I’ve gone through bouts of anxiety throughout my life. If you’re reading this, you probably know the main symptoms:
- That uneasy, nervous ‘butterfly’ feeling in your gut and/or chest
- Stomach pain, and sometimes upset
- Irrational fears about things that don’t usually rumble you
- Inability to concentrate as well as you usually do
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
I hate feeling this way, and I’m sure most people do… but I’ve found some ways to overcome it. The bouts that used to last for days or even weeks and months, now ease up within a day if I take action (more on this below).
What causes the physical anxiety symptoms
That feeling of ‘butterflies’ in your chest is actually your body preparing for ‘fight or flight’: the blood is pumping to your heart, ready to get into survival mode. This was great for our ancestors who had to fight off or run away from predators. It’s also the reason you might have a tummy upset; your body sends blood away from your stomach to your chest instead.
This would be great if you really did need to fight or run; but not so good in most day-to-day situations.
Remember that a little anxiety is normal
If you’ve got a big event coming up, you’ve fallen out with someone, you’re waiting for something genuinely scary to happen… then anxiety is your body’s way of protecting you and this should pass.
However, if you’re feeling anxious on a regular basis, about things that, really, if you’re honest, shouldn’t be a big deal, then you could use some of these tools to help…
Consider what’s bothering you
Is it something you can change? If yes, take action as soon as you can.
Is it something you can’t change? Then worrying about it won’t help, so change your focus (see more on this below)
Not sure what’s making you anxious? This is often the case for me… it’s best to focus on something completely distracting – again, see below.
Tell yourself that you’re not in any danger
This might sound a bit silly, but I find this makes a big difference. Deep breath, slow release. Remind yourself over and over: ‘I’m not in any danger’ – out-loud if possible. Relax your shoulders. Tell your unconscious mind that there’s nothing to fear. I have to do this repeatedly for it to make an impact, but it does help.
I even did this last time I had a job interview and ended up with very little nerves at all.
Change Your Focus
Easier said than done, I know. But here are a few ideas:
- Get on with a hobby you LOVE. Don’t consider whether you feel like doing it, just do it. I go by the ten minute rule: I’ll do it for ten mins – if I still don’t feel like it, I’ll stop (and I rarely stop!)
- Get active: walk, dance, run, go to the gym, swim – whatever you enjoy. It’ll release the happy hormones and make you feel good.
- Do a body scan: close your eyes, and scan your body from head to toe, slowly. This is a great mindfulness technique. While we’re at it, mindfulness is a great tool to read more about if you’re struggling with anxiety.
- Read a great book or magazine, or binge a Netflix series.
- Go out. It’s very easy when you’re feeling anxious to stay indoors, to avoid socialising and keep to yourself. This won’t help. I repeat: this won’t help. Force yourself out of your comfort zone, and you’re unlikely to regret it. Staying in just teaches your unconscious mind that home = safety. The longer you stay indoors, the harder it’ll be to go out… and before you know it, you’ll be feeling pretty depressed as well as anxious. Take small steps at first, if it’s too difficult.
The Power of Music
Music makes SUCH a difference to my mood and how I feel. Create a playlist of uplifting songs; ones that have inspiring or motivational lyrics, those you love to sing out loud to, and those you’d dance to. Put it on, loud, and force yourself to sing and even dance. It’s hard to feel anxious (or glum) when you’re dancing.
Meditation is NOT switching off all thoughts. That’s near on impossible for most of us. Meditation is taking 10-15 minutes a day to just sit, and be still, and observe. I use the Calm app, and I’m always going on about it to my friends and family. It’s literally life-changing. They also have ‘sleep stories’ which are great if you find it hard to sleep.
Talk to Someone
It seems to me that most people don’t like to talk about anxiety. I know I didn’t when I was at my worst, but trust me – you’ll feel better for it. And chances are, many people you know have felt this way at some point. They won’t judge you and they’d like to help.
You can get anti-anxiety medication from a doctor, but I personally don’t want to put any chemicals into my body that I can avoid. I highly recommend CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). If you haven’t done it before and suffer from anxiety, depression or both, then check it out. It changed my life. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating 🙂
I used to read articles like this, think ‘oh that sounds good’ …and then never make any changes to my life what-so-ever. So why not pick two or three ideas from this page, make a note of them, and then commit to applying them when you’re next feeling anxious 🙂
Here’s to calm, peaceful minds and more joy for us all.
Create the life you deserve ♡