How to beat stress and anxiety – every day
If you regularly read these pages, you may remember that we recently reported on a story about how anxiety levels appear to be rising among people in Britain.
The Mental Health Foundation's Living With Anxiety report found that 22 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men are feeling anxious either all of or a lot of the time, while only one in 20 could report never experiencing this emotion.
Unfortunately, 26 per cent of the study's respondents thought anxiety was a sign of not being able to cope, so many of the people experiencing it are likely not to have done anything about it.
The people you work with, see in the queue for the cafe each lunchtime or sit next to at the bus stop could therefore be struggling with inner demons that are preventing them from enjoying fulfilling lives.
It's easy to feel concern about the future, particularly in today's busy world. However, excessive worrying can not only be damaging to your wellbeing today, but it could also impact your mental and physical health in the future.
So, if you know you're prone to worrying, how can you get yourself off this cycle? We've put together a few ideas on how you can beat everyday stress and anxiety below.
1. Get away from the problem
If you find yourself sitting at your desk and feeling completely overwhelmed by the deluge of emails you've just received, or you're at home trying to get through to the gas company while stressing about all the other things you've got to do today, you need to take a time out before you reach mental collapse.
Get away literally, whether it's a five-minute brew break from your desk or a ten-minute stroll around the block. If you can't do this, then look at a funny email, listen to your favourite song or have a quick browse on a fashion website you like. When you reconnect, you'll hopefully feel better able to deal with your tasks.
2. Eat and drink well
At stressful times, it can be tempting to treat yourself with chocolate, coffee, fizzy drinks and other comforting foods and beverages. However, while they might make you feel good in the short term, then won't in the long run. Sugar highs and crashes will leave you feeling depleted of energy, while caffeine can make your stress levels worse.
Instead, eat regular, healthy snacks such as almonds and bananas, always have a good breakfast such as porridge or wholegrain cereals and stay hydrated with water breaks.
You could always consider herbal supplements such as St John's Wort, ginseng and chamomile, although do consult your doctor before taking any of these.
3. Don't forget to breathe
It may sound obvious, but our breathing alters to become more shallow when we're stressed, which results in less oxygen getting to the brain and body. When you feel yourself getting panicky, stop and consciously slow your breathing – in for three counts, out for three counts. Ensure you're moving your tummy too, as this means you're getting air really deeply into your lungs.
4. Use positive affirmations and mindfulness
Altering your patterns of thinking can be key to getting away from a negative mindset, so ensure you're giving yourself positive messages. Read our previous guide to using positive affirmations to learn how to do this, then try mindfulness too, which grounds you in the here and now. Hopefully, you should be able to use these techniques to stop your mind spinning out of control.
5. Embrace silence
Mobile phones, tablets, TVs – there's so much competing for our attention these days that it can be hard to hear yourself think. To combat this, spend some time each day – even if it's just five minutes – in complete disconnection from the rest of the world. Don't look at your emails and texts, don't listen to the radio and don't be tempted to check the news on TV. Research shows that exposure to disturbing images such as terrorism and war can damage our wellbeing, so try to limit how often you view then generally too.
When you can hear the birdsong outside and give yourself time to slow down, it's amazing how much your stress levels dip.
6. Use to-do lists and 'worry time'
If you feel as though you have lots to do on any given day, you're more likely to worry you don't have time for it all. However, writing all your tasks down in the form of a to-do list should make them feel more manageable and help you realise you haven't actually got that much to do after all.
If something is still concerning you, allow yourself a few minutes of worry time each day. It may sound counter-intuitive, but focusing on a problem can actually help your mind find solutions without you even realising it. Think about your stressor for four minutes, think about the worst-case scenarios it could cause, then spend your final minute jotting down what you can do about it. Problem solved, with any luck.
7. Phone a friend
They always say a problem shared is a problem halved and it's true that talking about what's worrying you helps to make it feel infinitely less concerning.
Call your mum, dad, sister or friend and have a chat for half an hour, not just about your stress levels, but about anything that crops up. Don't want to worry your loved ones? Try some psychic life coaching over the phone instead. You can make appointments whenever you like, so why not time them to coincide with when you usually start feeling overwhelmed?
8. Get more help if you need it
We have been talking about everyday stress and anxiety here, but it's important to say that if you think you have a clinical mental health problem, then you should always make an appointment with your doctor. Seeking advice is not a sign of weakness and is infinitely better than struggling on alone.
Try our techniques and see if you can cut out at least some of your life's worries.