Anxiety isn’t something I write about often and I’m most definitely not a psychologist. But it is something which has affected me on and off for years and now more than ever so many people are experiencing anxiety about the unknown of Covid-19 and what the future holds. So I wanted to share some of the things which have helped me manage my anxiety at this time.
This article isn’t going to stop you feeling anxious ever again, but it will help you take control when anxious feelings become overwhelming to reduce the impact those feelings have on overall wellbeing.
Limit exposure to triggers
Take some time to try and identify any experiences or situations which trigger your anxiety and then try to limit your exposure to them. It may sound obvious but often people won’t take the time to make associations between experiences and anxiety and this simple solution can save a lot of anxiety.
For me, I’ve stopped almost completely watching the news on TV or reading any news articles, I still listen to the news if it comes on the radio while I’m listening so I have a bite-size exposure to the current developments once or maybe twice a day, no more. In particular don’t watch the news, read news article or even look at social media just before bed.
I also found going to the supermarket triggering so although we don’t go very often and we’ve been lucky enough to get a food delivery for this week. If I do need to make a trip to the supermarket, I try to go after 4/5pm on a weekday – when it seems to be quieter. I take lots of deep breaths to calm my mind and body before going in. I have a list of what I need so I can be in and out quickly and if they don’t have something we just do without. I try to do self-checkout and pay by card. I give people as much space as I can inside and outside the supermarket and hope they give me the same respect.
Create a daily routine
I’ve written a full blog on my daily routine in lockdown so I won’t go into detail about how I created the routine or what it is, but it’s helped my anxieties because each evening I know what the purpose of the next day is for me and not having a focus or purpose makes me feel so lost! Even if that purpose is as simple as meditating, eating three meals, showering and walking the dog.
Introduce intuitive movement
Lockdown means I am moving less, I can only walk the dog once a day and even if this is a long walk, I am not as busy in general and I’ve found it’s affected how well I sleep. So I’ve been trying to increase my movement in an intuitive way.
Intuitive movement is about tuning into your body and choosing a form of movement which is right for you on that day, at that time rather than doing what you think you should be doing because that’s what other people are doing. It’s helped me improve my sleep – and a good night’s sleep always makes everything better the next day – and boosted my endorphins and my mood in general.
I’ve been doing online Zoom yoga classes with Anna Banana Yoga, I run/walk once or twice a week and walk every other day for at least 1-hour, and I’ve just introduced short HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sessions to try and build my strength. But just do what feels right for you – and what’s safe to do right now, do what makes you feel your best.
Switch off when possible
We live in a world that is constantly on. A bit like limiting exposure to triggers I find switching off from social media and technology can be helpful. Don’t get me wrong I love a mindless scroll session as much as the next person and the wonders of technology to help keep us connected to loved ones is amazing. But I’m trying to have one phone and laptop free day a week. It’s encouraged me to read more, get creative and even get on with household chores like decluttering and reorganising the shed – so satisfying and a big help to my anxieties as it gives me back a sense of control.
Forget the typically British stiff upper lip and let those emotions flow. If that means having a cry or scream – do it (maybe just warn the others in your house or neighbours if you are going to have a screaming session so they don’t worry!) For me communicating my fears and feelings to others – either my partner or friends or simply writing them down in my journal is helping me to process them and reducing the impact they’re having on me.
Feelings of anxiety are not just created by our mind, they and the accompanying physical symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, and sweating which can also be impacted by what we’re eating. The following are things I consider with my diet when I feel anxious
Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugar: these can trigger the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and disrupt blood sugar levels.
Increase B-vitamin, magnesium and calcium-rich foods: deficiency of these nutrients is common in people with anxiety so add these foods to your daily diet: asparagus, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, oats, avocado, sweet potatoes, eggs, leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and pak choi.
Investigate food allergies/intolerances: a food intolerance or allergy can trigger the release of the stress hormone adrenaline. Personally, my anxiety is often worse if I eat gluten. Try an elimination diet which removes common intolerances to identify any foods which may be contributing to your anxiety.
If you’d like to discuss how changing your diet may be able to help you manage your anxiety or identify intolerances, contact me for a free 15-minute chat.
Anxiety is a complicated issue – if you regularly suffer from panic attacks or if anxiety leaves you feeling depressed or struggling to cope, please seek advice from your GP or contact the Samaritans immediately.