Mental Health Awareness Week: Managing Anxiety
The last few years have been incredibly anxiety provoking with first the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it begins to impact our ability to live our lives as fully as we want to. However, feeling some anxiety is normal, especially when we’re in a high-pressure situation like an exam, job interview or doctor’s appointment. So, how do we manage anxiety?
Take control of what you can
When it comes to worries, we can often focus on things that we have little influence over, which only serves to make anxiety worse. It can be worth writing down what the causes of your anxiety are, and one by one, look at what is in your control for each of those worries, and writing down what action you can take. It is not always easy to do this when you are feeling overwhelmed, so perhaps enlist a friend to help, offering to help with theirs in return. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself “can I do anything about this right now?” if the answer is no, then it is important to find a distraction to take your mind off your worry for a while.
Taking in the good
We as human beings tend to focus on the negatives but increasing our daily diet of positive emotions can help counter anxiety and improve our wellbeing. This doesn’t mean seeking out only pleasurable activities and ignoring negative emotions, it just means keeping a balanced mindset. One of the ways we can do this is by keeping a positive or grateful diary to encourage our brains to be more balanced. Another way we can encourage more positivity is by staying with the good . Often, when good things happen to us we allow the emotions to wash over us rather than lingering on the experience. By staying with the good, our brain’s neurons fire up, and start to ‘wire’ that experience into our brain countering negative anxious thoughts.
Get it off your chest and connect with others
Nothing feeds stress and anxiety more than bottling it up and feeling alone with it all. Talking to someone will not get rid of the sources of your anxiety, but it might give you a bit of perspective and hopefully if you feel less alone, you will also feel more able to face your challenges. At Manchester Mind, a lot of our services are about getting people together so that they can share and support each other. From our resilience courses, to our food for all sessions, and peer support groups, participants repeatedly tell us how good it feels to feel connected to others, and that they feel less isolated and more able to cope.
Prioritise good sleep
Worries and stresses can keep us awake at night, but poor sleep leads to low mood and difficulty focusing and thinking. Do what you can to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep. Give yourself a good sleep window, avoid alcohol and electronic devices before bed and get some natural light early in the day to reset the body’s natural rhythms. Find out more about how to improve your sleep.
Tips to Relieve Anxiety
We can feel anxiety in different ways. Sometimes we experience mental worries or racing thoughts but we can also feel anxiety physically. This is often referred to as the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response when our body’s nervous system feels it’s under threat.
We cannot eliminate anxiety in our lives altogether but we can do some things to help us cope. It’s not a one-size-fits all when it comes to managing anxiety but why not try some of these tips?
- Grounding meditation: Bellybreathing alone is a great way to calm our anxious body but alongside it you can try listing one thing you can see, touch, hear, smell and taste to ground yourself. This can help calm the racing mind, which can often get very carried away on its own.
- Body awareness: Repeating phrases can calm ourselves down when we’re experiencing high levels of anxiety. Some useful phrases might include: “I’m sitting on the chair, I’m safe. My heart is still beating, my body’s still breathing. I’m reasonably okay.”
- Get out in nature: Nature can be very calming, lowering blood pressure and lifting our mood. If you have not got any green space close by even looking at a calming natural scene such as a photo, or perhaps a gentle nature documentary might do the trick. Find out more about nature and mental health on our self-care hub.
- Look after your physical health: Making sure our bodies are physically healthy can help our mental health follow. Keeping yourself physically healthy to reduce anxiety includes getting enough sleep, thinking about your diet and trying to do some physical activity. All of which can help stabilise your mood and improve wellbeing.
- Talk to someone you trust: Talking to someone about your worries can help you feel less alone. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to someone close to you, the Samaritans and Anxiety UK both run helplines that you can call to talk to someone.
- Lots of people find gardening therapeutic, and it’s definitely a great stress reliever. Find out more about social and therapeutic gardening sessions for residents of Manchester.