As mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve recently started studying again and naturally, this combined with a full-time job, has provoked some feelings of worry (and if i’m honest, a little self doubt too). I am however, in a better place now (more than ever), to use some of the things I have learnt through life in order to ease up any feelings of anxiety.
I’ve always been a ‘worrier’. As a child I would worry all the time about the safety of my mum and would always keep her within eye sight, unless I was in a familiar environment. As a teenager, I worried relentlessly about getting ill, meeting deadlines or disappointing anyone as the fear of failure started to creep in. As I grew up, I began worrying about money, my career and my body. A perfectionist in nature, I did everything I could to control my situation. Some things spiralled and only made my anxiety worse, other small things, made me feel a lot better. Some of the basic tools which anyone can incorporate into their life, I have written up for you below :).
Make a list
This one is pretty damn simple. You’ve got a whole bunch of concerns which feel completely jumbled up in your head and one of the best ways to tackle this head on, is to write everything down. I’m a big fan of lists and also use my diary every day to ensure I can focus on what needs to get done, work out my priorities and organise my time.
Make a list of things you’re grateful for too. Negative attitudes and feelings aren’t good for you and your mind, whilst practicing gratitude is scientifically proven to make you healthier and happier. Invest a little time in writing down the things you are thankful for in your life, no matter how small.
Focus on the present
Although planning your time and thinking ahead is important, I sometimes find that there are things in life that are worrying me, which cannot be controlled or planned for. When this is the case, I just try to focus on the present moment. The act of mindfulness is so powerful when it comes to finding more mental clarity and learning to live for each day can be really helpful in times of distress.
Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens.
Look after your gut
Research from neurobiologists at Oxford University along with studies in the US, provide strong evidence of a connection between gut bacteria and mental health in humans. By looking after your gut health you can improve mood stability.
On a real basic level, improving your gut bacteria could involve having less industrial, processed foods and eating more plant based whole grains, vegetables, legumes, beans and fruit. It could also involve incorporating more cultured, fermented foods in your diet (yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, tempeh) and perhaps taking a good quality prebiotic too. I consider my diet well balanced, I eat yoghurt and take a prebiotic every day with a meal…but the other fermented foods are currently pending on my list. We shall see :D.
Use Aromatherapy oils
Essential oils like lavender have even been shown to react the same way biochemically as anti-anxiety medications do. When you’re feeling particularly anxious, it might be worth considering using aromatherapy oils.
As a little explanation on the science behind this; the olfactory nerve gives us our sense of smell and sends signals to many different parts of the brain. This includes the limbic system and amygdala, which are in charge of our emotions, mood, and memory. These systems are also in charge of regulating our autonomic nervous system, which can either trigger a fight-or-flight response or can soothe us and help us to relax.
Here are some essential oils which can help to relieve stress:
To use them, add them to the floor of your shower, so that the smell rises in the steam as the water falls, mix with a carrier oil and massage into your body or use a room oil burner. I currently use the ‘Deep Relax’ oil from Aromatherapy Associates.
When feeling anxious or worried, the smallest thing can have an impact. Getting out and looking up at the sky can remind you how small and insignificant your concerns are in the grand scheme of things. Look up at the clouds or stars and keep in mind that this feeling will pass, if you give it the space and time to do so.
Move your body
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – exercise is not only good for your body but also for your mind. When i’m feeling stressed or anxious, one of the best instant cures is getting out for a run or walk, or smashing a workout at home or in the gym. When I was suffering from depression, I bought myself a red ladies bicycle and would cycle around the park as fast or as slow as I liked. I cannot explain how good this was for me and what it did to help pull me up from the lows. More recently, yoga has really helped me. If you’ve tried yoga and weren’t a fan, try again. The teacher and kind of practice you choose (Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hatha etc), makes or breaks this for me so, don’t let one bad class put you off.
Be kind to yourself
We all experience different levels of worry but when you’re feeling this way, think about how you’re treating yourself.
- Practice self-care. You can read more about this here but in summary, make sure you’re doing things which allow you time for enjoyment and relaxation.
- Learn to say ‘no’. If something isn’t right for you or you simply can’t manage it, learn to say no. I think many of us can be guilty of agreeing to things which we don’t really want to do and this can often be a cause for worry and anxiety.
- Notice when you’ve set yourself unreasonable expectations. Much of the time, the pressure we feel comes from expectations and deadlines we’ve set ourselves. Acknowledge when you’ve been unreasonable in the targets you’ve set yourself and learn to ease back.
Choose a set time to ‘worry’
Finally it’s worth mentioning an alternative strategy I use when i’m really busy and my mind is clouded with worry. When there’s a lot to think about, I would recommend choosing a set time and place for worrying. This way, you can consider what is causing you worry and start putting in place pro-active ways to prevent this from taking over any more mental space in the future.
As an example, you could say to yourself ‘at 5pm I’m going to sit down, go through my worries and make a plan of action to help me move forward.’ This ensures you don’t spend an entire day or night worrying! Ever found yourself awake at night worrying? Set yourself a specific time tomorrow to address this, so you can focus on getting back to sleep.
I hope my suggestions help and I wish you all a worry free week!