We’ve all felt anxiety at some point – the sweaty palms before a job interview, the butterflies before a first date, the dry mouth before making an important phone call, but for some of us, anxiety can be something we live with every day and can be so debilitating if can stop us from living the life we want to.
I have anxiety myself – not a claim you’d expect a counsellor to make, but I’ll telling you this to let you know that it can affect anyone at any time, and there is no shame in it. It’s not a guilty little secret we need to keep hidden. In fact, the more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes, because it is a normal response when we are unsure, uncertain, or not feeling in control.
As I write this, in May 2020, we are currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we knew it has changed for the vast majority of us, and if there was any time to be unsure, uncertain or not in control, then this is it! So it should come to no surprise that a lot of us are feeling anxious at the moment.
So, we’ve acknowledged we’re feeling anxious, now what can we do about it?
Well, as anxiety can occur when we feel we’re not in control, we can help lessen the effects of anxiety by finding things in our lives that we can control.
Here are some things you could try:*
*Disclaimer alert! This is by no means a definitive list, and I’m not saying that if you do all the things on the list, you will be ‘cured’ of your anxiety! It is merely a list of suggestions that may help reduce your feelings of anxiety to a more manageable level.
- Get into a routine
Try timetabling your day, so you get up and go to bed at the same time each day, and the rest of your day is divided into ‘chunks’ of activities. That way, you always know what you’re going to do next and, if like me you love a to-do list, you also get the satisfaction and sense of achievement by ticking things off as you go.
- Eat and drink healthily
It’s the old adage of ‘you get out what you put in’. It’s very tempting to live off unhealthy food, especially as it can feel comforting to do so, but it can lead to a sluggish body and sluggish mind, which isn’t great for your mood. I’m not saying you should avoid unhealthy food or drink altogether (I’m not giving up crisps for anyone!), but you may find you enjoy them more when that chocolate cake and glass of wine are saved for treats.
Aim to do 30 minutes a day if you can, but any is better than none. Exercise can help release tension, boost your energy, and help you sleep. Extra points if you get some fresh air too!
- Talk to others about how you’re feeling
Tell your friends, family or a professional how you’re feeling. As I said earlier, anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. Talking to others can help stop you from becoming overwhelmed by your feelings.
- Avoid/limit your news intake
On any ‘normal’ day, the news is full of negativity with reports of death and suffering and political point scoring, but at the moment, coronavirus is the only topic of conversation and it’s difficult to ignore when it’s on every news bulletin. Being consistently exposed to negativity can fuel anxiety, so try avoiding the news where you can, or limit yourself to watching/reading just one report a day.
- Prune social media
Social media can be great – a way of keeping in touch with friends and family and what’s happening in the world, but beware of what else is going on… Not only can there be a lot of negative posts and comments, you can also see posts of people’s seemingly ‘perfect’ life which can leave us feeling not very good about ourselves if we feel our life doesn’t match up. Avoiding or limiting your time on social media can help (a Facebook-free day once a week, anyone?), but if that all sounds a bit drastic, try unfollowing or muting the people whose posts have the tendency to bring you down or wind you up.
- Take action
Is there is something you need to do that is causing you anxiety? Do you really need to do it? Writing a list of the pros and cons can help you make a decision as to whether to do it or not. But if you really have to do it, then don’t keep putting it off – the longer you wait, the greater your anxiety becomes. Better to do it, get it over with, and then it’s done.
- Keep a journal
Write down how you feel. Don’t think you have to write a brilliant piece of prose – just write whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t even have to make any sense, but just the process of getting it out of your head and onto paper can help with those anxious thoughts.
- Practice self care
Whatever that means for you – a walk, a bubble bath, binge-watching a boxset – make sure you make time for you. Remember, you don’t ‘earn’ me-time – you are entitled to it.
- Keep busy
Focus on activities such housework (yeah, yeah, I know!!), crafting, reading, or anything that helps you take your mind off whatever is making you feel anxious.
- Practice a grounding technique
A grounding technique (such as 5-4-3-2-1 below) can help if your anxiety is completely overwhelming you. Other grounding techniques can be found online, so you may want to try a few to find one that works best for you.
A good night’s sleep can work wonders and leave you feeling refreshed and restored. But as we all know, anxiety can often be worse at night and stop us from falling asleep. For me, writing down the thoughts that are stopping me from sleeping really helps – it’s seems to trick my mind into thinking it’s dealt with that particular thing, so it doesn’t need to worry about it anymore.
Accept yourself for who you are. Accept your situation for what it is. You’re doing the best you can, and if there is something you can’t control, then try to let it go. If you can’t do anything about it, then worrying about it won’t help. Easier said than done, I know, but a professional, such as a counsellor, can help support you to do this.
As I said in my disclaimer earlier, this isn’t a ‘do this and your anxiety will disappear’ type of list, and if you really are struggling with your anxiety, then I recommend seeking help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
And if you are in crisis, call NHS 24 (111), the Samaritans (116 123), or Breathing Space (0800 83 85 87).
So, have any of these things on the list helped you? Or maybe you have your own suggestion to add? Leave a comment and let me know.
And if you have a more specific/personal question to ask, head over to my contact page and drop me a line via my contact me page.