Feeling anxiety is the worse feeling in the world, God knows all of us have felt this feeling from time to time. You get lost in yourself and feel as if things are out of control, head spinning, racing thoughts, shortness of breath and tightening in the chest. Gosh this feeling... will it ever stop? Do I have to feel this? Its a horrible realisation when you experience these sensations.
You can read all the anti-anxiety literature and advise in the world but none of this matters unless you take some sort of action. To feel more relaxed, to sleep soundly at night, and to put energy into what matters, you have to stop wasting time on tasks that don't matter. Technically, anxiety is apprehension over an upcoming event. We anticipate the future with sometimes scary predictions that don’t necessarily have any basis in truth. In everyday life, anxiety’s physical and emotional symptoms can mean an increased heart rate, poor concentration at work and school, sleeping problems, and just being a total Crank to family, friends, and co-workers.
Anxiety and stress are physical and emotional responses to perceived dangers (that aren’t always real). And since most of us aren’t running from tigers or hunting and gathering in the woods, it’s often the little things that put us over the edge: an over-loaded email inbox, morning rush hour, or losing those keys before running out the door. It's such a shame that at a time we all feel such elevated levels of stress.
Anxiety can make a person imagine that things in their life are worse than they really are, and prevent them from confronting their fears. Often they will think they are going mad, or that some psychological imbalance is at the heart of their woes. What is important is the recognition that anxiety is normal and exists due to a set of bodily functions that have existed in us from our cave-man days.
Back then, we were equipped with an internal alarm system designed to protect us from the dangers surrounding us in the wild. This system would make us hyper-alert by giving us a boost of adrenaline that would increase the heart rate and boost the amount of oxygen going to our limbs so we were better able to fight or run from danger. This is known as the “fight or flight” response. The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many associate with anxiety is this mechanism kicking in, but instead of being used to avoid immediate danger, it is often wrongly and inappropriately activated in a person during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often unknowingly.But luckily there are a few ways in which you can equip yourself to help relieve the anxiety that you are feeling (if you would like a PDF of these techniques you can download it here).
Your Action Plan
1. Get enough sleep. Inconsistent sleep can have some serious consequences. Not only does it affect our physical health, but lack of sleep can also contribute to overall anxiety and stress. And sometimes it turns into a vicious cycle, since anxiety often leads to disruptions in sleep . Especially when feeling anxious, try to schedule a full seven to nine hours of snooze time and see what a few nights of sweet slumber do for those anxiety levels throughout the day.
2. Smile. When work has got us down, it’s a good idea to take a quick break to get some giggles on. Research suggests that laughter can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, so consider checking out a funny YouTube clip to calm those jittery nerves .
3. De-clutter the brain. Physical clutter = mental clutter. A messy workspace can make it more difficult to relax and make it seem like our work is never-ending. So take 15 minutes or so to tidy up the living space or work area, and then make a habit of keeping things clean and anxiety-free. It’ll help us think rationally, and there won’t be as much room for anxiety.
4. Express gratitude. Studies have found expressing gratitude helps reduce anxiety, especially when we’re well-rested . Start a gratitude journal to get in the mindset of appreciation, and out of the mindset of being overwhelmed.
5. Eat right. Anxiety can throw our bodies totally out of whack: Our appetite might change, or we might crave certain foods. But to give the body the support it needs, try eating more of foods that contain nutrients such as vitamin B and omega-3s, plus some healthy whole-grain carbohydrates. Studies have linked vitamin B with good mental health, and omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety . Whole-grain carbs help regulate levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that helps us remain calm. And even though our cravings might be telling us otherwise, research suggests that eating sugary and processed foods can increase symptoms of anxiety.
6. Learn to breathe. A useful tool to prevent panic attacks, the breath is also a great marker of where your anxiety level is at throughout the day. Short, shallow breaths signify stress and anxiety in the brain and body. On the flip side, consciously breathing, plus lengthening and strengthening the breath helps send signals to the brain that it’s okay to relax .
7. Meditate. By now most of us have heard that meditation is relaxing, but what scientists are also discovering is that meditation actually increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, essentially rewiring the body to stress less. I have just launched Lesson 3: Just Release in my MINDFUL
MEDITATIONS album, you can access the lesson here which will help you release your anxiety. A number of recent studies highlight the positive effects of meditation on anxiety, mood, and stress symptoms . Meditation is also a way to observe the brain, letting us figure out how our mind generates anxiety-provoking thoughts. And understanding the brain’s thought patterns can help create distance from those thoughts.
8. Create a vision board. If the future seems big and scary, try changing the thoughts about what lies ahead. Sometimes the mere act of setting concrete goals can take the edge off anxiety about future unknowns. Take an hour to produce a vision board that creates excitement about projects and possibilities to come. And for those who aren’t the crafty type, try making an e-vision board using Pinterest for some Pinspiration. While making the board, try using the T.H.I.N.K. tool: Is my thought true, helpful, inspirational, necessary and kind? If not, dump the thought.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t come up with thoughts that produce stress or anxiety. But we’re human and inevitably worry about things. So when we do start to fret, there are lots of little steps we can take to change our thoughts, calm the brain, relax the body, and get back in the game. And, as always, be sure to check with a psychotherapist/psychologist if these tips don’t cut it and you need a little extra help tackling a more significant anxiety issue!