Read on to understand anxiety, gain some self-help tips and enjoy a free Meditation To Reduce Anxiety
How can I free myself from anxiety? Anxiety is a normal response to something which could potentially be a threat or risk to us physically or emotionally.
Some anxiety, from time to time, is normal. Anxiety becomes a problem for people when they experience it frequently, for sustained periods of time, on an ongoing basis and/or when it interferes with their ability to carry out and enjoy normal day-to-day activities.
This anxiety response exists for our survival. It stems from the days when we had to be aware of potential dangers e.g. the risk of a rock fall, of another (larger, scarier) animal already living in the cave we want to move in to or shelter in, or of being ostracised and expelled from our clan.
In modern life, it is possible that our anxiety can relate to a genuine, potential threat to our life. More frequently anxiety is a response to something which may cause us a level of embarrassment/psychological distress/sense of failure if we feel that we have done something badly, if we ‘fail’ to achieve the standard required to pass the test or obtain the qualification we need, or if we do not feel confident in social situations.
In recent years there have been several very real sources of anxiety for many people. The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a degree of health anxiety for many people. Covid-19 caused anxiety about their financial security for many when they could not work. The isolation was a source of anxiety for many. Coming out of isolation was a source of anxiety for many others. Recent political turmoil has also been a cause of significant anxiety for many. Eco-anxiety is also becoming increasingly prevalent.
In reality, these feelings of anxiety do not help. They do not make anything better in a practical sense and just make life harder and less pleasant for us. Anxiety often makes it harder for us to act and take the action we need to take to achieve our goals.
What are the signs and ‘symptoms’ of anxiety?
The anxiety response is the same as the stress response. It prepares our body for action, to be more alert, more aware of what is going on around us, ready to fight or flee from the situation.
The goal, within the body is therefore to achieve a state of heightened alertness, and increase the physical strength and stamina of the body. This means keeping the ‘danger’ centres of the brain on high alert and pumping plenty of oxygenated blood to the muscles of the arms and legs.
- In order to oxygenate the blood our breathing rate increases resulting in rapid breathing
- In order to pump the blood to our muscles, our heart rate and blood pressure increase.
- In order to supply more blood to the arms and legs it is taken away from:
- The skin, resulting in pale, cold, clammy skin is a result
- The digestive system, resulting in nausea, churning stomach, etc
- ‘Modern’ parts of the brain such as the parts responsible for logic, clear thinking, rational thought, memory and language resulting in the feeling of ‘brain fog’ and being unable to remember what we have learnt or find the right words to express ourselves.
These are all manageable in the short term, on occasion. However, they can be damaging to our health, wellbeing and confidence if we experience them frequently over a sustained period of time.
What types of Anxiety are there?
There are many types of anxiety and I apologise now as I will inevitably miss some here:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- General Phobias
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Social Anxiety
- Health Anxiety
- Eco Anxiety
- Anxiety over specific events/activities e.g. exams / driving test / public speaking etc
- Dental Anxiety
This list is not exhaustive. However, it hopefully gives you some idea of the different ways in which anxiety can present itself for different people. Some people may experience anxiety as quite a general thing, others in response to a specific aspect of life. Persistent anxiety, in any of its guises, can have a huge impact on your quality of life. You do not have to put up with anxiety, you can do something about it and help is available.
So how can I free myself from Anxiety?
Seek medical help:
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, especially if you are experiencing physical symptoms, it is important to speak to your GP in the first instance to check that your symptoms do relate to anxiety and not to something else.
Take steps to look after your own health and wellbeing:
This means taking a look at your diet, physical activity, the amount of time you spend out of doors, the amount of time you spend talking with friends/family and in social situations, how much sleep you are getting, ensuring you are drinking enough water and not too much alcohol. The more you look after your own health, the easier it will be to reduce the feelings of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety are made worse by poor diet, lack of activity, lack of sleep, lack of social connectivity etc.
Explore, try out and prioritise different ways you can relax and unwind:
This does not have to be expensive or time consuming. Try different things. Rule out what you don’t enjoy and keep doing the things you do enjoy.
- Breathing exercises are free, portable, easy and very powerful in helping calm your body and mind.
- Meditation can take anything from 2 or 3 minutes up to 30 minutes plus. There are several free Apps you can use including Headspace and Insight Timer. Getting into the habit of enjoying a 5-minute meditation every day can make a huge difference to your wellbeing.
I have included here a free 10 minute meditation designed to help reduce anxiety. Please use this as often as you like.
- Make a cup of tea and curl up with a good book
- Do something you enjoy. Do you enjoy colouring/drawing/crafting/knitting/sewing/woodwork/painting/jigsaws/ puzzle books/sudoku/crosswords/gardening …etc etc Find or rediscover something you love to do, prioritise the time for it and let yourself get completely absorbed in that activity.
- Spend time in nature. Whether this is simply looking out of the window which you have a hot drink, sitting in your garden, going for a walk or something more adventurous, getting out of doors and into nature is incredibly calming and good for our mental health
- Increase your physical activity. This does not have to mean going to the gym or for long runs. It can be whatever you enjoy and can fit into your daily life. If you love the gym or running, go for it. If you love hiking in the countryside, do that. If you love a long bike ride, prioritise some time to do so. Equally, dancing in your kitchen to some awesome music, doing a few squats every time you boil the kettle, doing 15 minutes of yoga from a YouTube video, hula hooping or skipping in your back garden, or kicking a ball around with your kids all counts. Whatever you do, make it something you love to do and make it a priority. Have fun.
- Journalling can help too. You don’t need a fancy, beautiful notebook (thought if you want one go for it), any old notebook will do just fine. There are plenty of journalling prompts available online or you could keep it simple and stick to a gratitude journal. You could keep your notepad by your bed and every night, before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you are grateful for that day. They can be big or small. Something nice you have done that day, the birds singing to you, the colours in nature, a roof over your head, food on the table, a warm shower, cosy blankets, a hot water bottle etc etc.
Where can I get help with Anxiety?
GP. Start with your GP/healthcare provider
Organisations: There are also several organisations such as Mind / Young Minds / SANE / Samaritans who can be contacted for help and support. More information about them is available online.
Counsellor: You could speak to a counsellor.
Hypnotherapy can also help. Hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping reduce feelings of Anxiety and, help you to move forward, leaving problematic Anxiety behind. If you would like to arrange an informal chat to discuss how I could help you please contact me.