Anxiety is the most common of all mental disorders and 1 in 13 people suffer from anxiety globally so you are not alone. Having anxiety means that your fight or flight system is over-active, resulting in you finding it hard to control your fears, physical sensations and more.
If you walked passed me in the street or came to see me for therapy you would not notice that for years I have suffered from anxiety and that some days my anxiety cripples me that much that I go into self destruct mode, with not only pulling myself apart but mentally pulling everything I love apart. That’s because anxiety can not been seen through our physical appearance and its not tattooed to my forehead “I suffer from anxiety”. Its a quiet mental condition that can not easily be seen by passing me in the street or even by my loved ones (cos I hide it so well.)
Over the years, I have learnt that my anxiety does not need to take over my life and excepted the fact that it’s part of my mental make up. Within this process of acceptance, I have found some strategies that help control my anxiety (or Betty as I like to call it), so I have less crippling days and more motivation days.
I would like to share with you some of the strategies I use that work for me and my lifestyle. But please note, they may not all work for you (please don’t be hard on your self if they don’t), the most important thing is you find strategies that work for you when you are at home, work, shopping, socialising or picking the kids up from school.
Here are my top strategies I use to effectively control my anxiety.
Exercise :- Is an important part of staying mentally healthy because it;
It releases brain chemicals that provide relaxation and improve mood.
It decreases the quantity of stress hormone in the body.
It improves overall hormone balance.
It tires muscles and makes for easier sleep.
Some studies have shown that exercise can be more effective than any of the leading prescription medication the GP has to offer, so half an hour a day of exercise may be enough to control some of your anxiety attacks. I go for a walk along the beach (I live close to the beach and I find being at the beach calming) and I also do yoga either at home or as part of a class.
Journal:- Even though anxiety can have lots of different physical symptoms that can easily be treated through exercise or massage, its what is going on in our head that can be the hardest thing to control, due to our brain wanting us to remember and focus on things we really just want to forget. But by taking a pen to paper and writing down everything from what I am worrying about, fears and negative thoughts about myself. By writing these things down (especially before I go to sleep) my brain begins to relax and stop wanting us to focus on those things. I find journalling one of the most effective ways to keep my anxiety under control. I keep a note book and pen in my bag at all times so no matter where I am, I jot stuff down. I also journal about all the good things that has happen to be that I am grateful for, so I can look back and remind my self of all the good things that are happening in my life. These can be anything from;
The lady in the supermarket commented on how much she liked my top today and how well it suited me.
I completed a yoga move today that I have been working on for a while.
The sun on my face today made me feel so alive.
Try and find 3 / 4 positive things you can write in your journal that has happened each day, by doing this you are embedding into your mind all the positive aspects of your life and soon these positive memories will over take the negative self talking, fear etc…
Distraction:- Is an important tool to have when controlling your anxiety. I suffer from really bad anxiety attacks when I am in crowded places, I just want to get out of there, even though I really want to see that band play, see the street theatre latest production or take my children to an event they wanted to go to. But having a distraction in place, enables me to take my mind off the amount of people that are around me. For me I take tones of photos, some I may never use or share with friends and family is the most effective distraction from the large crowds and reduces my anxiety about the situation I am in.
There are many other distractions you can use but you could try downloading your favourite upbeat music or hours upon hours of comedy and light hearted pod-casts to your phone and listening to them as a distraction. Even though it’s playing in the background and you’re not really paying attention to it, your ears and mind are still taking in some of that information behind the scenes and are being distracted from the fear or worry of the situation you are in.