Getting a grip on my anxiety has been at the forefront of my mind for the last few weeks and honestly, it’s been a constant battle to stop it spiralling out of control. I’d like to say it creeps up on me unexpectedly, but in actual fact it’s a prominent feature in my own personal background noise. It does however really ramp up when I have a make big decision to make. That uncomfortable feeling of having to make the ‘right choice’… when neither of the options feel completely certain or right, sends my stomach churning and my heart racing.
I think my anxiety first started to become a “thing” during my second year of University (you can read more about that experience here). The panic I felt at being completely alone, out of my depth and seemingly stuck in a place that I wasn’t prepared to be mentally is a very similar feeling to what I experience now when I have an unwelcome bout of anxiety.
I wish I was a little tougher when it comes to keeping these sometimes debilitating feelings in check, but over time I have learned a few techniques that I rely upon to help try and turn the tide on these negative feelings. That being said – I don’t want to fool you and give you the impression that these are fail-safe ways to instantly cure anxiety completely. I can read and share as many pretty instagram graphics about self-care as I like, but sometimes they just don’t work and I have to sit with the discomfort of my anxiety until I have made that all important final decision and moved on. Life isn’t as easy as having a ‘hot fruity tea’ and being more ‘mindful’ – I wish it was. But I do believe that some of my techniques help get me through my most anxious times – and maybe they can help you too.
1. Be kind to yourself
I used to to be quite unkind during the pep talks I would have with myself. I noticed that I would say things to myself that I wouldn’t dream of saying to my loved ones in their times of need. Things like, “Don’t be stupid”, “Stop it – you’re being dramatic”, “Just forget about it” etc. After conversations like this, I’d unsurprisingly be left feeling even more anxious and upset. I have consciously tried to make small changes in how I speak to myself and rephrase those conversations and instead say things like, “Try and be rationale”, “Stay calm, think it through”, “This decision won’t kill anyone”. Those small changes make a huge difference and I actively try and be kinder to myself when I feel at my lowest. After all, we are all just trying to navigate our way through this weird and wonderful life aren’t we?
2. Soak in the bath
A long, long time ago I read somewhere that taking a bath could scientifically relieve stress. This is the reason I give my husband every time he poses the question – “Not another bath?”. I must disappear to soak in the bath at least 6 days a week – and it would be more if I could squeeze it in – much to his annoyance (hello there water bill!). However the science behind it proves that baths reduce muscle tension, expand your lungs to help you breath easier and increases melatonin which aids sleep. Not to mention the perfect excuse for yet another face mask and bath bomb! But importantly a bath also gives me the space and isolation I need to think about how I am feeling and put plans in place to help me get through whatever it is I am worrying about (using the advice in my first point). I genuinely believe it helps get me through each week and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a little escapism and r’n’r.
3. Try a Jigsaw
Now, my friends laugh at me for this one. “Aren’t jigsaws for the under 6’s or the over 60’s”, they ask? But the logical order and process of completing a jigsaw helps me to switch off the busy part of my brain and concentrate solely on the task at hand, with no room for other daunting thoughts. Hours can pass me by as I work to find and fit the pieces together, constantly using my brain and hands in unison. Often that is enough to see me through a particularly anxious spell and by the time I resurface I wonder what I was so worried about in the first place. Other times it is merely a period of rest bite from those anxious feelings, and some days that’s all I can ask for.
4. Fresh air
I love going for a quick walk round the block or a longer adventure out in the countryside – with my trusty sidekick Rhubarb running at my heels. But I also find great calm from sitting outdoors in the sunshine, eating alfresco or doing some gardening. I know that these activities aren’t for everyone, but breathing in the fresh air in big or small doses and the physical act of just getting out of the house helps me get out of my own head. This has been especially beneficial during this unusual period of lockdown that we’ve been living with recently.
No surprises here but putting my brain into planning something (anything), is often a welcome distraction. Whether that is by getting my cook books out and planning meals for the week ahead or planning some social activities with friends, it’s an action that I have control over, and sometimes that is all it takes to break my anxious spell.
If you try just one of these and it helps you in anyway, then the years I have spent fine tuning these techniques will have been worth it. I’d love to hear your top tips for managing your own anxiety related issues. Please do leave me a comment, as I am always eager to learn more about ways to relieve anxiety and live a happier life.