Many of us will have experienced heightened levels of anxiety, especially over the past months. And although sometimes we cannot change the factors that are causing the anxiety itself there are some simple things that we can implement us to better cope with these challenges. With this in mind I’ve included a few self-care tips below that may help restore some calm to mind and body.
Of course, if you think your anxiety is affecting your daily life and becoming debilitating there are plenty of organisations that can help get you the support you need such as www.anxietyuk.org.uk or visit your GP as a first step.
TIP 1: Create routine – some planning can help to create framework and stability to counteract uncertainty and the anxiety that comes with it. This doesn’t need to overly detailed but mapping out the day ahead can help give a focus and some clarity. With this schedule in meal times and an afternoon break to keep blood sugar levels balanced as skipping meals can affect our physical as well as mental wellbeing. Conversely constantly snacking can also affect hormones and negatively affect our emotional wellbeing so working to a three meal per day generally can help bring some balance for the body and the mind. Try having a spicy tea to help give you a boost in the afternoon rather than always reaching for snacks.
TIP 2: Practise daily meditation – which will differ for all of us so find the thing that you most resonate with you. This could be straight up apps but it might just be some simple breathing exercises. Just like we exercise to bring strength and fitness, the mind needs the same kind of regular attention to keep it fit and well. Something called Diaphragmatic Breathing, often referred to as ‘belly breathing’ is a really simple way to help calm the mind and the best part is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. Simply breathing deep into the belly for a count of 4-5 and then releasing to the same length of time slowly for around 5-10 minutes can help to reset. Perhaps think about lighting a candle to help keep you grounded and present.
TIP 3: Prioritise pillow time – poor sleep can have myriad negative effects on our physical and well-being and whilst some of these can be easier to manage like late night scrolling on devices, little ones waking in the night can be much harder. However, maximising quality of our sleep is something we can all do. Creating a pre-bedtime ritual which means switching off all devices an hour before going to bed and indulging in a soothing cup of herbal tea with herbs such as chamomile, lavender, passionflower and valerian that are renowned sleep soothers. Use this time to apply a lovely calming oil.
...and perhaps even choose to lay your head on a luxurious silk pillow and allow your body and mind to have the rest it really deserves:
TIP 4: Connect with people & nature – increasingly we know that lack of social interaction can lead to disconnection and heightened feelings of stress and anxiety so it is important to schedule in meet-ups and/or dedicated video chats with friends and family. The benefits of connection also extend to being in nature. Not just for the physical benefits of walking related to anxiety but also because this exposes us to the sunshine and vitamin D that has a vital role in mood. If you live in less sunnier climes it is advised to supplement during the winter months.
TIP 5: Limit stimulants – heavy use of social media can negatively affect our mental wellbeing so having some boundaries around time spent on this and exerting curfews can help to form a healthier relationship. Having a few days per month ‘offline’ as well as unfollowing accounts that drive anxious thoughts and feelings can also be incredibly helpful. Watch the caffeine and booze and instead swap for drinks such as kombucha (a fizzy fermented green tea) and water kefir that will give you (and your gut!) a bit of a pick me up without the crash after-effect. Similarly, lots of sugary and white refined foods may also create that same high-low effect which may drive anxiety further. Try matcha that can give you a boost without a jittery feeling.
TIP 6: Nourish the gut – as we discover more about the gut-brain connection we know it to be a very powerful one which means nourishing the health of our gut. Include plenty of fibre in as many different sources – ‘eat the rainbow’ is a cliché but the more colour and variety we can get from plant-based foods the better. Try adding in some fermented foods such as ‘live’ yogurt, traditional cheese, kefir (dairy or water), sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are packed with lots of beneficial bacteria that can enrich our own gut microbiome. And you might find that certain herbs like ashwagandha and reishi can help support this connection like this powder:
...but always check with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or taking any medication before you take any supplement.