As someone who suffers from anxiety, Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-19th May, 2019) is always an important week in my calendar and this year I’m marking it by sharing some of my tips on coping with Anxiety.
Before I begin I should say that I am not a doctor or trained professional in this topic, these are just my personal tips on what works for me. If you have any concerns about your mental health or that of a loved one then you should seek medical advice.
1. Talk about it
A couple of years ago I felt embarrassed to admit that I suffered from anxiety but since Mental Health is now talked about so openly I don’t feel at all embarrassed to talk about it and nor should you.
1 in 4 of us will be affected by a Mental Health issue in our lifetime so you are not alone.
I find talking to my husband about what is making me feel anxious a huge relief. Try talking to some one you trust, whether it be a loved one, best friend, colleague or counselor. If you can’t think of anyone then perhaps try calling the Samaritans or Anxiety UK.
I know now to tell my husband when I’m feeling anxious and he can then help me in lots of ways including taking jobs off my hands that might be adding to my anxiety.
2. Take a Bath
I find getting to sleep so hard when I’m feeling anxious. A relaxing candle-lit bath with some essential oils really helps me. I know baths aren’t for everyone though but perhaps even a hot shower before bed might help. I should at this point say a huge thank you to the team at John Lewis & Partners Chester for gifting me all the items you see around the bath. Bathtimes have been transformed from battling with childrens plastic bath toys to luxury Neom Candles! Thank you!
3.Get an early night
I find my anxiety is at it’s worst when I am tired. Getting an early night helps give me the energy to cope with what the day throws at me. f you struggle getting to sleep try a pillow mist like Neom’s Perfect Nights Sleep Pillow Mist. A friend brought me some for my birthday recently and that mixed with some meditation means I’m asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow!
4. Practice some Meditation
Meditation is becoming an increasingly popular practice for those suffering from mental health problems. Mindfulness, a meditation technique, is something I have recently discovered via the Headspace App. This is a fantastic app you can download onto your phone and listen to whenever you like.
Mindfulness is like exercising a muscle that you’ve never worked on before. It takes practice so try to incorporate it into your daily routine (I do this in the evening just before bed).
I can’t recommend this app highly enough. They have a whole course on managing anxiety and I am finding it so helpful. It covers a whole heap of other topics too, including sleep, self-esteem and even things like preparing for interviews.
You can start with the basic free course and if you like it you can upgrade to the monthly subscription of £9.99. I know (!) it’s not cheap and it took me a while to persuade myself to part with that amount each month but I can 100% say that it is worth every penny.
Recognise some of the physical reaction to anxiety. Mine for instance is a locked jaw. I often remind myself to relax my jaw. It’s only a small thing but it makes such a difference.
5. Remember to Breath
This might seem an obvious one but our breath when we aren’t concentrating on it naturally follows the rhythm of our thoughts. Following your breath rather than your thoughts can help to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety.
6. Stay Hydrated
I have learnt over time that dehydration can really heighten my anxiety. I read about it recently to learn more and apparently if we don’t drink enough fluids our organs don’t function well and struggle to keep up with the demands of our body. The body knows there is something wrong but it doesn’t know what so it send a message of panic to the brain. Makes quite a lot of sense really doesn’t it!
I’ve found investing in a smart water bottle that I can carry around with me helps to remind me to drink more.
7. Limit Alcohol
Alcohol anxiety is just horrible and as I get older it seems to get worse. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you drink in one night. I don’t think cutting it out completely is something I will ever do (I love my Prosecco too much!) but I know now that drinking too much on a night out only ends up in me feeling really anxious the next morning. Drinking lots of water between alcoholic drinks is also a very good idea for the same reasons as mentioned in the H20 section above!
8. Avoid too much caffeine
We are a nation of tea and coffee drinkers, we all love a good cuppa right but it can be one of the worst things for me to drink whilst suffering from anxiety.
Anxiety is our body’s reaction to situations that we perceive as threatening, which in turn promotes our body’s “fight or flight” response. Caffeine also triggers this reaction, making you overreact to situations that aren’t actually dangerous or troublesome. In my case a racing heart and shaky hands.
When you type coffee into google it automatically predicts what you are going to ask for with “Coffee and Anxiety” This just shows how many times it is searched for on google.
9. Make a List
I love a list! Transferring the list of things to do from my head onto paper makes a huge difference. It stops those thoughts flying around my busy head and declutters my mind.
10. Exercise the body and mind
This has somehow ended up at the bottom of my list but every tip on this list is as important as the one above.
Running helps me think, put things into perspective, sleep better and massively improves my mood if I’m feeling a bit down. This time of year, with the lighter mornings, evenings and dare I say it better weather (!) is a great time to start exercising.
I set myself the Couch to 5k challenge back in December and am now running between 5 – 6k (slowly!) every weekend with a shorter run mid week. It can be really hard to find the time and I often find myself making excuses as to why I can’t go but then I have a word with myself and just get out there.
I used the NHS Couch to 5K app and loved it. If you aren’t a runner like me it’s fab! It takes you through a gradual 9 week programme which is tough but not impossible. If I can do it anyone can!
Pilates is another wellbeing activity that really helps with my anxiety. Concentrating on the exercises forces my mind to slow down and focus. I always feel amazing after a class. I also have an incredible teacher called Melody who is an inspiration in her own right. If you are based in the Chester area you should look her up.
So that concludes my top 10 tips for managing anxiety. I think I could actually get to 20 or even 30 tips but I don’t want to overwhelm you.
When we are in the throws of Anxiety it can be difficult to focus on one technique if we are trawling through a long list so perhaps save your top 3 favourite techniques from above in the notes section of your phone so they are easily accessible.
Please just remember that there is no quick fix to managing anxiety just know that it won’t last forever and that you have friends and family around you who will be only too happy to help and lend an ear.
Helping someone with anxiety
Finally if you are reading this because you are looking to learn more to help someone you care about who is experiencing anxiety problems or panic attacks then this article over on the Mind.org website might be very useful too.
If you have any other techniques or tips you could add please do comment below as I’d love to hear them.