Anxiety is a common and natural response to stress, but when it becomes overwhelming and chronic, it can significantly impact your quality of life. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to help manage and reduce anxiety levels. In this blog post, we’ll explore five practical ways to tackle anxiety and regain control over your emotional well-being.
Practice Mindfulness and Deep Breathing
Very honestly when I was in a state of chronic anxiety being told to breathe deeply wasn’t exactly something that I found helpful! But deep, slow breaths can help calm your nervous system and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Try this exercise: inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of six. Repeat this process several times whenever you’re feeling anxious. Making the exhale longer than the inhale causes the vagus nerve to send signals to the brain to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and easing the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze).
Mindfulness is word that get used a lot, but it is a powerful tool for managing anxiety. It involves staying present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. When you’re mindful, you can identify and challenge anxious thoughts as they arise. Rather than thinking about all the possible outcomes of something that might not ever happen, focus on the right here right now rather than letting the mind spiral to often unhelpful thoughts.
Establish a Consistent Routine
Consistency in your daily routine can be a stabilising force in your life, especially when anxiety disrupts your sense of control. Create a schedule that encourages regular sleep patterns, healthy meals, exercise, and relaxation. This predictability can help alleviate anxiety by providing a sense of structure and security.
Physical activity is not only good for your body but also for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, and it can also help reduce stress hormones. Whether it’s a walk (ideally in nature), a pilates class, or a high-intensity workout, finding an exercise routine that you enjoy can be a valuable tool for managing anxiety. Find what works for you and include it your routine.
Limit Stimulants and Practice Self-Care
Certain substances can exacerbate anxiety. Limiting or avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can help reduce anxiety levels. In my case, I find staying off alcohol if I’m feeling particularly anxious helpful, as I sleep better without it and I avoid overstimulating my nervous system. Instead focus more on a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Make self-care a regular part of your routine to help prevent anxiety from taking hold.
Think about what you find relaxing, calming and soothing and do more of it – if you like a warm bath have more of them. If it’s meditation, journaling or indulging in a hobby you love do more of that. Prioritising you isn’t being selfish; if anything it makes better able to be the best version of you.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when dealing with anxiety. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can provide a safe space to share your feelings and gain valuable insights. Therapy, in particular, offers evidence-based techniques to help you understand and cope with your anxiety. Speak to your GP about counselling through the NHS or try services like Caravan Drop-in Counselling that offer free counselling and emotional support.
Additionally, consider joining a support group or engaging in online communities where you can connect with others who are going through similar experiences. Sharing your struggles and hearing about others’ journeys can be both comforting and informative.
Managing anxiety is an ongoing process, and what works best can vary from person to person. It’s essential to experiment with different strategies to find what works for you. Remember that seeking professional help is always an option if anxiety is severely impacting your life. By incorporating mindfulness, maintaining a consistent routine, exercising regularly, seeking support, and practicing self-care, you can take significant steps toward reducing anxiety and regaining control over your mental and emotional well-being.