: something triggers your anxiety and everything else has to come to a screeching halt while you obsess over how to “solve” the situation. And hey, that makes sense: our ancestors sensing a predator in the distance would definitely have to find a way to deal with that situation! But getting a message from a friend or boss that triggers you, not so much.

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Putting every aspect of your life on hold won’t enhance your life. In fact, it will only serve to make the “problem” seem bigger and bigger. Continue to live your life, do what’s important to you, and most especially, engage in your relationships with others so you don’t lose sight of the support you have. 

4. Beating yourself up for being wrong

It’s probably no secret to you that a lot of the things that trigger your anxiety are pretty much what Boyes calls “false alarms.”.  No, your best friend is not about to start hating you, and your boss probably isn’t about to fire you. But when the anxiety subsides and you start to see things more clearly, it’s important that you don’t then start beating yourself up for worrying so much about things that might seem irrational now. As Boyes says, you should “Recognize that emotions just signal what we care about. Caring about being accepted, supported, and liked isn’t wrong, even if your fear didn’t eventuate.”


All of the above are easy traps to fall into, and of course don’t feel bad if you do fall into them! Speaking to a therapist can help you to find strategies that do work for you. But we do have one more thing to think about when it comes to anxiety: how we can look at it in a less negative way, as something to be “solved,” and live with it in a different way.

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life” image of a woman sitting with coffee thinking

The above quote from psychologist Susan David refers to what some experts say is the final thing we’re getting wrong about anxiety: that it’s actually completely negative. Wait, what? Like we bluntly stated earlier: anxiety sucks, right? Sure, but life is messy and uncomfortable, and banishing all of that from our minds might be more like numbing ourselves than living life fully as ourselves.


In fact, professor Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, who has written a book on the positive side of anxiety, believes “That anxiety can be an ally. But like any ally, you need to negotiate. And that’s the messy work of being human.”. Her theory is that, if we try to hurry up and put those anxious feelings aside and make it all go away, we’re actually missing out on something. 


Says Dennis-Tiwary, “We’ve lost the acceptance that mental health does not equal the absence of emotional suffering or discomfort, that actually mental health is the engagement with emotional suffering and working through rather than around.” And “The emotion of anxiety is not broken; it’s how we cope with anxiety that’s broken.”


According to her, what we’re missing is that anxiety tells us about the things we care about, and about our goals for the future. And experts point out that feeling anxious actually releases dopamine. Which motivates us to pursue rewards and take action to reach those goals. Not only that, but anxiety “doesn’t just trigger fight-or-flight, it also increases oxytocin, the social bonding hormone. What you find is that especially with moderate levels of anxiety—not necessarily full-blown panic—you actually increase levels of oxytocin, which primes us to seek out social connection and support.”


And anxiety, in Dennis-Tiwary’s eyes, not only has actual physical benefits. But it’s also a way to exercise your emotions, like you might work a muscle or strengthen your immune system. As she says, “if you don’t work [your muscles] and strain them, they atrophy. Our emotions are the same way, too. There’s great evidence to believe that it’s only in engaging with these difficult feelings – learning the skills and coping and sometimes falling down and then knowing you can pick yourself back up again – that actually allows you to build the skills that then help you be resilient against all the curveballs that the world is going to throw your way.”


Hmm, that’s a lot to think about. Anxiety as a positive part of life? As Dennis-Tiwary acknowledges, “Anxiety feels bad”. But it might be easier to accept that it’s an important part of ourselves if we experience it as part of our full range of human emotion that we can’t simply wish away. But what do you think? Is life meant to be uncomfortable sometimes? Can anxiety be a motivating force that can help motivate you to improve your future? Or is it something to be “dealt with” as quickly and efficiently as possible?


Whatever your thoughts on anxiety, whether you think it’s an important part of you, something you want to work on banishing for good, or a force for your future. It’s important to find strategies that help make your present happy and fulfilling. The best way to do that is to find support and connection with others. If that includes therapy, go for it. Let us know your thoughts!

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

Eating Away At Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns in the U.S., affecting around 6.8 million people. That’s 3.1% of the population! The term anxiety actually covers a whole list of disorders, from phobias to social anxiety to generalized anxiety. It can be treated with therapy and medications, but there are some things you can do along with more traditional treatment that can help reduce your anxiety. 


For example, you can try breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. And while these methods can help you reduce the constant tension or fear caused by anxiety, there’s an even easier – and tastier – strategy. You can add certain foods to (and take others out of) your diet. Nutrition is the first step in caring for our physical health, but it can also help our mental health, so we’ve compiled a list of foods that can work along with your treatment to reduce your anxiety.wooden table with fruits and vegetables spilled on it with article title written on the table

1.Green Tea

Green tea leaves have an amino acid called Theanine. According to research, theanine significantly lowers stress by lowering your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can cause those anxious feelings. Theanine may also increase production of dopamine and serotonin, the hormones that cause happy and blissful feelings. Increasing these levels can have anxiety-reducing effects.


Additionally, green tea contains other antioxidants that promote brain health. These antioxidants can relieve some of the symptoms of your anxiety and help your brain process your emotions better, making you feel calmer.


Snacking on almonds can reduce symptoms, like depression, that often come with anxiety, especially in men. Research found that men who ate nuts were 66% less likely to experience anxiety. This is because the nutrients in almonds, including vitamin E and healthy fats, promote healthy brain function. 


Why is vitamin E so important if you’re struggling with anxiety? Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress, which can cause anxiety. When you are in an anxious state, your body will use a lot of your vitamin E supply to help counteract the symptoms. So increasing your vitamin E levels by eating almonds can help give your body the supply it needs to ease your anxiety.

3.Dark Chocolate illustration of dark chocolate

Not only is chocolate delicious, it can help reduce your anxiety. Dark chocolate contains a compound called flavanols that act as antioxidants. And antioxidants, as we explained earlier, promote brain health and relieve anxious symptoms.


The amino acids in dark chocolate also aid in the production of serotonin, which is a hormone that triggers euphoric feelings. Triggering those feelings can help boost your mood and help relieve some of your stress. 


Eggs are all-around healthy. They’re a source of complete protein, which means they have all the essential amino acids you need for growth and development. And it means they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that specifically helps relieve anxiety. This is another one of those amino acids that promotes serotonin production.


We’ve mentioned how serotonin helps reduce anxiety but it has other benefits, too. Serotonin can help regulate your sleep and mood, and even strengthen your memory!


The probiotics in yogurt and other types of fermented food help reduce inflammation in your gut. What does your gut have to do with anxiety? Well, your gut and brain send signals to each other through the central nervous system. Those signals help regulate stress response and anxiousness. Have you ever said “ I have a gut feeling about this”? That’s where the phrase comes from. 


When your gut is overrun with  bad bacteria, the signals to your brain become weaker, which in turn can cause an overactive stress response and anxiety. The probiotics in yogurt help keep those signals loud and clear. 

Foods To avoid large red circle with a line going through it

Knowing what foods to eat to reduce your anxiety is great. But you also need to know what foods can heighten your anxiety, as well. 



Alcohol is tricky. A small amount can actually stimulate GABA, a neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect on your body. But heavy drinking can have the opposite effect on GABA. It can cause a disruption to the signals to your brain, and cause you to become more anxious.


As with anything, moderation is key, and too much sugar can have severe effects on your mind. A high sugar diet can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash often. When your blood sugar is on a rollercoaster ride, the lows can drain your energy and cause your mood to drop. During those lows your anxiety can spike. You don’t have to remove sugar completely from your diet, you just have to be careful with your intake.

3.Processed foods

We talked about how inflammation in your gut can increase your anxiety. Processed foods can cause that inflammation. Things like fried or frozen foods and pastries all trigger the inflammation that leads to your gut and mind not communicating with each other correctly. Again, moderation is encouraged here.

Take your time

You don’t have to overhaul your diet in one day. Slowly start to introduce some of these foods or cut back on others. Give each new adjustment a week or so and see if you notice any positive changes. Keep track of your results, and over time you’ll have a clear view of what works for you. 


Remember, food isn’t a cure-all for anxiety disorders, it’s just a helpful tool. Consult with your doctor or therapist about your diet changes as well as other treatments to help your anxiety.

co-written by Brianna Hartnett

Does Fast Food Put You on the Fast Track to Depression?

What’s your idea of comfort food? Freshly baked homemade cookies? Your mom’s gooey mac and cheese? Or maybe you prefer something a little bit, um, faster? As in, fast food? Do you crave things like hamburgers, fries, and chicken nuggets from a famous franchise when you need a little belly-based comfort? Well, if that’s the case, you might just want to start turning elsewhere for your comfort. In addition to the things we already know that fast food can do to our bodies, it might also have some surprising – and disturbing – effects on our brain and mood. Studies now seem to show that there is a link between anxiety and depression and the fast food that so many of us love.

Why It’s Hard to Quit the Fast Stuff

You might be thinking, “Hey, it just tastes good,” and that’s that. But it might not actually be that simple. There might be more scientific reasons why you’re craving fast food, and why you continue to eat it, even though it’s no secret that it’s bad for you. 

First of all, yes, it does taste good. Otherwise why would an estimated 36.6% of the U.S. population devour drive-through deals on a daily basis? But it tastes good to many of us because food scientists have spent decades adjusting the flavors of ultra-processed foods so that we keep coming back for more. But studies also suggest that:

  • The trans fats in many fried foods might hinder your brain’s ability to discern how much you’ve eaten and how hungry you are.
  • person holding McDonald's fries and eating oneFast food can even trigger the pleasure centers of the brain to release dopamine, the same chemical that fuels addictions, so you might end up needing more and more fast food to feed your cravings. 
  • Brain scans also reveal how sugar can be addictive: the more you eat, the more you’re likely to keep craving it. And what does sugar have to do with fast food? It’s not just that the soda that you drink to wash down your meal is loaded with sugar, it’s also that some of the dishes themselves have much more sugar than you might think. For example, one salad on the menu at a popular fast food chain packs a whopping 40 grams of sugar – and keep in mind that most public health organizations recommend that you consume no more than 24 grams of sugar per day
  • In 2019, a landmark study found that those on an ultra-processed diet consumed 508 more calories on average compared to those who ate whole and plant-based foods, leading experts to speculate whether these foods are somehow addictive. Researchers don’t know exactly why, but processed foods seemed to encourage more snacking. “There may be something about the textural or sensory properties of the food that made the [participants in the study] eat more quickly,” said Kevin Hall, of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “If you’re eating very quickly, perhaps you’re not giving your gastrointestinal tract enough time to signal to your brain that you’re full. When this happens, you might easily overeat.”

All of that is definitely food for thought. You might think that heading to the drive-through for lunch or dinner is just a quick way to get some comfort food to fill you up, but turns out you’re not doing either: comforting yourself OR filling yourself up. And so you’ll just end up going back for more, and risk not only overeating and expanding your waistline, but also changing your mood for the worse. 

Your Brain on Fast Food

So fast food messes with your brain in that it triggers cravings, but what does fast food, or any ultra-processed type of food, have to do with your mood and mental health? Let’s take a look at a few studies that suggest a disturbing link between them: 

  • Research published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience found that adults under 30 who ate fast food three times a week scored higher on levels of mental distress. The researchers think this is because fast food is typically high in saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids. While some of these fats are beneficial and, in fact, necessary for brain function in smaller doses, an excess can trigger an inflammatory response. Past research has linked this inflammation to anxiety and depression.many sugar cubes on a table
  • Remember those crazy sweet salads? A study of around 8,000 adult participants found that men who regularly consumed around 67 grams per sugar per day were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, which could, again, be caused in part by an inflammatory response.
  • A 2019 study of teenagers found that higher urine levels of sodium, and low potassium levels, both of which you’d expect from a diet of highly processed fast food, predicted more signs of depression a year and a half after the study, even after adjusting for variables such as blood pressure, weight, age and sex.
  • A meta-analysis of research from the United States, Spain, France, Australia, Greece and Iran published in the journal Nature also found a “robust association” between diet and depression. Their results showed people who avoided a highly processed diet, and instead followed a Mediterranean diet of things like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and little red meat or processed foods, had reduced risk of depression.
  • A Spanish study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, are 51% more likely to develop depression. Not only that, but they found that “the more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression,” according to Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, lead author of the study.
  • Studies have shown that excessive fast food consumption is also linked to anxiety symptoms, probably because the refined carbohydrates in many fast food items can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate. Extremely low blood sugar can cause panic attacks, insomnia, and other anxiety symptoms. Not only that, but the lack of omega-3 fatty acids in fried food can cause your brain to mimic anxiety symptoms.

More worrying food for thought. And while some researchers say they’re not really sure if eating fast food causes depression, or if those who are predisposed to depression are more likely to consume fast food (after all, we do call it comfort food, right?), it seems pretty clear that eating fast food can be a big problem for your body and mind.

Is There an Antidote?

whole cooked fish on a plate with lemons on it and olives next to it
The Mediterranean diet is a great diet to follow because it is full of omega-3 fatty acids and other great vitamins.

We don’t want to sound like your mom, but you know what we’re going to say. The solution is less junk food, and more healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggies. And that’s not just the mom in us talking: it’s science. 

While scientists are still studying the link between diet and depression, studies do suggest that certain nutrients and foods can play a preventative role. B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and folates, as well as the foods that make up healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet, like fish and olive oil, have been linked to a lower risk of developing depression.

And, the same study that found that adults under 30 suffered from mental distress after eating too much fast food had some interesting findings for older adults. It found that eating more fruits and veggies, as well as eating fewer carbohydrates of other types, actually reduced anxiety and depression. That’s because fruits and veggies are bursting with antioxidants, which help protect the brain. 

Our days are filled with decisions we need to make, not least being what we should put into our bodies to fuel them. And that decision might have a little more weight than we sometimes give it: those quick trips to the drive-through could start adding up and wreaking havoc on your body and mind. We’re not saying that you should never indulge in your favorite comfort foods, but you just might want to re-evaluate how comforting your choice of indulgence actually is. 

Battling the Loneliness Epidemic

How would you describe the past year? Crazy? Unprecedented? And how have you felt during this crazy and unprecedented year? Scared? Frustrated? Bored? Zoom-weary? How about lonely? If so, you’re not alone (no pun intended): over the past year, a “loneliness epidemic” has been brewing, with 36% of respondents in one study last year saying they felt lonely “frequently” or “almost all of the time or all the time,” as compared with 25% in the weeks before the pandemic. Another study found that 20% of people across all age groups reported feeling lonelier than usual during the pandemic.

But the truth is that the problem didn’t start with the pandemic: a 2018 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that around 22% of Americans felt “constantly” alone, and a report by the health insurance company Cigna found that 60% of Americans felt some degree of loneliness, pre-pandemic. Because feeling connected to others is vital to our emotional and physical health, it’s important to find some strategies to combat the loneliness that sometimes overwhelms many of us. 

Social Isolation vs Loneliness

Take the pandemic out of the picture, and, if you look at our society objectively, it seems like it would be difficult to feel lonely. If anything, we might be too connected for some people’s tastes! We have unlimited ways to digitally connect; we can (or will be able to again soon) hop on a plane and head anywhere in a matter of hours; more and more of us live in close quarters with neighbors all around us. Yet we still feel lonely, and that’s because there’s a difference between social isolation and loneliness.

silhouette of a brain with missing pieces all over
Loneliness has been linked to a variety of health issues like anxiety and dementia.

Social isolation is all about the amount of actual contact you have with others, while loneliness is much more subjective: it’s all about how you experience being alone or even how connected you feel to those around you. Think about it this way: just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re going to feel lonely, and just because there are people all around you doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel lonely. So it becomes very important to name loneliness, and to validate it; recognize that it is different from being alone, and that it is not shameful. Once you do that, you can begin to release those feelings. 

The Physical Risks of Loneliness

It’s not only important for our mental well-being to deal with our feelings of loneliness, it can also be vital to our physical health. Studies show that loneliness isn’t only linked to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and suicide, it is also linked to a variety of health problems like dementia and heart conditions. It has also been shown that people without social support have lower chances of full recovery after a serious illness than people with a strong network. In fact, the health consequences of loneliness are often compared to the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day – and far fewer people do that than there are people who feel lonely every day!

Strategies for Coping with Loneliness

So if you’re struggling with loneliness, what can you do to help improve your emotional and physical well-being, as well as to simply get more enjoyment out of life? Therapists, doctors and researchers suggest trying some of the following strategies:

  • Look at what you’ve got – When you’re really feeling down, it can be annoying to have people tell you to look at all the good things around you. But when it comes to feeling lonely, that can be extremely important: one of the first steps to combating loneliness, other than naming it, is to examine all of the connections you already have in your life. Maybe you’re worrying that your friends aren’t telling you how they feel about you, but they might be showing it in other ways. 
notebook open with a pen on top
Talk to yourself, and write down your feelings, so you can decide how to deal with your feelings.

In other words, according to Kory Floyd, Professor of Communication and Psychology at the University of Arizona, “Many of us get tunnel vision when it comes to affection and intimacy, in that we ‘count’ only certain behaviors while discounting others…When people expand their definitions of affection and love to include a wider range of behaviors, they often discover that they aren’t as deprived as they originally thought.”

  • Talk to yourself – No, we’re not being silly here. What we mean is, when you’re feeling especially lonely, you should ask yourself questions, like what loneliness means for you. Also question whether you’re chronically lonely or lonely because of the situation you might be in at that moment in your life. Megan Bruneau, therapist and executive coach, says, “…[I]f I’m feeling loneliness more frequently than usual, I get curious about the shift. Has something changed in my relationships leading me to feel more disconnected? Have I been nurturing my current connections and creating opportunities for new ones that make me feel ‘seen’? Am I intentionally or accidentally isolating [myself]?” Look at what’s going on with you, so that you can decide how best to deal with your feelings.
  • Hit the brakes – When you think of loneliness, do you equate it with boredom? Well, the opposite might actually be the case: sometimes when you’re too busy you can get wrapped up in all of that stuff that needs to get done, and you can start to feel disconnected from the people around you. Psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD, agrees: “Sometimes when people’s schedules are back-to-back for too long, they start disconnecting from themselves and other people. They get overwhelmed from overworking and too much stimulation. So the practice [then] is just to relax and do what their body needs.” If you find yourself overwhelmed with work and your to-do list, take a step back, slow down, and first reconnect with yourself with your favorite relaxation techniques – then you can begin to reconnect in meaningful ways with the world around you.
  • Find kindness – If the world seems cold to you, try to find ways to warm it up. Perform a random act of kindness, like paying for someone’s coffee, or even just smiling at someone or holding the door for them. Research shows that these acts release oxytocin, otherwise known as the bonding hormone, so even just a small, brief connection with another person can relieve feelings of loneliness. planet earth with different colored hands coming out from all around it Also consider getting out into your community and volunteering your time. If that’s difficult for you to do in person right now, look into virtual opportunities to give back – they could end up turning into something more in-person sooner than you think! Getting out there and doing something selfless will immediately help you feel less isolated, as will  working with others towards a shared goal.
  • Join the club(s) – Volunteering can be one way to meet new people who have similar interests; another way is to join a club, sign up for a class, or even try something completely new – like goat yoga! If this is something that interests you, start looking for groups now that you might like to join; they might have an online presence and they might be starting to meet up in person very soon!

    a dog behind a metal fence
    Adopting a pet can help you feel more fulfilled in your daily life.
  • Adopt a friendIt might sound like a cliche, but, really, a pet can be a person’s best friend, or at least a way to help fill a hole in your life. Whether it’s a playful dog to get you out of the house, a quiet cat to relax with on the couch, or any other furry or feathered creature, adopting a pet (and taking on the responsibility of caring for it) can help you feel more fulfilled in your daily life. 
  • Get creative – Even if you don’t think of yourself as the “creative” type, tapping into your creative side can help ease loneliness; in fact, you can try to embrace periods of solitude as opportunities to be more self-aware and creative. According to therapist and author Shrein Bahrami, “The experience of feeling lonely can often trigger a host of other emotions. When we are connected to our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel them and express them through creativity can be quite healing and meaningful.” Try writing, sketching, painting – even dancing to your favorite music and sitting quietly and knitting can get those juices flowing!
  • Be careful with social media – Being social can be a great antidote for loneliness – but how about using social media? Does social media cause loneliness and depression, or make it worse? Well, that’s still up for debate, but what is more important is how it affects you and how you use it in your life. For some people, social media is genuinely a way to stay connected, but for others, it can be a way to withdraw into themselves in unhelpful ways. 

When it comes to social media, first take a look at how much time you’re spending on it: according to a University of Pennsylvania study, limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day “may lead to significant improvement in well-being.” And it’s not just the amount of time you’re spending on social media that you should be examining; in fact, some researchers suggest that it’s not really how often you use it, it’s how you utilize it. Think about what you’re getting out of it and how it makes you feel. For example, using it to try to escape from the world can backfire, or scrolling through everyone else’s “curated” lives can give you serious fear of missing out (FOMO), or make you feel like you’re being purposefully not included in other people’s lives. Again according to Professor Floyd, “If we feel dissatisfied with our face-to-face relationships, we [often] retreat into the world of social media, which only exacerbates the problem. On social media, it seems as though everyone else has better jobs, better houses, better vacations, and better relationships than we do. That isn’t actually true, of course.”

Remember, if you’re feeling lonely, you’re not alone – in more ways than one! And perhaps knowing that there are others out there feeling what you’re feeling will actually help you to feel more connected to the world around you, and will tell you that it’s time to reach out. If you’re really struggling, though, please speak to a doctor, therapist, or other trusted professional. Together, we can beat the loneliness epidemic!

Support Your Employees’ Mental Health, Support Your Business

There’s more to healthcare than just physical health. Annual check-ups and care for injuries or illnesses are important, but so is managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. You can offer your employees a group healthcare plan that emphasizes both of these aspects of their well-being. Doing this will not only have a positive impact on your employees’ lives, but will also help keep your business running smoothly.

Stress & Anxiety in the Workplace

african american woman sitting with her elbows on her knees and her hands together on her forehead.
More than 70% of workers say that stress and anxiety interferes with their lives.

It won’t come as a surprise to any employer that working can sometimes equal stress, and even anxiety. But there are some concrete numbers that may surprise you. Around 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of mental illness in a given year, close to 60% say they are suffering from “burnout,” and more than 70% of workers say that stress and anxiety interferes with their lives. 

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) 2006 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, employees said that stress and anxiety most often impacts their:

  • workplace performance (56%)
  • relationship with coworkers and peers (51%)
  • quality of work (50%) 
  • relationships with superiors (43%)

These numbers should sound an alarm for you. Stress at work affects job performance, negatively impacts the culture of your workplace, and can also spill over into your employees’ outside life. They may have troubling sleeping, difficulties with their relationships, and may even end up suffering from depression.

A Culture of Silence?

There is hope. Almost 90% of employees who get help for mental health issues report feeling better about their job, more productive at work, and less likely to take time off, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. But before that relief can come, they need to be able to ask for help. Is your workplace a safe environment for expressing anxiety and talking about stress? It might not be. 

Many employees are not comfortable speaking to their employer about their stress or other mental health concerns. Again according to the ADAA survey, only 40% of employees whose stress was getting in the way of their job had talked to their employers about it. Of those who did speak to their employer, only 4 in 10 reported being offered some sort of help. 

It is up to you as an employer to make sure that your employees know they can ask for help if they need it. They also need to know that they will be listened to and offered some sort of help. One way you can do this is by normalizing mental health care: make clear that you take your employees’ mental health seriously, and make your mental healthcare plan as comprehensive and accessible as your physical healthcare plan. 

Make Mental Health a Priority

caucasian man sitting in front of a laptop with mental health related words on the screen.
You can find a plan that offers good mental health services for your employees.

Employees need to feel safe and comfortable asking for help at work, but they also need practical ways to access that help. Fortunately, it’s much easier nowadays to prioritize mental health care. To show your employees that their mental health is a priority, you can

  • Offer them an ACA-approved healthcare plan. Simple, right? You were going to offer them this benefit anyway, and mental health coverage is actually one of the 10 essential benefits that must be covered under all of these plans. Make it clear to your employees that these benefits are included, and give them all relevant info on how to access the included services.
  • Look for mental-health specific add-ons. One of the fastest growing and most popular “extras” you can add to your employee health plan is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs offer, among other things, a number of helpful mental health services at no cost to employees, like in-person or telephone counseling. Adding these programs may cost you a little bit extra, but they are worth it: you are showing your employees that you care about their mental health – and you are keeping your workforce healthy and productive. You are also protecting them against future stress-related physical illnesses that could end up costing more in the long run. 
  • Try out well-being apps. While these digital benefits don’t replace therapy, they are easy to use and a great supplement to other mental health care benefits, especially for younger employees.
  • Add telehealth options to your plan. While apps can be fun, quick, and easy, some people prefer to speak to someone directly. Offering telehealth options removes some of the barriers of seeking in-person counseling or therapy. 
  • Make your workspace a mental health-friendly place. If you have a workplace wellness program, don’t just focus on weight-loss goals or quitting smoking, focus on mental well-being, as well. Even if you don’t have one of these programs, you can still do small things to reduce stress in your workplace like offering yoga classes, having a meditation room, or even just encouraging break times that allow employees to get outside and walk together. These small steps obviously will not treat mental illness, but they will help to relieve stress and will also show that you care about your employees’ mental health.

Mental illness, stress, anxiety – all of these things are steadily increasing in our complicated world. Unfortunately, for most people, work is just another part of the problem. However, you can be the kind of employer who takes these issues seriously, listens to your employees, and offers them the help that they need. Make mental health a priority in your workplace, and you will find yourself with a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. If you need help finding the right healthcare plan with the right mental health coverage, come to EZ.Insure. We’ve got the answers that you’re looking for, right now, for free. You can start by simply entering your zip code in the bar above to get a quote,  or call 888-998-2027 to speak to an agent.

Take It Easy: Stress Relief Strategies for Busy Business Owners

Americans are some of the most stressed-out people in the world. A whopping 55% of Americans report high stress levels, compared to the global average of 35%. Many people have adopted a “busy is best” mindset, in which over-scheduling and over-working are glorified as productive, and anything less is lazy.  

caucasian woman with palm on her forehead looking at something
Stress can cause somatic symptoms and can lead to long-term mental health problems.

It’s no surprise that business owners also report higher than average stress levels. According to a Gallup poll, 45% of entrepreneurs report being stressed, and an additional 34% report having “worried a lot” about business-related issues.

Stress takes a toll on our bodies and our brains. We carry stress in our neck, back, shoulders, and jaw. This can result in tight, sore muscles, pinched nerves, and tension headaches. Stress can cause somatic symptoms like stomach aches, nausea, and even heart palpitations. Chronic stress can lead to long-term mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It is important, therefore, to find ways to manage your stress.

Take it easy

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to your mental well-being. Experts agree that getting enough sleep, exercising and eating right, and taking time off from work are great ways to help keep stress at bay. But if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed, try these five strategies to help feel calmer and more in control.

Take a breath

Taking a few moments to focus on your breath can help reduce stress levels almost instantaneously. There are a variety of guided meditation and breathwork apps available, but you don’t really need any outside help to focus on your breath. Experts recommend the “square breathing” technique. Inhale for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3, and repeat. As you follow this pattern, try to visualize a square being drawn. 

Change of pace

Sometimes a change of scenery is all we need. Physically removing yourself from a situation can help you gain the perspective you need. Leave the office: treat yourself to lunch out, take a walk, or go for a drive. Practice a deep breathing technique to re-center before returning to the office.

Fuel yourselfgrilled salmon with vegetables on a plqte.

It might sound basic, but eating a well-balanced meal can work wonders. Make sure you get a brain-fueling protein, a complex carbohydrate, and fresh fruits and veggies. Make sure you drink a full glass of water. Stay away from over-indulging in basic carbs, salty foods, sugary sodas, and coffee. If you need an extra boost of caffeine, try a cup of green tea. While you’re eating this meal, try to shut off your work phone for a few minutes and eat mindfully.  


As a business owner, it can be hard to put down your work and walk away. But sometimes it’s what you need to do. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, put your phone on silent, commit to ignoring emails, and focus on something else. Being present in the moment can help settle the mind, regulate stress hormone levels, and bring a sense of renewed focus when you return to work.

Ask for helptwo set of hands holding white mugs on a table.

It can be helpful to identify a person with whom you feel safe talking about your emotions. That might be a partner, friend, counselor, sibling, or parent.  Having someone who is aware that you’re feeling overwhelmed and who can share their own stresses with you can help you feel less isolated in your struggles.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your work day, try some of these strategies to lower your stress levels throughout the day. They might seem simple, but they are reminders to take care of yourself. If you continue to experience uncontrollable feelings of stress, helplessness, or if you feel unsafe in any way, reach out to your primary care physician or text REASON to 741741 for free and confidential crisis support 24 hours a day.