This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, and ‘anxiety’ has been chosen as the theme this year. Today, My Mind News details some ways you can manage anxiety and organizations that can help support you.
What is anxiety?
Based on My Mind News’ What is Anxiety article, we know that anxiety is different for everyone and that normal anxiety levels are good for us as they keep us alert and safe.
We also know that everyone experiences anxiety differently, and we generally agree that anxiety is “a sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread that you feel before a significant event.” It is how our body and mind respond physically, mentally, and behaviourally to potentially dangerous, stressful, or unfamiliar conditions.
Prolonged levels of anxiety are not good for us. If anxiety stops you from doing things, you should contact a medical professional who can formally diagnose anxiety if symptoms persist and can provide support.
Tips that will help you manage your anxiety
Dealing with anxiety is hard; if we don’t know how to recognize when we are anxious, these feelings may get out of control and become problematic. It is, therefore, important that when you start to feel unease or distress, you recognize these feelings and label them.
This identification allows you to find a way that will work for you so that you can work through these feelings. In association with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), My Mind News suggest the following seven ways to help you manage anxiety and help them pass.
1. Breathe and be mindful
When you recognize that you are feeling anxious, immediately focus on your breathing, whether long slow inhales and exhales or techniques recommended by MHF, such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Close your mouth and quietly breathe in through your nose, counting to four in your head. Hold your breath and count to seven. Breathe out through your mouth, making a whoosh sound while counting to eight. Repeat three more times for a total of four breath cycles.
Breathwork helps us reduce sensations of anxiety and calms us, but it also helps to get us back to being present and to manage our thoughts. There are also other ways to be more mindful. See here for the MHF guidelines.
2. Challenge your thoughts
When you are anxious, there is a tendency to overthink and ruminate. You must step back, challenge your unhelpful thoughts, and explore other ways of looking at the situation and examining your evidence.
Remember, you are not your thoughts! Writing your thoughts down ‘journalling’ is also helpful as this helps us express, understand and rationalize our thoughts and feelings.
3. Spend time in nature
There is so much scientific evidence that spending time in nature, if only for a few minutes, positively impacts the amygdala, the region of the nervous system responsible for controlling emotions and feelings.
4. Eat a healthy diet
It is difficult when you are feeling anxious to eat healthy and not to reach for food and beverages that will give you instant comfort and convenience. However, it is increasingly evident that overreliance on ultra-processed food fuel anxiety.
Researchers have recently found a link between gut bacteria and depression. A study in 2018 found that approximately 95% of serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in the gut. Serotonin is the primary hormone that helps boost happiness and wellbeing and stabilizes mood. The key is to eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated while reducing caffeine consumption.
Human relationships and connections are vital as we are social animals. In this climate of technology, we must make an effort to meet people, whether with friends, volunteering, or through sports. Connecting with others will help.
Harvard scientists have long studied human relationships since 1938 and confirm that connection is the one thing that makes us happy, as it allows us to share our feelings and worries and get support.
6. Rest and sleep
Quality rest and sleep are entwined with our mental health, as a lack of both can activate anxiety.
Worry and fear contribute to a state of hyperarousal in which the mind is racing, and hyperarousal is considered a central contributor to insomnia. See the My Mind News article on seven ways to improve your sleep.
7. Get Help with money concerns
In these trying times, one key contributor to stress and anxiety can be the accumulation of debt. This can take many forms, from missed mortgage repayments, unpaid bills, overuse of credit cards, or borrowing money from others.
Conclusion and support
In summary, you must seek help if you struggle to cope with anxiety. Click on the links below to discover more about other resources that offer support and advice about anxiety –