Anxiety is a natural human emotion, but in some cases, it can persist even in situations and scenarios that are not threatening or unnerving for the majority of people. It’s understandable to feel anxious if you’re waiting for test results at the doctor’s surgery, or you’re about to sit an exam or have an interview. Sadly, many people experience anxiety when there is no obvious or clear danger, threat or cause for concern. If you’re on edge, you can’t seem to switch off, or you find it difficult to relax, there are steps you can take to try and find calm and serenity.
Ways to ease anxiety
We all feel nervous or apprehensive from time to time. At the moment, anxiety levels are peaking because many people are worried about the global pandemic and what it means for their relationships, their income and the future. This is an unsettling time, so it’s more important than ever to take good care of your mental health and to understand when anxiety is causing you issues. If you feel like you’re never really relaxed, you have a knot in your stomach you can’t shake, or thoughts are whizzing around your head constantly, these are signs you shouldn’t ignore. It’s not always possible to ease anxiety with self-help techniques, but often they can have a very positive impact. If you’re struggling at the moment, or you’re prone to bouts of anxiety, here are some strategies to try.
Exercise is one of the most beneficial natural therapies for improved mental and physical health. There are myriad benefits to being active and moving your body on a regular basis, and you should notice a difference the moment you start to incorporate physical activity into your routine. The important thing to understand about exercise is that it doesn’t have to be dull. In the age of Instagram and reality TV, it’s easy to assume that you have to live in the gym and sport a six-pack to be considered fit and healthy. The truth is that there are all kinds of ways to get fitter and you can have loads of fun along the way.
We often think of exercise as a means of improving physical health, but this is an effective means of boosting psychological wellbeing too. If you work out on a regular basis, you’ll lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and heart disease, but you’ll also feel better. Being active strengthens your bones and muscles, it increases endurance, strength and stamina and it improves circulation. Crucially, for those who experience anxiety, exercise also provides a natural high, which lifts your mood and elevates energy levels. When you’re moving, and your heart is pumping faster, the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain increase, and your body also releases endorphins. Endorphins are often known as happy hormones. Another benefit of exercise for those who struggle with their mental health is providing an outlet. Doing a class, going for a run or completing a circuit training session can help you clear your mind, tackle stress and control and express your emotions. If you’re angry or frustrated, for example, try a high-energy workout like boxing or spinning. If you’re finding it difficult to wind down or switch off, go to a yoga or Pilates class or take a hike in the open air.
If you’re not a seasoned gym bunny, the thought of walking into a HIIT session or joining a running club may be daunting. Taking the first step is often the most difficult stage of getting into exercise, but it’s worth remembering that everyone has to start somewhere and you don’t have to join groups or go to the gym. If you’re nervous about being around others, you could work out at home or try solo pursuits like cycling, jogging or kayaking.
One of the most common obstacles people face when trying to adapt to a more active lifestyle is a loss of motivation. Many people start the year with good intentions, for example, only to give up going to the gym after a few weeks. Focus on the benefits of exercise, get into a routine and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you miss a day, it’s not the end of the world. Just try and make sure that a day doesn’t become a week, a month or a year. Take friends along with you, set targets and try and make working out fun.
Meditation is an ancient art, but it has become incredibly popular in the last decade. With many people leading hectic lifestyles and stress levels increasing year on year, meditation can help to facilitate relaxation. For many, meditating is an effective coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. It can also help you feel good and enable you to recharge your batteries when you’re keen to take time out and enjoy peace and quiet. There are several options available to you if you want to try meditation for the first time. You can use apps and online videos to follow a guided meditation or you could join a group or register for a course. Once you understand the concept and you’re used to meditating, you can practise whenever and wherever you want. Even if you only have five minutes in the middle of a busy day, taking a break to focus your mind can make all the difference.
If you listen to the news on a regular basis, or you enjoy reading online articles or magazine features, you’ve probably come across CBD. CBD is a plant derivative, which can help to reduce anxiety and make you feel calm. It’s important to note that CBD isolate is not the same as THC. THC is a different type of cannabinoid, which is responsible for producing a high. CBD oils, edibles and tinctures do not make you feel high, and some people find that they have the opposite effect. There is evidence to suggest that products can aid relaxation and reduce stress. There are legal restrictions in place in several countries, so it’s wise to check regulations before trying CBD products. It’s also beneficial to seek advice from your doctor if you have any concerns and to ensure you buy high-quality products from a reputable, trustworthy vendor.
We often think of hobbies as fun ways to spend time, but they can also be incredibly beneficial for mental wellbeing. Creative activities are particularly advantageous because they provide a constructive and cathartic means of expressing your feelings and processing emotions. If you find it hard to talk to people about how you feel, for example, or you struggle to cope with emotions like anger, sadness or worry, having an outlet is important. Whether you choose to draw, paint, write or design your own cards or clothes, being creative can help you manage stress and anxiety. These activities can also be really enjoyable. If you’re happy and content, being artistic or putting words down on paper could make you feel even better. Make time for your hobbies and don’t be afraid to try new things. You might not have shown signs of artistic flair at school, and you might not be the next best-selling author, but as long as you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t matter.
Human beings are innately sociable animals, and many of us feel better when we connect with others. A smile in the street or a quick chat with a friend can make all the difference. If you tend to bottle things up, or you don’t have time to socialize and hang out with friends and family, making changes will help. Schedule time to meet up or make phone or video calls, and don’t be afraid to open up if you have things on your mind or something is troubling or upsetting you. You can talk to your partner, a family member or a close friend, or you could consider seeing a therapist. Some people find it easier to be honest and open when they don’t know the person they’re talking to. We often think of ourselves as a burden when communicating with friends and relatives, and having somebody we don’t know to listen to us can be beneficial.
Breathing in fresh air
There’s nothing like feeling the wind in your hair, looking up a bright blue sky or watching the waves roll in to lift your mood and help you wind down. Studies suggest that spending just 20 minutes in the outdoors can improve your mood. Even if you live in the city, and you’re surrounded by buildings and cars, getting out of the house or the office and going to a park to stretch your legs and get some air can help. If you are able to travel slightly further afield, why not take a walk or a bike ride on the weekends and explore forests, lakes and national parks? If you get the opportunity to get out and about, make the most of the time you have. Embrace the tranquility and serenity, take in your surroundings and turn your phone off for a while.
Anxiety is common, especially at a time when many of us are adapting to new routines and trying to come to terms with unsettling news headlines. If you’re on edge, hopefully, this guide will help you find serenity.