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5 Ways to Manage Anxiety

5 ways to manage anxiety perhaps sounds rather simplistic. But we now live in a world where anxiety is widespread and so managing our own health and wellbeing is essential. Anxiety is one of the issues I see most in my clients, sometimes hand in hand with low mood, sometimes with grief and sometimes just an issue in its own right. Anxiety can be manifested physically or mentally so let’s look at how it can be expressed and then explore 5 ways to manage anxiety.

(If you feel your mental health requires specific and specialised support then please contact your GP)

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According to MIND, some of the physical manifestations of anxiety include:

  • a churning feeling in your stomach
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • headaches, backache or other aches and pains
  • faster breathing
  • a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
  • sweating or hot flushes
  • sleep problems
  • grinding your teeth, especially at night
  • nausea
  • needing the toilet more or less often
  • changes in your sex drive
  • having panic attacks.

The effects of anxiety on your mind include:

  • feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
  • having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
  • feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
  • feeling like other people can see you’re anxious and are looking at you
  • feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen
  • wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you
  • worrying that you’re losing touch with reality
  • low mood and depression
  • rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again
  • depersonalisation – a type of dissociation where you feel disconnected from your mind or body, or like you are a character that you are watching in a film
  • derealisation – another type of dissociation where you feel disconnected from the world around you, or like the world isn’t real
  • worrying a lot about things that might happen in the future

With such a vast array of physically and emotional expressions, I do not in any way suggest anxiety is always easy to fix with the ideas below. If you feel anxiety is taking over your life then it’s really important to get professional support.

5 Ways to Help Manage Anxiety

1. Exercise

Exercise is very useful for expending the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which, if excessive, can be problematic when we’re suffering from anxiety. Exercise also increases our levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood boosters. Choose any form of activity that makes you feel good. It doesn’t have to be going to the gym, it can simply be walking. Yoga is thought to be especially good for anxiety. Because yoga combines movement with breathing, it can lead to a positive physiological and emotional response. It calms an over triggered nervous system and promotes relaxation and so has been shown to help with symptoms of anxiety.  

2. Diet

What you eat can really impact your anxiety. If your blood sugar is imbalanced then anxiety can definitely be exacerbated. In addition, excessive sugar, coffee or alcohol consumption or not enough protein or good fats can play a part. Certain nutrient deficiencies can influence our mental health, including anxiety, as can skipping meals and dehydration. As a nutritional therapist, I see first hand how a change in diet can sometimes make a huge difference to someone’s levels of anxiety.

3. Meditation

Research shows that meditation measurably reduces anxiety. It helps us live in the present moment, giving us a break if we find we are endlessly ruminating on what happened in the past or fixated on feelings of hopelessness when we consider the future. It is even thought to provide the nervous system with a rest that is 5 times deeper than sleep, so it’s worth trying if anxiety-related insomnia is an issue. Using the breath in meditation will help soothe the nervous system and promote a better sense of wellbeing. I like both the Calm and Headspace Apps.

4. Alternative therapies

There are some complementary and alternative therapies that can be highly effective for anxiety. It’s just a question of finding which one is helpful for you. Suggestions include reiki, EFT, aromatherapy, reflexology, sound baths, herbal remedies and Bach flower remedies. Do some research and be guided by what feels right for you as an individual.

5. Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are potentially the most immediately effective way of reducing anxiety. One of the best is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of eight. By breathing slower and more deeply from your stomach, you signal your nervous system to calm down. It can be useful to do this if anxiety is inhibiting your sleep.

Obviously anxiety can occur for many different reasons so these are just a few ideas. Anxiety is one of my specialist areas so if you would like some support, please contact me: vanessa@wellbeingandnutrition.co.uk

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