It isn’t easy to live with anxiety. Unfortunately, there’s no one ‘wonder’ technique or tip that can make difficult thoughts and feelings simply disappear. However, there are plenty of things that you can do to help alleviate anxiety and the negative effect it may have on your life.
It all starts with looking after yourself. Here are just 10 of the many self-care tips for coping with anxiety:
1. Regular exercise
Getting active is one of the best things you can do to counter anxiety. It can help you to relax, release tension and lower your stress levels. Crucially, regular physical exercise can also stimulate serotonin production in your brain. Serotonin release can help to lift your mood, so it’s a good thing to have a regular supply.
If you aren’t a gym bunny, activities such as swimming, jogging, cycling and walking are all equally good ways to get your heart pumping. Even something as simple as a walk in your local park every day can raise your heart rate and encourage serotonin production.
2. Get enough sleep
If you’re living with anxiety, it’s very important that you look after your physical as well as your mental health. A good night’s sleep can help to give you enough energy so you can cope with difficult experiences, thoughts and feelings the next day.
Getting to sleep can sometimes be tough with anxiety, and many people experience insomnia. There are some steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep though. These include sticking to a nightly routine, putting your phone down, having a bath before bed and other techniques to relax your body and calm your mind. You can also try aromatherapy and mindfulness techniques to help you clear your mind and drift off to sleep.
3. Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and smoking
According to advice from the NHS, caffeine, alcohol and smoking all have the potential to make anxiety worse. What’s more, too much alcohol or caffeine could be bad for your health, as of course is smoking. If you can cut down, you can focus on managing anxiety without these substances exacerbating the situation.
4. Spend some time with nature
Many people with anxiety find that being outdoors and in a green environment can be very soothing. Not only do you get some fresh air and the chance to top up your vitamin D levels from sunlight, but you can also spend some calm, quiet time with nature. This can be hugely therapeutic. Try being outdoors for at least 20 minutes a day, to see if it helps to improve your mood and quell feelings of anxiety.
5. Plan your day
Setting out a daily routine in advance can give your day some structure. You may feel a sense of purpose with a routine in place, where previously you may worry about an empty day stretching out in front of you. This doesn’t mean you should pack in too many activities - instead, you can schedule time for a lovely hot bath, a read on the sofa or a gentle stroll outside.
6. Share your worries with someone you trust
Sometimes, the simple act of telling someone how you feel and what’s on your mind can relieve the burden. Sit down with a friend or family member, or join a support group of fellow anxiety sufferers, to share your worries. You aren’t alone in what you’re experiencing. Hopefully by talking about your anxiety, you’ll feel as if some of the weight has been lifted.
7. Try some breathing exercises
Gaining control of your breathing can give you a feeling of greater control over your emotions and thoughts. There are many different calming, breathing techniques you can use if you’re feeling a rising sense of anxiety or panic. Once learned, you can use these simple but effective techniques in virtually any situation. You can go into autopilot and practice the technique you’ve learned, which should hopefully help you to feel calmer until the moment of anxiety passes.
8. Seek help from your doctor
You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, face anxiety alone. If you haven’t yet sought medical help for anxiety or panic attacks, consider making an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. You won’t be judged and you will be able to get help. Remember that you aren’t the first person with anxiety to have walked into your doctor’s clinic, so although it may feel daunting, there’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
9. Go out of your way to be kind to yourself
Anxiety can sometimes be made worse when you find yourself trapped in negative and self-abusing thought patterns. Listen to your internal voice - how do you talk to yourself? If you wouldn’t talk that way to a loved one, you shouldn’t talk to yourself like that. Try to stop negative thought patterns and cycles before they really take hold - telling yourself that ‘thoughts aren’t facts’.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to do this. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or other therapies can be helpful for people stuck in negative or self-destructive thought patterns. This is something your doctor can advise you on.
Positive mantras and affirmations can help you to stay on track as you go through your day. Set yourself a mantra to repeat every morning, choosing something that makes you feel both calm and positive. And write down your affirmations to leave in prominent spots around the house, such as on the fridge or your bedroom mirror.
10. Try relaxation activities
Relaxing can be easier said than done when you have anxiety, but certain activities can help. Many people with anxiety find that yoga and pilates are helpful for unwinding and lowering stress levels.
The gentle, steady progress of a yoga or pilates class can be soothing, especially if you have a hectic daily life. You can switch off and enjoy a restorative reconnection with your body and mind.
Yoga in particular helps you to focus on movement in the moment, banishing worries from the mind. It also enables you to practice mental control, techniques that you can use to manage difficult thoughts, emotions and worries in other parts of your life.