Top 10 Tips for Managing Anxiety

If you ever experienced, or are experiencing, anxiety, know that you’re not alone. In fact, in the UK, 1 in 6 people claim to experience a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week.


There are some incredible resources and qualified individuals out there that can help you. Mind.org is an incredible organisation full of resources and opportunities to get help. The NHS offers immediate support and can help organise therapies if needed.


However, it’s always useful to explore the potential ways in which you can manage anxiety. While there can be many reasons for feeling anxious, there are some proven strategies that can help relieve anxiety, particularly for short term relief.


Tips for Managing Anxiety


1 - Regular Exercise


Exercise has been proven to help improve mental health and increase the ability to cope with stress. It doesn’t have to be intense HIIT workouts or marathons, but anything that will get your pulse racing and work up a sweat.


Studies show that the positive mental health effects of a vigorous training session can last for hours, and the effects of regular exercise extend beyond that.


Scientists have found that regular aerobic exercise reduces stress levels, boosts mood, helps improve sleep and improves self esteem.


Studies suggest that a 10 minute walk may be just as effective as a 45 minute workout.


Some evidence suggests that generally active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those with sedentary lifestyles.


Some great tips for regular exercise or movement to help manage anxiety include:


10 minute walk


Hour bicycle ride


45 minute HIIT class


Dance class


30 minute run


40 minute swim


2 - Limit or Cut Out Alcohol & Caffeine


Alcohol and caffeine can at first, feel like they’re helping with anxiety. It’s easy to turn to alcohol in a social situation when you’re feeling anxious, but your mental health will be much better off by cutting down.


Alcohol alters levels of serotonin and neurotransmitters related to mood in the brain. Once the alcohol itself wears off, the anxiety can actually worsen and end up lasting for days.


In terms of caffeine, consumption in small amounts can help improve your alertness, performance and lift levels of adrenaline. If you consume a high amount of caffeine, this can turn into anxiety. If you’ve ever over done it with the cups of coffee, you may have experienced anxiety symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, sweaty hands and a racing heart. For people with panic disorder and social anxiety, this can be even more pronounced, so it’s best limiting your caffeine intake.


3 - Get More Sleep


We cannot overstate the importance of getting a good quality night’s sleep. Your brain needs this time to process the day’s events and recover adequately for the next day. If you consistently miss out on sleep, your mood will be affected. Though sometimes, this can be a vicious circle. Anxiety can often make it difficult to sleep, leaving you tired and even more anxious the next day.


Thankfully, you can help break this cycle with a few tactics:


Exercise - work your body and tire yourself out. By the time you hit the hay, you’ll feel totally whacked and be more likely to nod off


Try a sleep supplement - melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body that signals when it’s time to sleep. Melatonin supplements help realign the sleep cycle and are particularly effective when it’s out of whack, ie. if you work night shifts or are jet lagged.


Therapy - see a qualified therapist who can help you overcome your anxiety and help improve your sleep


4 - Identify the Root Cause of your Anxiety


There is almost always a root cause of anxiety. Perhaps you work in a job that you hate, or are in a relationship that’s not suited to you, or maybe you need to change your lifestyle and social circle.


Identifying the potential cause of your anxiety will get to the root of the issue. Your gut may have been telling you “something is wrong” for a long time, but you haven’t quite heard it yet. Anxiety is like an alarm screaming “GET OUT OF HERE”, it’s your gut’s final shot at getting you to listen.


So what decision have you been putting off? What life do you truly want and are you doing everything to get there? Perhaps it’s time to face some difficult truths and take some positive steps.


5 - Rewire Your Brain With Positive Thinking


Psychologist Klaus Bernhardt says we can rewire our brain, no matter what thinking patterns have been ingrained. Anxiety thoughts are inherently negative - you’ll be going over negative thoughts and falling into negative spirals. However, you can totally rewire your brain to fall into more positive patterns. There is always the possibility to change!


Each time you get a rush of anxiety, try to identify the thought that just came before. Now is your chance to flip the script - override the negative or fear-based thought with a positive thought or thought process. Literally substitute it out - channel your energy there and then into flipping the script and make a habit of it. The Anxiety Cure is a great book that can help you do this.


6 - Eat Hearty Meals


Skipping meals can cause a drop in blood sugar which can leave you feeling jittery and on edge. This could worsen your underlying anxiety, particularly because your gut has a direct relationship with mood regulating hormone serotonin. Around 95% of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut, so make sure you’re enriching your diet with the right nutrients. Nutrients found to have a relationship with feelings of anxiety are:


Magnesium


Zinc


Omega-3 fatty acids


Probiotics


B Vitamins


These nutrients trigger the release of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine and are an important step in addressing anxiety.


7 - Try the 3-3-3 Rule


The key to managing anxiety right then and there is to bring yourself back into the present. Anxiety most often centres around worry or angst about the future. “What if…” is a common thought process that might pop into your head, so bringing yourself back to the present can help stop the worry train.


The 3-3-3 rule is quite simple: focus on three things that you can see, then three things that you can hear, and finally three body parts you can move. Focus every single cell in your body on these three tasks, focus completely and wholly, and finish off with three deep and slow breathes.


8 - Breathing Exercises


This is another great tip for grounding yourself in reality and the here and now. Focus on your breathing and count to four as you inhale and eight as you exhale. Do this for three minutes and set your timer so you can close your eyes and focus.


9 - Find Someone You Trust and Talk To Them


Talking is one of the most important things you can do. Reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or therapist. You’ll probably find that they start opening up about their own struggles and this can really help you realise that you’re not alone, and it means that they can support you. They might give you practical advice, a cuddle or some simple words or support, all of which can totally transform how you feel.


It doesn’t have to be somebody you know: therapists are a great source of support and advice without any vested interests. They will listen to you without judgement and offer you practical tips to help ease your anxiety.


10 - Keep a Note of What Brings You Joy and Ease


Open up your notes on your phone and write a list of all the things that make you feel better when you’re feeling anxious. It could be exercise, eating a sweet treat, talking to your best friend, journaling or some quality alone time.


When you next get a wave of anxiety, go to this list and pick one to do there and then. When you’re in the midst of anxiety, you may not have the clarity of thought to remember these things, which is why writing them down helps.


Summary


Anxiety can feel like your whole world is tumbling down, but the good news is, there’s always a way to calm it down. Lots of people experience it and it is a natural human emotion. Most of the time, there is no serious mental illness, it’s just a thought process or feeling that has gotten a little out of control.


The help is there if you need it. Mind is a great charity and they have some great resources for you to draw from. Changing Minds is also a website with lots of helpful free resources.

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