Remember that you are not alone:
According to the mental health charity MIND, 4.7% of people suffer from anxiety. That is actually quite a lot of people! And there are probably even more people who have not disclosed that they feel anxious all the time. You might even be one of them.
My anxiety story:
I have always been an anxious person and a bit of a stress-head. If I don’t have something to worry about then I’ll find something! My home environment as a child was stressful and I remember feeling anxious a lot. I had my first anxiety attack in my early 20s and they continued off and on for a few years, only to return full throttle last year when someone close to me died. I felt like I was losing the plot. I am happy to say that I have not had an attack for over 6 months now, and I wanted to write this blog so I could share some of the things which, I believe, have helped.
- Try To Manage Work Related Stress
If work is stressing you out, speak to your manager and tell them how you are feeling. There might be an easy solution, but you don’t know until you ask. If things don’t improve then maybe it’s time to consider a job change!
- Stop Caffeine
This is a tough one as it’s not uncommon for people living with anxiety to use caffeine as a bit of a crutch. You feel tired and need a pick me up and caffeine is easily available. But don’t be fooled that you actually need caffeine: for people who suffer from anxiety it is actually the anti-christ!
Caffeine increases adrenaline and makes you anxious. Some people with anxiety will be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and it most definitely has a negative effect on the duration and quality of your sleep. And not getting enough sleep can make you feel more anxious!
If you want to cut down your caffeine intake then it is best done slowly. In my experience, just stopping can cause nasty headaches, irritability, tiredness and worsening of your anxiety symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can last a few days and can make you want to jump straight back on the caffeine wagon.
Remember, caffeine is not just in coffee, tea and energy drinks. It is also in most fizzy drinks such as coke, as well as hot chocolate, green tea, chocolate and chocolate cake. There is even a small amount in decaffeinated coffee and tea!
The best thing to do is drink naturally caffeine free teas such as Rooibos Tea and other herbal teas. Rooibos is particularly good if you are used to having a cup of builders’ tea, as you can add milk to this. My saving grace was mixing Rooibos and Bengal Spice herbal tea – a bit like having a Chai Latte. I don’t think I could have given up coffee as easily without this.
3. Cut down on alcohol
People with anxiety sometimes use alcohol to relax, but alcohol actually worsens the symptoms of anxiety. This will come as no surprise to those who’ve experienced that post-binge downer!
Reduce your alcohol intake and where possible stick to the recommended 14 units per week or less.
If you are drinking daily/large amounts or concerned about your drinking then do speak to your Doctor for advice. They can advise you of the safest way to cut down your alcohol intake.
- Cut down on processed foods
There is a connection between what we eat and our mental health, and studies have suggested that if you eat a lot of processed foods then you are more likely to experience anxiety than those who eat a healthy balance diet. There is also some evidence that nutritional and herbal supplements can help anxiety symptoms too. If you are on prescribed medication then always check with your Doctor before taking any herbal supplements, as there may be interactions between the two.
I would also recommend seeing a nutritionist to get individualized nutrition advice. If you live in the Brighton or Worthing area, I can highly recommend Asha Rani, who is an Iridologist and Nutritionist. Alternatively, find a local Nutritionist in your area.
- Have an anxiety first aid kit:
- Try not to worry about your sleeping problems:
Insomnia is a common symptom in those with anxiety. It is caused by over-thinking and stimulation during the day and evening. If you control your anxiety then the insomnia will generally sort itself out. Stopping or reducing caffeine and alcohol will also help your sleep patterns.
You can also try aromatherapy-based products on your skin or in the bath before going to bed. You could ask a local aromatherapist to suggest a blend to suit you or pop into somewhere like Neal’s Yard Remedies and they may be able to advise some products to try.
- Make time to do an activity that relaxes you:
This is a very personal thing. For some it will be soaking in an aromatherapy bath, for others it will be walking in a park or the countryside, doing the gardening, listening to music or reading a book.
- Discover Meditation/mindfulness-based stress reduction:
It does help! And it’s not just hippies that do it! I practice meditation daily and it really helps me. I am a self-confessed meditation bore and rant on about it to anyone who will listen!
There are different ways of doing this. For instance, some people will like a guided meditation or meditate using a mantra. I would recommend trying some different mindfulness and meditation apps. You can pay a small amount for these or get one for free. There are lots of free meditations on YouTube too, so have a browse and see what you fancy. A one-to-one session with a meditation or mindfulness teacher may be helpful for some people, or find a local group that meet up and meditate together.
9. Talk to someone:
Sometimes it’s just good to chat to someone about how you are feeling. Why don’t you go and see your Doctor as a starting point? They may suggest doing some tests to make sure that there isn’t a physical reason for your anxiety or they can refer you to talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, if that’s what you want. They may offer medication, but you don’t have to take this if it’s not what you want to do. Just don’t bottle it up and suffer alone!
Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely used for anxiety within the NHS and can be helpful for some people. If this is something you are interested in you can pay privately for this treatment or be referred for treatment on the NHS by your GP.
- Consider doing The Linden method:
I stumbled on the Linden Method after seeing an advert on Facebook. I looked into it further and thought that it could work for me. And it did! Take a look at the Linden Method website and see what you think.
- Book a Shiatsu or Reiki treatment:
I have been a qualified Shiatsu Practitioner for 11 years and a Reiki Practitioner for 10, and have found both these therapies to be great for supporting people with anxiety and stress-related symptoms.
I think these therapies work on a few levels. Firstly, your appointment gives you the space to talk frankly about yourself, how you are feeling and be listened to without judgment. It also gives you the opportunity to relax and have some ‘me’ time.
Most importantly, these therapies are fantastic at calming the nervous system, which has usually become overactive when you are stressed and anxious. If you think Reiki or Shiatsu may help, or would just like to have a chat, please get in touch – I’d be happy to hear from you.
- Consider starting a Yoga or other exercise class
Doing some form of regular exercise does help with anxiety and stress related symptoms. Yoga in particular is fantastic and you don’t have to be super bendy! You can just go at your own pace. Why don’t you check out your local classes to find something that suits you.
- Try at least one of the above tips starting today.
Choose the easiest one to achieve first. If it doesn’t work for you or you fall off the wagon, then that’s fine! Just get back on again or try something else that might help. There may be one (or more) of the recommendations that you may struggle with. I personally still struggle with the alcohol tip! But don’t be hard on yourself as you are just human.
As Deepak Chopra once said:
‘All great changes are proceeded by chaos’!