As with many areas of our wellbeing, there’s no one-stop-quick-fix for long term anxiety. However, there is an answer and it lies in continually and regularly being kind to your self. It involves checking in with yourself throughout the day (asking yourself, “How am I feeling at the moment?”). It’s about taking note of the effect that your diet, particularly coffee (caffeine), chocolate, sweet foods (sugar) and certain drugs (such as nicotine and marijuana) have on your heart rate, your thoughts, your emotions and your sleep patterns.
Try to get some movement into your every day. Walk, stretch, run or swim. Do a yoga or exercise class in your lounge room, using a Youtube video as your guide.
If you are responsible for small children, finding time for yourself can be extremely difficult – I really get that – so you may need to get creative in how you find ways to be kind to yourself. Some possibilities are:
Go for a fast-paced 10 minute walk on your own either before your partner goes to work, or once they get home.
While your child’s napping, do some yoga or stretches (if you don’t know how, check out Youtube for some ideas).
Incorporate the kids into your exercise routine – go to the park and run laps together; get them doing yoga with you; go for a walk together (with a pram/scooter/bike for the kids); or run around the backyard together.
Spend 5-10 minutes everyday in some form of quiet, alone relaxation:
For 5 minutes, sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. Breathe in for a count of 3, pause, breathe out for a count of 4, pause, repeat.
Do a 5-10 minute body scan relaxation (I will write up how to do this in the next post, or you can search for one online).
Spend 5-10 minutes listening to a mindfulness app through your headphones (such as Buddhify).
Do something creative. Draw, sew, write, paint, bake. And give yourself permission to not have to be perfect – go with your intuition and see where it takes you!
Begin catching yourself when you have unhelpful, negative thoughts and label them for what they are (“that’s an anxious thought” or “that’s my fear talking”), then do three, slow breaths. If you find yourself in the middle of a downward spiral of anxiety, physically stop what you’re doing for a moment. Ask yourself whether the thoughts you are having support and contribute to your wellbeing. If they do not, remind yourself they are just thoughts. Take some breaths and if possible, go do something else for 5-10 minutes. Make a cup of tea, go outside, call someone, go for a walk, do a silly dance(!). Changing your activity for a while can often be enough to shift your destructive thought patterns and your mood.
Design a luxurious bedtime routine for yourself (I dare you!). It will not only be a wonderfully relaxing experience, but it will set you up for the best chance of a good sleep. Some suggestions are: Having a bath, reading a book, listening to music, doing some yoga, meditating or listening to a guided relaxation or mindfulness session (search online in advance), drink some herbal tea, use low lighting or aromatherapy. If unwanted or stressful thoughts come to you during the night, imagine yourself putting them away into a ‘worry box’ and tell yourself, “Now is the time for sleeping, I can look in the box in my waking hours” (or whatever works for you).
The trick with managing and/or overcoming anxiety is to be actively and regularly involved in your own wellbeing. Activities that promote relaxation, calm and kindness-to-self are the antithesis and the antidote to anxiety and stress. You can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time, so putting daily effort into being calm, not only counteracts your stress, but acts as a preventative for tomorrow.
As I am not aware of your personal situation, this article is for general information about anxiety. If you are concerned about your mental health, please make an appointment to see a health care professional such as a GP or counsellor.
‘The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook’ – Edmund J. Bourne
Buddhify2 – App
If you would like more information or support with your anxiety, please contact me for an appointment: 0439 995 302 or firstname.lastname@example.org