Self-care for anxiety
Anxiety can be extremely exhausting and can leave us feeling physically and emotionally drained.
In an ideal world we would all have friends and family readily available who we can turn to in times of crisis. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Sometimes it is down to us to soothe ourselves and replenish our resources to restore peace when we feel overwhelmed by our symptoms of anxiety.
Self-care for anxiety can come in many forms, but the main aim is to have a calming and sometimes distracting effect, so we are not entirely focused on our anxious thoughts. Below I will offer some suggestions for self-care methods that may be helpful in times of need.
It is often a good idea to watch or read something soothing and familiar to take your mind off the rushing thoughts and sensations that anxiety causes. Famously, Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting series is known to aid in reduction of anxious symptoms due to his calming voice, emphasis on creativity and positive reinforcement. Watching him warmly and mindfully creating scenic paintings of the natural world can be incredibly absorbing. This series is currently on Netflix (UK).
Anxiety can often come with a feeling of restlessness and butterflies in the stomach due to the adrenaline rushing through the system, bringing a feeling of wanting to do something, but being unable to due to rapid thoughts and concerns. If you are able, physical exercise can have a distracting and calming affect. Running in particular can be very beneficial, as the repetitive motion and meditative quality absorb the mind. If you are unable to run, walking is also an excellent way to wind down and reflect. Walking through parks and forests can be particularly rejuvenating.
Often, anxiety comes with a raised heart rate and a shortness of breath, with feelings of loss of control and physical danger that sometimes lead to panic attacks. Breathing exercises can help regulate the breath and restore a feeling of physical control. It is often a good idea to practice breathing exercises when feeling relatively calm, so you are familiar with the technique.
Prepare a “first aid” box:
It may be wise to collect soothing objects, books, activities (e.g nail varnish, cross stitch, puzzles) and photographs in a box so you have a readily available collection of positive things to distract and absorb the mind that are specific to you and your individual tastes.
A good thing to remember is that some things that may be soothing for one person could be stressful for another, so these are just suggestions, not hard and fast ‘cures.’ For example, suggesting a run to an anxious friend who is physically unable to exercise may add to feelings of panic and hopelessness. We are all very different, and self-knowledge is crucial when considering self-care.
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About Nadia Ramoul
I am an integrative counsellor based in East London, working with children and young people in schools and adults in my private practice, Sprouts Therapy. I specialise in anxiety, depression, relationship issues and bullying.