Five tips for surviving anxiety
Being in the grip of anxiety and panic can be completely disabling. It can contaminate anything or everything you do and can feel as if there is no escape. Thoughts can come so fast it feels like your head might explode. One neutral thought can turn into a disaster within your mind in seconds. The only respite is sleep and that can be hard to come by and end abruptly in a panic.
It’s exhausting, but there are things that can be helpful when anxiety has taken hold.
The world has speeded up. We are bombarded by information and have the tools to communicate at rates quicker than ever before. There is an implicit expectation that you as a human being can keep functioning faster and faster. That change can happen in the blink of an eye, that there is an immediate solution to every problem. And if you can’t, if it doesn’t, if there isn’t, you might feel that you have failed or there is something inherently wrong with you.
So apply my tips with compassion and kindness for yourself, with an awareness that you are human, and you have limits and that that’s ok. Use what feels helpful or achievable, leave what isn’t.
Breathing deeply can help to slow the body and mind. Practice this regularly, even for five minutes a day and call on it at times of particular stress.
Take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel the air enter your lungs, chest and as belly expands, slowly breathe out. Do this again. To help focus the mind, you can count each breath in and the next breath out until you reach number 10 and then start again. This can really help in the middle of a panic as well as reducing levels of anxiety over time.
Certain foods can heighten symptoms of anxiety. Cutting back on foods containing sugar, as well as caffeine and alcohol can help to reduce anxiety. Including more whole unprocessed foods like vegetables, good quality fish and meat, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. For more info check out Mind’s website, in particular their food and mood project.
Moving the body can help to rest the mind. Anxiety creates tension in the body. By moving your body, you can release some of this energy, helping you to feel more comfortable and a little calmer. Whether you walk, cycle, head for the gym, dance round the living room, do some yoga or something else, you may just feel a little more relaxed afterwards. Research shows that exercise reduces the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your ‘fight or flight' responses.
One way to slow down the worry and rumination that accompanies anxiety is to hand write every single thought that flows through your mind for a set period of time. Say 30 minutes. Because your hand has to move more slowly than your mind in order to write, it literally forces the thoughts to slow down. It is not important for the writing to be read once completed, it is the process of getting it out that can be helpful.
Spending time in nature can be very restorative. Going out to a park, walking amongst the woods or by the sea, feeling the sun on your face or wind through your hair, helps to connect you to something bigger than yourself. It is easy to forget in our busy urban dwelling lives that we are part of nature.
Though these methods can help to reduce or manage anxiety, talking about your feelings with a trusted person, exploring the causes underlying your anxiety can be of great help to letting them go.