Whether you’re young or old, single or married, a popular person or a hermit, we all suffer stress and anxiety at some time. It may be a day at work, a stressful period of your life (like moving) or it can even be year-long bouts of poor mental health.
This blog is aimed at anyone suffering from anxiety or stress, or anyone looking to bring more peace and calm into their lives. It will help give your thoughts and emotions some special care and attention, like we do our bodies, yet somehow we forget to give our minds.
I have personally suffered with anxiety for a few years now, with symptoms ranging from anxiety attacks, low moods, anger and withdrawal. Here is a list I’ve put together on how I achieve a healthy balanced mind and body. I urge you to explore all these options at your own pace and find out which ones work best for you.
Any kind of exercise you enjoy.
It takes our mind off things and allows us to be present, it uses physical energy to help us sleep better and releases those feel good endorphins for long after we’ve finished.
Who knows, it may even improve your physical health too!
Any kind of yoga; power yoga, hot yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, the list of different styles of yoga is endless nowadays.
It uses physical energy, helps to calm and de-stress the mind and encourages us to be present. You can learn breathing techniques as well as meditation and mindfulness. If you suffer with anxiety, I can understand that you may be afraid to join a new class like this. We envisage lots of young ballerina-esque type babes, with the flexibility of a rubber band, but most yoga studios and especially gym based yoga classes are nothing of the sort! Yoga is about being kind to yourself and to others so any good teacher will welcome you with open arms and no judgement.
3. Go For A Walk
If you’re in a type of mood you can’t shake off, feeling some kind way or have zero energy, put your shoes on, grab a coat (it’s the uk, its cold all the time!) and go for a walk outside.
Round the block, through a park, who cares. Just get outside and start walking, no intention, no goal. Leave the phone at home if you can’t resist temptation. It will not only change your mindset in 30 minutes but also gives you a chance to discover and see new things, even in your own neighbourhood.
4. Get Outdoors
Following on from walking, why not bike, hike, run, sit in a park or even wonder the town shops. Fresh air and vitamin D make a fantastic concoction to enhance the mind, increase relaxation and help us be present.
Being present is when our mind and body are in the here and now, as opposed to our body being in the here and our mind being right back in that argument we had with someone at work yesterday! Being in the present moment features heavily in my ways to combat anxiety.
Learning how to meditate must be the ultimate gift we can give our mind. I say learning because actually, if your new to it, it can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Like, how do you do it? What are you meant to do, just sit there and not think?
Rest assured, there are many ways to start out. If you have little time (or more likely feel like you have little time), start out by setting yourself little 1 to 2 minute goals, a couple of times a day. Maybe morning, lunch and before you go to bed. Just set the intention that you are going to sit quietly for a certain amount of time, no person or phone to disturb you. Start by listening to your breath, slow it down and set a timer if needed.
If you have more time, there is a world full of guided meditation classes online you can listen to for free. Once you learn what you like, you can even choose your own style of meditating… because hey, who says there is only one way to reach our zen?
Whether its two minutes or thirty, meditation has also been proven to have physical effects on the body. It can actually lower our stress hormone called Cortisol, which is a hormone responsible for holding onto excess weight around our middle!
This follows on perfectly from meditation, as in a way, it’s a form of it. Again, mindfulness can seem pretty difficult to the beginner but the main goal is stopping and re checking your thoughts.
If you are getting caught up in past events or need time out from the problems happening now, take 5 minutes away from everything and practice quick mindfulness techniques to bring you back to the present moment or quiet the mind. It could be simply listening and naming the sounds you can hear around you (music, people, electrical items etc). You can use this technique with all your senses, for example, what you see or physically feel. Just relax and observe.
A favourite mindfulness technique of mine is called Earthing or Grounding. Spending a moment every day (I usually do it first thing in the morning), going outside bare foot and really feeling the ground beneath the soles of my feet. I’ll step out on to my grass in the garden and just pad my feet up and down slowly. This can be done anywhere, on any terrain; the coolness of concrete, the dampness of the grass or even sand between your toes. If you are a spiritual person you may feel the electrifying benefits of the Earth’s magnetic energy when doing this and if not, at least you can feel the comforting feeling of just being grounded.
I love to start my day by listening to inspiring and motivating podcasts. I’ll chose a new episode of someone I follow and listen in every morning. For me personally, Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk ALWAYS get me out of bed and raring to take on life with both hands.
There are thousands of podcasts out there for all different interests. I also like to listen to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, a podcast where Fearne interviews all different people, from all walks of life, about mental health, mental health awareness and how others tackle it.
8. A Good Night’s Rest
Just like our bodies need to rest and recover after a gym session, our brains too, need down time after their own 12-16 hour daily gym sessions aka Life!
Getting those all important Z’s allow our brains to recover and organise our thoughts from the day. Just like a busy day in a shop, our brain needs to spend time cleaning up, putting things back on the shelf and preparing for the next days work. A good nights sleep is essential for our mind and bodies to function fully and at its best.
Although getting a good nights sleep is not always down to our conscious selves, we can help prepare our bodies by having a relaxing hot bath, using a calming aromatherapy oil, like lavender or chamomile, and staying away from stimulants like caffeine, TV or our phones nearer to bed time.
9. Meet With Friends
If you have a tendency to be a social phobe like me and anxiety often gets the best of you, I cannot tell you how important and life changing actually making an effort to meet with your friends, can be.
I know, I totally get it, making plans with friends is easy but keeping them is a different story! Stick to something simple like a coffee or lunch, with one or two friends and the refreshing break will be a much welcome visitor in that over active mind of yours.
If you choose to discuss matters troubling you with your friends, you will feel a great weight lifted off your shoulders almost instantly. If you don’t feel like sharing, the socialising, laughs and smiles make the meeting worthwhile, regardless!
10. Eat Well
We all know the saying ‘Eat Rubbish, Feel Like Rubbish’, well that’s not just aimed at our physical body’s, it goes for our brain too!
Nourishing our body with vitamins and minerals will ensure that our mind is working at its optimum. It is particularly important to consume fish like salmon, filled with brain boosting omega 3’s, which have been proven to help brain function and depression, healthy fats like avocado, to improve memory and cognitive skills and vitamin B6 rich food like spinach and cauliflower, to increase Serotonin, otherwise known as our Happy Hormone.
11. Less Caffeine
For me, this is a huge factor in my anxiety! Sometimes, I’ll have a panic attack for no reason and when I stop to analyse why, it will be because I’ve had something high in caffeine an hour before!
Tea (black tea and some green teas too), coffee, chocolate, caffeinated drinks and pre-workout/energy drinks all contain caffeine and the more we drink, the more we need of it to get the same stimulation.
You don’t have to be caffeine sensitive to notice the detrimental effects of caffeine on our emotions and thoughts. Caffeine builds up our adrenaline supply, increases heart rate and gets the blood pumping – these effects mixed with an already anxious person or fragile mind is not a great combination!
12. Digital Detox
Another major contributing factor to anxiety and stress is social media and our smart phone or tablets. We all know it, but yet we all struggle to distance ourselves.
From seeing perfect Instagram models, making us feel inadequate, scrolling through endless, mindless news feeds of our ‘so called’ friends on Facebook, to being able to receive our work emails 24 hours a day. Treat yourself to a digital detox every now and then. Prove to yourself that you have control over the use of your tablet and that it doesn’t control you!
The time you do spend on your blue screen buddies, make it productive. Listen to mediations on YouTube, inspiring podcasts or writing helpful blogs! (wink!)
If you ever feel lonely, unwanted, or useless, I guarantee there is a charity out there that needs you, your time and the individual qualities only you have!
Whether its working with animals, the homeless, old people or a charity close to your heart, there are literally thousands of organisations out there that are desperate for you to volunteer.
Selfishly, it will keep you busy, help you meet new people and give you that warm feeling inside, knowing you are doing something good.
With social media rocketing over the last ten years, reading really has taken a downturn and has become majorly underrated.
If you read fiction books for a bit of escapism or factual books to improve your knowledge, you will never run out of options of books to read. Being engrossed in a good book can lift your mood and reduce your stress levels by up to 60%.
This may sound strange, but remember the smell of your local library when you was younger? The memories it brings back? So why not go old school and read a book!
15. Get A Pet
Now I know this one is not a practical treatment for anxiety for everyone, but my god does it work!!
They bring unconditional love, happiness, routine, regular exercise and companionship. If you’ve had a pet, you will now these emotive feelings well!
If your circumstances, like mine, don’t allow you to get a pet of your own, there are companies out there like ‘Borrow My Doggy’, where you can walk and love other people’s pets and then give them back! I couldn’t think of anything more perfect!
So there you have, my top 15 things to decrease anxiety and stress and increase happiness and peace.
I bring this blog to you, in aid of Mental Heath Awareness Week (14-20th May), but it is not a blog to be read once and all your problems will be solved. Keep checking back to these tips, find what works for you and maybe add some of your own anxiety busters in the comments section below. As I said at the beginning, these tips are from my own experience of poor mental health and what has helped me in the past and still help me today, in the present.
I am, by no means, qualified in any mental health illnesses. Some serious mental health problems can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain as well as other medically related imbalances, to which, if you have exhausted all of the above and still face troubles, I advise you to seek professional advice. There are some fantastic professional treatments out there and available to you.
Remember: Its ok not to be ok.
As always I look forward to hearing and reading your feedback on here or on my social channels: @Lilfitmiss on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you for reading,