10 Top Tips to Reduce Anxiety and improve your mental health.
The important thing to remember about controlling anxiety is quickly conquering it before it gets out of hand. Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. Anxiety isn’t unnatural—it’s a normal emotion that has evolved to help us deal with anticipated threats and challenges, and that’s basically what it’s there for. But it’s when short-term anxiety becomes a more long-term condition that problems start. Chronic anxiety can be crippling and may lead to an inability to concentrate, constant nausea, palpitations and insomnia. It can also cause other conditions such as depression and even agoraphobia.
When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, the strategies listed below can help you cope.
Try to understand what’s bothering you
In order to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to figure out what’s bothering you. Set aside some time to explore your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a diary can be a great way to get in touch with your sources of anxiety. Write down all of the things that are bothering you, what effect they’re having on you, and what the cause of that anxiety might be. Talking with a friend can be another way to discover and understand your anxious feelings. Make it a habit to regularly uncover and express your feelings of anxiety.
Drink plenty of water
Keeping hydrated is crucial for health and wellbeing, but many people do not consume enough fluids each day. Your brain needs sufficient water to function properly. Even mild dehydration can affect our mental well-being. Symptoms of dehydration include restlessness and irritability. Experts recommend drinking 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water daily.
Limit your alcohol intake
If you are stressed, anxious or depressed, it may be tempting to drown your sorrows with a stiff drink as alcohol can initially make you feel calmer.
A recent UK study suggested people suffering from anxiety were likely to drink heavily. But if you do suffer from anxiety-related disorders, including depression, you should consider limiting your alcohol intake as it affects anxiety-reducing neurotransmitters. Also, once the alcohol wears off, you may be left feeling more anxious because alcohol has a depressant effect.
Look after your sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
Many of us are living our lives at a faster pace, perhaps juggling a full-time job with a relationship, family commitments and a social life. As a result, we feel a constant sense of urgency in our daily lives. This endless feeling of pressure fuels our impatience when we have to wait in a queue or traffic jam, or when the bus or train is late. Instead of stressing about delays, see them as opportunities for reflection, practicing deep breathing techniques or reading.
Our breathing tends to become shallow when we are stressed or anxious, or we hold our breath without realising it. Slow, deep breathing has been shown to reduce the heart rate, relax muscles and release tension.
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5.
- You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
- Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
Can mindfulness help with anxiety?
Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. It can help with some anxiety disorders, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best-practice in healthcare – says it’s not helpful for social anxiety. Some people say they find mindfulness helpful for coping with other anxiety disorders, but others say it makes them feel worse – particularly if keeping a busy mind is an important way of coping for you. It’s best to try it with a trained professional if possible, or to get advice from a doctor or therapist before trying it by yourself.
Stay connected with people
Studies have time and again shown that resilient people are more likely to have strong social support than those who are less resilient. Social support is the term used to describe the emotional, physical and financial comfort we give to and receive from family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and others. One person is unlikely to be able to provide all the support we need, so it is important we have different people to call upon for the different challenges we aim to overcome.
Do things you enjoy
If we are feeling worried, anxious or low, we might stop doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing indoors or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings. It’s important to have a range of hobbies and activities that you enjoy, because they provide an opportunity to disconnect from your anxiety, and focus on something enjoyable and distracting.
Relinquishing our desire for certainty and control is easier said than done. If you feel yourself start to spin out into negativity or panic, grounding yourself in the present moment can stop the negative spiral and allow your rational brain to come back online.
Grounding is a practice that can help you pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative or challenging emotions. These techniques may help distract you from what you’re experiencing and refocus on what’s happening in the present moment.
5 Things you can see: Your Hands, the sky, a plant..
4 Things you can feel: Feet on the ground, the chair..
3 Things you can hear: Birds chirping, your breath..
2 Things you can smell: Coffee, your lunch, clothes..
1 Thing you can Taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air..
Top Tips for reducing anxiety created by Sarah Jones