Anxiety is affecting more people than ever. Whether this means more people experience anxiety now, or that more people are speaking out about it, is one of the big questions, but either way, it is clearly an important and widespread issue.
Everyone’s experience of anxiety is unique to them, and the things that help will vary from person to person.
I have put together some different tips and coping strategies to try when suffering form anxiety:
Reading provides your brain with something to think about and immerse itself into. It can slow heart rate and release tension. It doesn’t matter what you read, but choose something that you know will usually hold your attention; so for some people it could be a great novel, for others it could be a textbook on something that really interests you. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, then something that holds your attention but isn’t too taxing to take in is a good choice.
Anxiety can feel like a lot of nervous energy. Converting this energy into something physical can make a real difference. When anxiety hits, it can be paralysing and the last thing we might feel like doing is something active. But if you can make yourself move, just a little, it gives the energy somewhere to go and also provides a little distraction. Just doing some stretches or star jumps, or lying on the floor and lifting your legs up and down can all help.
When we are in the midst of anxiety it can take over our daily thoughts, becoming all consuming. Practicing gratitude can be an effective way to notice and reflect on the positive things that are happening around you.
A simple gratitude exercise I recommend to get started is this:
At the end of every day, think of three things you are grateful for, however big or small. It can help to say them out loud or write them down. Do this every day before bed.
When we feel tense and anxious our breathing can become shallow, or we can find ourselves holding our breath without realising we’re doing it. Try this simple breathing exercise:
Breathe in for 5 seconds
Hold for 5 seconds
Breathe out for 5 seconds.
Repeat this for as long as you want. In time you could extend the seconds for each step, up to 10 seconds.
If you can, get outside and go for a walk. Even if it’s just for 15 mins. Fresh air and exercise are invaluable for helping us feel better. If you can try and be mindful on this walk, then bonus points!
For an easy mindful walking exercise, think of a colour, and then make a mental note to yourself whenever you see it on the walk. This really encourages you to stay present and take in your surroundings.
This too shall pass
Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes when we are suffering from crippling anxiety and none of our coping strategies are working, it can feel hopeless. Sometimes accepting where we are in the moment can help. Nothing lasts forever and this feeling will pass. Be kind to yourself.
Do you think you would benefit from really talking this through with someone?
It’s great to open up to friends or family, but sometimes we need to talk to someone who is removed from our life. Whom we can be completely honest with, without worrying about them. Getting to the bottom of why we feel anxious and looking at what we can do to help ourselves can be a difficult yet rewarding experience. A trained counsellor could do this with you in a confidential and non judgemental environment.
Laura is a private counsellor in South West London.
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