Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Often anxiety is fixated on what might happen rather than what is right here right now.
I’m sure most of you have these feelings sometimes, when faced with a difficult task, or at a stressful time in your life. You may find yourself thinking about a million different outcomes and yet somehow the over active mind doesn't seem to calm the anxiety of the unknown. When this happens we tend to reach for things that distract us, or which may offer temporary relief.
If worries or fears start to become regular and long-term, it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with them. Otherwise they might get worse and impact on your enjoyment of life.
Underneath the anxiety there is always a craving to feel a certain way, often it is a sense of peace, trust, safety or confidence... Take a moment to notice what feeling you would rather have so it can guide you to take actions to create more of it.
Sometimes, there are simple solutions to help reduce stress and worries:
Anxiety initiates the body’s fight or flight response, even in situations that don’t need us to spring into action. Caffeine has the same effect. So, if you’re already on the anxious side, drinking lots of coffee is only going to make you feel worse.
Try cutting down your coffee intake (and black tea) and see how you feel. If you are a big coffee drinker, it’s best to do this slowly to avoid feeling worse as you wean yourself.
You can replace your daily ritual with decaf coffee or other healthy alternatives like a turmeric latte or dandelion chai.
2. Drink less alcohol
Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety.
Maybe you reach for a glass of wine or a beer after a stressful day at work, or when you’ve finally got the kids to bed. Or you might find you can’t get through social events without a few drinks.
You might even feel temporarily relaxed after a glass or two. But there’s a good chance you’ll be more anxious after the alcohol wears off. And alcohol-induced anxiety can last many hours.
If you rely on your daily drinks to help cope with anxiety and stress, it’s probably time to drink less often, to stop feeding the anxiety loop.
Being available for work and friends 24/7 can be exhausting, especially if your boss has no boundaries and your friends share a lot.
Instant messaging, emails and convenient apps keep us connected all the time. This is useful but can lead to a lot of stress. Being so hyper-connected can see us obsessively checking Facebook and Instagram, or constantly wondering why our friends haven’t replied to our messages quickly enough. Or maybe it’s just information overload.
If you can relate to these issues, it might be worth having some regular tech-free time. Turn off the wifi and your phone, have a bath, read a book or go to bed early and relax and recharge. Then you can face your devices, feeling fresh … tomorrow.
4.Get into nature
Recent studies have shown a strong connection between spending time in nature and a reduction in stress, anxiety and even depression.
The pre-frontal cortex is an area of the brain that is active in rumination - repetitive negative thoughts that focus on negative emotions.
A 2015 study found that people who had gone for a nature walk had less activity in the pre-frontal cortex.
Calming nature sounds, and what you see around you also has a proven positive effect on mind and body.
You don’t have to walk for days or take time off work to get into nature. A daily walk in the park at lunchtime or a 20-minute early wander on the beach can considerably reduce stress, anxiety and worrying.
Mindfulness meditation teaches us to be aware of what’s happening in the present moment. Since anxiety is generally a worry about something that could happen in the future, mindfulness is a great skill for everyone to learn.
To ‘reset’ the mind when we get caught up in worries and bring ourselves back to the here and now.
But that’s not all. We humans don’t like feeling anxious, it makes us feel uncomfortable.
Mindfulness can help us become aware of our anxious thoughts and feelings, and then realise that we have nothing to fear from them. This should help ease their power over time.
6. Talk to someone
Talking to a friend or loved one when you’re feeling anxious can help a lot. But if you find you need to call your friends a bit too often, or you find you’re repeating yourself, it could be a good idea to try counselling.
If you feel overwhelmed or frightened and can’t cope it’s important to seek out a registered counsellor or your doctor to talk about how you’re feeling, and they will help you get the support you need.
A trained Counsellor can help you figure out why you’re worried and anxious and can give you the tools to cope with your anxiety. They can listen without judgement and offer ideas to help you problem-solve. They can also advise on other ways of looking at the situations that cause you worry and stress.
Adria Ellis offers online counselling sessions, for further information please look here.
Written by Amanda Brinkman & Adria Ellis