– The only way that the human brain can reboot itself, is with rest, and this means that it needs to sleep. Find out what relaxes you on an evening, such as:
A hot milky drink before bed, but be aware of caffeine.
A good book.
Something that makes you smile; a memory, a photograph, a tune.
You could even try writing a diary, jot down everything you did in the day, including everything that upset you.
This section is a personal one, and it will be different for each individual as to what it is that helps them unwind.
RELAXING THE MIND
(a form of meditation) – Meditation itself is an art form and takes many years of practice. However, you can start slowly, and with a little practice you will soon find that it is a great way of relaxing your mind, and your body too:
Lie down, perfect at bedtime or even first thing on a morning.
Take a few moments by shutting your eyes and listening to your breathing pattern. Breath in through you nose, allowing your chest, or stomach, to puff up, and then slowly breath back out through your mouth, letting those muscles relax.
Once you are completely relaxed and think that you’re ready, start by wiggling your toes, trying not to move anything else.
After a minute or two, make a conscious decision to stop.
Wait a moment and then move your ankle joints around, again trying not to move anything else.
After a minute or two, make a conscious decision to stop.
Now you should be getting the hang of it, so make your way up right up your body, moving each muscle and joint independently, and consciously stopping for a pause between each exercise. Think only about the part of your body that you are moving, and nothing else. If your thoughts start to wander, just concentrate on the particular exercise you are doing. It can be difficult, but if you persevere you will see this is a great way of unwinding your body and mind.
When you get to your head, if you haven’t already fallen asleep, wiggle those eye-brows. Now imagine to yourself that your anxiety is a physical entity, and it is about to float out of the top of your head, like a dark cloud.
If this has not done the trick, then try it again. If it still doesn’t work, don’t worry, give it a go another time. Again, it needs practice to get it right.
– We’re not talking about going to the gym or running around the park, just simple body movement.
Go for a walk
Get away from your desk in the lunch break.
As you’re walking, listen to the noises around you. What do you hear? Cars, people, birds. Concentrate your mind on listening, and not on worrying. Every time your mind wanders back to a problem, consciously make yourself listen out for the sounds around you.
Observe the movements around you. List in your mind what you can see, such as birds flying, children playing, cars passing etc
Sit on a bench and watch the world go by.
Start with 10 minutes and try to increase it each time, until you are taking time out for at least 30 minutes in your daily schedule. Walk wherever you feel most comfortable, a park, a river side, even around your own street or office block.
– yes, we all have to do it, but there are ways of doing this that will actually help you relax your body, especially if you are suffering a panic attack:
If you find yourself breathing short, sharp breaths, then this could be the onset of an anxiety attack. Here’s one thing you can do:
If at all possible, go sit down.
Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and expel it slowly through your mouth, trying to overcome the feeling that you need to breathe rapidly.
This is about slowing down the rhythm of your breathing.
Listen to the sound of your breathing and cut out any other noises around you.
Think only of you, on the inside.
This slower breathing method will help your body to relax. By forcing your mind to think and listen to your own breathing, it will help take your mind from whatever is causing the panic attack. It is, in a sense, a way of meditating.
– Not only at other people, but to yourself. An inner smile will cause you to smile on the outside. The more you smile, naturally and not forced, the more positive other people will react to you
Don’t go around smiling falsely as that will serve no purpose other than make you look odd
The idea is to force your mind to find a pleasant image or thought, something that makes you feel happy: a pet; a loved one; a song; a special place, anything that makes you feel positive within yourself just for a few moments.
DRINK CALMING TEAS
– When you reach out for that kettle for a caffeine drink, or bottle of wine, just force yourself to have a herbal tea, first. Herbal teas, such as Chamomile, have compounds that are medicinal, and help relax the indigestion system, that is possibly in knots due to anxiety and really could do with a helping hand.
There are so many herbal teas on the market that it’s worth trying a few different ones, until you find the taste you like. You will be glad you did.
BREAKFAST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
– After sleeping all night without any sustenance, it is of no surprise that breakfast is an important meal for the body.
Many anxious people don’t feel like eating first thing in the morning. Again, have that herbal tea to start the day.
Try not to choose a high carbohydrate option for breakfast, such as pop-up tarts, muffins, pancakes, sweetened cereals. Whilst this type of food can be immediately satisfying, it also spikes blood sugars. You may get a sudden sugar rush, but that will just as suddenly drop back down with a crash, making your anxiety worse.
Protein options are nutritious and filling, such as eggs, cheese, full fat Yoghurts, all good options, and will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Also the high fibre options, such as fruit, high bran bread for toast or high bran cereal.
EATING AT REGULAR TIMES
– At midday, set your alarm on the computer, or clock and ensure that you eat.
Don’t eat the fast food options, which may seem convenient and quick, but they also have that high carb effect with your sugar levels. Instead, go for fruit, yoghurt or both.
Make up a packed lunch, using that high bran bread you had for breakfast.
When buying bread, pasta or rice, choose the healthier options of wholemeal or wheat grain. The complex carbohydrates in these products are known to be serotonin triggers, a naturally produced chemical that calms the mind. They are also more nutritional and will fill you up quicker than the whiter options.
Use the same routine for the evening, by setting a time on your alarm. A time that you know you can set aside and enjoy cooking and eating a healthy, homemade meal.
If you are only cooking for yourself, cook it for 2-3 people, and freeze the other portions for later use. No excuses for not making the effort to cook.
TAKE TIME TO MAKE A MEAL PLAN AND A SHOPPING LIST
– Do this the week before. It is another of those good exercises, whereby, for half an hour you are forcing your mind to think of something mundane, but nonetheless important. This means that you are not worrying about other things, and at the same time, you are achieving the task of planning out some tasty meals.
Try to vary each day’s main meal, such as: Monday pasta, Tuesday rice, Wednesday potatoes, Thursday meat free, Friday junk day with pizza, Saturday salad, Sunday Fish. Obviously, exactly what is on your menu is a personal choice, but make it varied and full of healthy protein and high bran options.
When it comes to cooking dinner, if you’ve already planned ahead and bought the ingredients, half the worry is over, so no stress. All you have to do is cook and eat.
It is a good idea to try to implement this planning ahead method, into other parts of your life, such as: a simple cleaning rota; implementing time for doing things that you like; a rota for visiting friends and relatives. Such rota’s can be included in anything, but don’t make them rigid and do them over a month instead of a week. Allow time for it go wrong, but try to hit the targets the next month. Be easy on yourself, so long as you’re doing some of the things that you have planned, that is enough.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
– This is where we talk about the sugars and fats again, because they are present in processed foods to make them tasty. The problem with these foods is that eating them makes your situation worse. You will get the sugar rush, but that’s exactly what it is, a rush of energy. It has to fall once it’s peaked, and then you will feel lethargic, not helping your anxiety at all.
If you must have a burger, pop it on your meal plan and do a homemade burger with some quality meat
No sodas! Remember you now have lots of tasty herbal teas
– Don’t reach for the bottle of wine or beer when you are feeling anxious. Alcohol is a natural depressant, excessive consumption will only make your anxiety worse. An occasional glass of wine is fine, but don’t overdo it.
HOW TO COPE WITH OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER (OCD)
– OCD can take many forms but for most, they have turned into impulsive thoughts and obsessive behavior. This type of thinking has become so overwhelming, that it interferes with normal everyday life. Signs of OCD include:
The need to hoard stuff.
Repeatedly performing a behavior such as hand washing.
The need to constantly check something, such as are the doors locked, windows closed, lights out, etc.
Disturbing, obsessive thoughts, such as worried about the bad effects of bacteria, worried you will get a disease by simply touching something.
For most people who suffer from OCD, then professional help is often necessary, but there are some natural remedies that may help to alleviate the symptoms. Natural supplements, such as St John Wart have been shown to help improve OCD symptoms. A diet that is rich in magnesium and vitamins such as C and D. Foods rich in Omega 3 can also be beneficial to OCD sufferers.
HOW TO TACKLE A PHOBIA
– A phobia is an intense and irrational fear of something, which in reality poses no real danger. Phobias can be very restrictive to a person’s life, often rearranging their day to avoid them. Common phobias include the fear of closed-in spaces, spiders and flying, and many others, far too many to mention here.
The symptoms of a phobia are very similar to other anxiety disorders, and include rapid breathing, feeling nauseous, chest pain, shaking and sweating. Like OCD, sometimes it is necessary to seek professional help with phobias. There are some things you can do yourself, to help alleviate these symptoms. One of the first ways to tackling a phobia is to expose yourself to the object of your phobia, slowly. Whilst this can be difficult, your first reaction may be to run from your phobia, but that is only self-defeating and only helps to increase your fear. For example, let’s consider someone who has a phobia of spiders, an approach for self-help could be the following, perhaps with the help of a friend.
Look at pictures of spiders, do this until you have little or no reaction to them, for as long as it takes.
Watch video clips of spiders, there are plenty online. Once you feel comfortable with that, move on to the next step.
Handle a toy spider, try and find one as realistic as possible. Again when handling the toy causes you no discomfort, move to the next stage.
If you have a garden, go looking for spiders. Once you have found them, watch them closely and stand as close to them as you can.
When you can, capture one of the spiders in a box and take it inside. Pop it somewhere you can see it, but it cannot get out. Watch it for as long as you feel able. Remember, when you have finished this section, free the spider back into the garden.
When you feel comfortable doing so, put a spider on your hand and let it move over your skin. It may be a long time before you get to this final stage, but there really is no rush.
The whole idea of this exercise is to desensitize you to your fear, and by gradually exposing you to that fear, it should help you to overcome it. There is no time limit on any of the stages, take as long as you need before moving on each stage. These stages can be changed to suit whatever it is you have as a phobia, just as long as you gradually expose yourself to your fear.
GINSENG HELPS RELAXATION AND INCREASES ENERGY LEVELS
– This is a simple, slow growing plant. It is mainly the root that is medicinal, but the leaves can help, mildly. Whilst scientific research is moderate, it has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Not being a natural food resource it is usually taken as a capsule, tablets, liquid extract and herbal tea. Sometimes added to energy drinks.
St JOHN’S WORT HELPS WITH RELAXATION
– Early research has shown some evidence that this plant can help with anxiety. A flowering plant that is easy to grow in your own garden, dependent on where you live. It is the flowers and leaves that have the medicinal components. Can be purchased in capsules, tablets, supplement powder, teas and oils. The oil can be applied to the skin to treat certain skin conditions, such as eczema
L-LYSINE REDUCES ANXIETY
– This is a natural amino acid protein. Those with L-lysine deficiency suffer a disruption of the release of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy. We can get L-lysine by ingesting it through certain foods, such as legumes, chicken, beef and eggs, are but a few. Supplements of Lysine have been shown to reduce stress hormones. Again, it can come in capsules, creams and liquid forms.
DEFICIENCY IN MAGNESIUM CAN CAUSE ANXIETY
– A natural mineral produced by the body, but yet sometimes we can be deficient and not know it. This mineral calms the muscles and nerves, so it is not surprising that if you have low magnesium levels, then your body will be tense. This mineral has many effects on the body, so it will not hurt to increase your intake by eating foods high in magnesium, such as fibrous vegetables, seeds and nuts, milk and some dairy. Hard water is known to be high in magnesium.
BREATHING IN THE ESSENCE OF NATURAL OILS HAS A CALMING EFFECT
– Lavender oil not only smells lovely, but breathing in the essence of the burning oil has a natural calming effect. Equally rubbing it on the skin or a few drops on your pillow before you go to sleep, are all ways of using the oil to your benefit.
Some oils are a combination of a few different plants. Keep experimenting until you find the smell that makes you feel good inside.
LEARN HOW TO DO MINI MEDITATION SESSIONS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
– you don’t have to be a veteran meditator to benefit from small sessions of relaxation.
Simply sitting on a park bench and forcing yourself to listen to the noises around you, this will help you switch off from the rising panic that is overtaking your thoughts.
Listen to your breathing pattern while you try and force yourself to breath more slowly.
Think of a word and keep repeating it.
Play a word game.
All of these exercises are forcing your mind to relax. Using these strategies will help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety overload, maybe even putting the original problem into proportion. All these can help when the symptoms of ‘Fight or Flight” start to overload you.
LOOK AFTER YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND IT WILL LOOK AFTER YOU
– There is increasing evidence that anxiety and the digestive system are connected. After all most of us have felt nauseous when we have had to give an important presentation or speech, but it works both ways too. Many people who suffer from digestive tract problems, also suffer from high levels of anxiety. Eating healthier is one way to improve your digestive system, and help in fighting your anxiety.
Start by following the recommendations in chapter 3 of this guide.
Drink plenty of water.
Limit your alcoholic intake
Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates and ensure your food is well balanced with lots of healthy fruit and vegetables
By ensuring that you eat a healthy balanced diet, it could be the first step in reducing your anxiety
OFFLOAD YOUR THOUGHTS
– if you cannot talk to a friend of family member, keep a diary. This is a therapeutic way of telling yourself all that you are worrying over. You may never read it, it doesn’t matter, it is simply an exercise in talking about your problems to yourself. Write down what is worrying you and why. Then, if you’re feeling really brave, jot down all the ways you can tackle each problem.
ANY ACTIVITY WILL BENEFIT YOUR BODY
– The benefits of physical activity from those who suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses, is well documented. Every time you exercise, a chemical known as Dopamine is released into the brain, this chemical helps you to feel happy.
No matter what your age, you need to keep that heart healthy, and joints moving. This does not mean that you must join a gym to exercise, we are talking about daily movement. Learn a bit of basic yoga to stretch those limbs, go for brisk walks every-day. Activity stimulates so many good chemicals, that it stands to reason your body will benefit from it.
LEARN INFORMATION ABOUT ANXIETY
– read as much as you can, in guides like this, so you can understand what is happening within your body. Understanding means you are far more armed to confront the problem head on, than being ignorant and doing nothing. This way you will be fully aware of the symptoms and have an automatic plan of action to tackle any anxiety attacks. Use the strategies we have discussed in this guide, and you will soon be overcoming your anxiety symptoms.
ALLOW YOURSELF SOME SELF PITY
– not too much mind, that is just sad. But, do allow yourself to accept that you have a problem. As with any illness, you can feel sorry for yourself, so long as you make efforts towards recovery.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS
– When anxious thoughts are infiltrating your mind to the extent that they trigger an attack of panic, push the thoughts away using any of the methods we’ve mentioned. Maybe go for a walk and pay particular attention to the noises around you. Singing a song, especially one that is associated with happier times, or a well-known rhyme. Using these strategies, and others we have mentioned in this guide, should help to clear your mind and lead you to feeling calmer.