Self-care plays a crucial role in managing anxiety. Here, we explore some simple methods, and why they work:
Cognitive behavioural techniques are particularly effective: such as cognitive restructuring, where you challenge negative thoughts contributing to anxiety and replace them with more realistic and positive ones. Exposure therapy involves safely and gradually confronting anxiety-provoking situations, helping to reduce anxiety – by confronting fears, rather than avoiding them – helping to break the cycle of anxiety. Behavioural activation involves engaging in positive activities to improve mood and reduce anxiety: sport, reading walking, whatever it is you enjoy – make sure you’re taking some time for you! Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment without judgment – breaks the cycle of ruminative thoughts that contribute to anxiety. Learning to relax through mindfulness and making plans to ease anxiety-inducing situations are also helpful strategies.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
During moments of feeling overwhelmed, telling yourself or others to calm down may not be effective. The brain is in “fight or flight” mode, and top-down regulation – your brain telling your body – to calm down is difficult. It is necessary in these moments to regulate the nervous system first by practicing slow breathing, gentle movement, and spending time outdoors to reduce cortisol levels and boost mood.
Exercise and good nutrition offer significant benefits for managing anxiety. Regular physical activity helps reduce anxiety symptoms by releasing endorphins, improving mood, and promoting relaxation. Exercise also serves as a healthy coping mechanism, reducing stress and enhancing overall well-being.
Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet plays a crucial role in managing anxiety. Certain foods, such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and B vitamins, have been linked to improved mental health and reduced anxiety levels. Caffeine intake has been strongly linked with feelings of anxiety, so monitoring your caffeine intake is crucial to managing the physical symptoms of anxiety. A well-nourished body and brain are better equipped to handle stress and regulate emotions.
Supporting others with anxiety requires an understanding of the importance of social support as a buffer. Conversations should be framed in a validating manner, acknowledging their thoughts while not condoning unhealthy behaviour. It is crucial to avoid diagnosing individuals and instead focus on providing support and empathy.
By incorporating these practices into your daily and weekly routines, you can set yourself up to enhance your well-being, regulate your nervous system, and provide empathetic support to others facing anxiety.