Do you struggle with anxiety?
According to Beyond Blue, in any year more than 2 million Australians experience anxiety at some point. It is the most common type of mental illness in Australia, however seems to be less talked about than depression – perhaps because it is not as easy to understand.
While some people consider anxiety to be the feeling of stress or worry, as a mental illness, it is in fact far more than this. Anxiety is a sense of foreboding, often feeling like you are going to die, or that something terrible is going to happen, regardless of your life circumstances.
For a person with anxiety, everything could be perfect in their life, and yet that sense of anguish and worry still exists. As someone who has personally experienced both Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, I have come to learn how to manage my anxiety every day.
While some days are easier than others, I have found the following simple tips have helped me significantly (as well as my clients who also experience anxiety).
When you are in an anxious state, your breathing automatically shallows, as your body shifts into the fight or flight response.
To counteract this, deep breathing is SO important, as it instantly relaxes your nervous system and sends messages to your brain that you are safe.
Daily meditation is wonderful for this, however if you are just starting out, focus on mindful breathing. Breathe in your nose, right into the pit of your belly, hold for 4 counts and then breathe out for as long as possible. The longer your exhale, the more relaxed your body will become over time.
For a lot of people with anxiety, the feeling of thoughts racing, and so much activity going on in their head, can be too much to bare. A regular journaling practice will help get thoughts out of your head and onto the page.
Each morning, as soon as you wake, write a ‘brain dump’ of every thought in your head. Notice how ever time your head becomes clearer and clearer by doing this.
Talk it out
Psychologists, therapists and coaches are trained in assisting people experiencing mental illness. Talking it out with an external third party can be the biggest stress relief you will find.
My psychologist helped me immensely through a particularly anxious period, and I am grateful to be able to help my clients now, alongside their own psychologists, as their wellbeing coach.
Feel whatever comes up
Try not to label your emotions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Acknowledge if you are feeling stressed or tired. Learn to read how your body feels, and then allow yourself to create the space to feel them.
If you feel exhausted, create space in your day to rest without guilt. If you feel sad, allow yourself to cry. It is okay not to feel okay every single day.
Exercise is a wonderful means of releasing built up stress, energy and you also get the added benefit of endorphins. If your anxiety is affecting your sleep, try exercising in the morning rather than before bed.
Find an activity that you genuinely enjoy doing and look forward to rather than one that feels like a chore.
Steer clear of sugar, caffeine and processed foods
This is a tough one. If you are prone to anxiety and panic attacks, try to minimise as much caffeine and sugar as possible – yes, that means no coffee. I even have some of my clients minimise the green tea they drink.
Caffeine peaks adrenaline which encourages the fight or flight response, which fuels anxiety. Opt for herbal teas and natural sugars (like in berries) instead.
On the topic of food, be conscious to eat every couple of hours. Anxiety can peak when blood sugar levels drop, so ensure you are getting an adequate amount of protein with every meal and even your snacks. Click here for some healthy snack alternatives
My naturopath has helped immensely with managing my anxiety levels and nervous system. Medications are also available through your GP.
However if this is not for you, and you would prefer a more natural route, speak to your naturopath about holistic options.
Manage your sleep
Anxious people need more sleep than most – all of this running on adrenaline over time can lead to serious burn out and fatigue (trust me, I have been there, and it isn’t fun). Start a nightly ritual allowing you to really switch off and wind down an hour before bed.
Use lavender essential oil to relax and aim for 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night or our favorite sleepy tea, read more here
How do you manage your anxiety? If you are feeling anxious, remember there is always help available. Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or schedule an appointment with our wellness coach.