Mental Health - Coping with Anxiety
Anxiety is a survival response, not an illness. But it’s a response that can go wrong, sometimes to the point that it hinders rather than helps. Like a guard dog that feels like its helping even as it bites the leg of the friendly postman, your anxiety response kicks in because it senses a threat, even though that perceived threat may not actually be real.
I am coming into contact more and more with people who suffer from anxiety, both generally and severe cases. So I would like to offer some advice to you or someone you know who suffers to help make sense of it. But first, you need to put on your positivity wellies so we can jump in the negativity puddles!
I have researched all the available guidance out there, added in my own advice through my client’s experiences and have put it all into this Anxiety DO’s and DON’T’s blog, without sounding like I’m the fun police I hope you find it helpful!
If you have generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), there are many ways to help ease the symptoms of anxiety yourself.
TRY SOME SELF-HELP CBT - There are lots of books and courses that can help you learn to cope with your anxiety. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) only recommends trying treatments based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)…
CBT is a type of psychological treatment that can help you manage your anxiety by changing negative or unhelpful thoughts and behaviour.
If there is not a long-term trauma associated with your anxiety a really good CBT exercise you can do is to write down the issue that is making you most anxious and see what consequence we will feel, for example;
If you fear attending a party you might ask yourself,
“What consequence do I fear?”
You might decide, “I fear meeting new people.”
But what is the consequence of that? “They might not like me!”
But what is the consequence of that? “I will feel upset.”
But what is the consequence of that? “I will feel that I am unlikable!”
And so on. Then you can go on to, “But how will I deal with that?”
“I will remember people who do like me.”
“I will soon forget about the party.”
“I will remember that I can be wrong when assuming people don’t like me.”
Or you can take a blank piece of paper, title it with your issue, draw a line down the centre and write ‘positives’ one side and ‘negatives’ the other and start to fill the columns in and then look at your negatives and weigh them up against the positives and the likelihood of those negatives actually happening.
Set yourself some long term goals, write them down, then set some stepping stone goals so you can see how you are going to get there, treat yourself everytime you tick one off.
EXERCISE REGULARLY - Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, may help you combat stress and release tension. It also encourages your brain to release serotonin, which can improve your mood. Examples of good aerobic exercises include…
Walking fast or jogging, swimming, cycling, tennis, hiking, football or rugby, aerobics. You should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Moderate-intensity exercise should raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster. If going to the gym makes you more anxious, don’t do it, don’t put yourself through it, there are many other options, find one that suits you.
Actually, my clients tell me that they found any form of exercise is great, not only are they fitter and healthier, it acts as a distraction, whatever you’re doing it’s more than you did yesterday. Tai chi and yoga are excellent for your mind and your body equilibrium.
RELAX - As well as regular exercise, learning how to relax is important. Massage and meditation are wonderful for this. You can learn a guided meditation or just be still…
Get somewhere on your own, turn everything off; the TV, the computer, your phone, the bath or hot tub is a good place for this, or sat on your bed, in the outdoors, on the train, anywhere, if at home though light a few candles, put some uplifting essential oils in a burner or in your bath water. Think about what your life is demanding of you and how best to put it into practice. Prioritise, organise and think about what task to take on next, how you will achieve it and then move on to the next thing. It will all come to you. Write it down if you need to and cross it off as you complete the tasks, it will take that heavy burden from your shoulders and allow you to become serene and competent in your life. If you decide you need to delegate or ask someone to help you, just ask them.
Massage is also fantastic for anxiety, stress and depression, ask your therapist to include some essential oils for extra benefit.
AVOID PROCESSED AND MANUFACTURED FOOD - So if it has been prepared or cooked by someone else try not to eat it. We have to be realistic, in the 21st century we do not have time to make bread, crisps, crackers etc., etc., but if we can apply this to the maximum amount of food we can we will at least be consciously trying to do the best we can for our mind and body health…
In my talking therapy sessions, I ask my clients to complete a diary of their mood and a diary of their food between sessions, so I can see if there is any direct correlation to their issues. And, of course, there is. You can print my food and mood diaries to see if your food is affecting your mood.
In order to be well all over- mind and body, we must be aware of everything we are putting in our bodies, like; food, drink, chemicals, exercise of any kind, prescribed and non-prescribed drugs, and then, all the things we put in our mind, like; stress, anxiousness, worry and pressure. All in the correct amounts beneficial to our holistic health.
DON’T DRINK CAFFEINE - Drinking too much caffeine can make you more anxious than normal. This is because caffeine can disrupt your sleep and also speed up your heartbeat. If you're tired, you're less likely to be able to control your anxious feelings…
Coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and particularly energy drinks - which also deliver nearly 14 teaspoons of sugar per can and lots of other additives and chemicals.
AVOID SMOKING AND ALCOHOL - Smoking and alcohol have been shown to make anxiety worse. Only drinking alcohol in moderation or stopping smoking may help to reduce your anxiety…
To reduce the risk of harming your health:
Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
Spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
Fourteen units are equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
STEP AWAY FROM CANNABIS, CBD AND THC PRODUCTS - In short, while there is some evidence that some derivatives of cannabis could help some people in the very short term, there is no scientific evidence that proves a bit of weed might be helpful for your anxiety…
If you find something that does work for whatever type of anxiety you’re experiencing, that’s great, however, there is evidence that long-term use of any form of cannabis will worsen your anxiety, even adding in some negative side effects.
CREATE A HAPPY ENVIRONMENT - Rearrange the furniture, have a good de-clutter or clean up, make it smell good with some essential oils, brighten your rooms up with inexpensive sparkly lights and candles…
Essential Oils - can be used in oil burners, not only to make your home smell gorgeous but inhaling the aromas will have wonderful effects on your mood depending on which oils you use. You can add them to base oil in massage, add them to your bath water, sprinkle on a cotton hankerchief for a boost while you’re out, or use skin care products that have them incorporated. Essential oils balance you, help you sleep, keep you calm, revitalise you, uplift your mood, relax you, refresh you and stimulate you, they can help circulation, digestion, congestion, constipation and respiration, they help muscle aches, joint pain, stress, depression, anxiety and pain relief, they take care of your skin, your hair, your mood and your appetite, they fight fungal infections, menstrual symptoms, hormonal imbalances, arthritis and rheumatism. My top picks for anxiety, with my Aromatherapist hat on are; Geranium; rich and nurturing is an Antidepressant, Adrenal balancing (helps to balance the adrenal cortex and the effects of Adrenal dysfunction), fight/flight response, floods of adrenalin through the system. Rosemary; when I need an oil to clarify thoughts and spur me on it is Rosemary which comes gallantly to the rescue. Lavender; supports the nervous system while assisting to reduce Hypertension, Headaches and Insomnia which are all associated symptoms of anxiety.
Lights - Buy some sparkly lights, scented candles or pretty lamps, it all helps to make you happy especially if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Declutter - get rid of all that ‘stuff’ that’s been hanging around for months, re arrange the furniture, have a good clean up. It will celar your mind and set you on a path to ‘seeing the wood for the trees’, if you have all that stuff hanging around it weighs you down, oppresses you without you even realising.
GET SOME THERAPY - Obviously, depending on your issue depends on how much time you will need in therapy. Some issues, like surprisingly, traumas, can take one or two sessions. Depression and anxiety can become more tolerable after only one session…
Any issues can at least become easier to deal with once you start therapy, just talking about it is a massive weight off many people’s shoulders, so don’t put it off any longer!
Unfortunately, the NHS and charity waiting lists are usually around 6 – 12 months long, so, if you do have an issue, sign yourself up now! There are of course, like The Therapy Shed, private therapists, whom you can usually get in to see pretty quickly. We have sessions available this week.
We are based in Newcastle under Lyme, near Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, but can effectively chat over the telephone or video application wherever you are. Our sessions are £40 for 60 minutes, which includes your session email summary. In other practises you can expect to pay between £40 and £150.
Try it, it’s only talking, getting a new perspective and you don’t have to sign yourself up for anything.
Have a positive week and be kind to yourself, you can take the wellies off now! Denise x