Take back control of your anxiety

Heart palpitations, fogging brain, panic attacks, poor gut health, grinding your teeth at night. Sound familiar? Anxiety can show itself in many different forms. You may have experienced one of the above or even all of them at some point, I know I have. Experiencing just one of these symptoms can be really difficult to live with and over time take its toll on your body.

But don’t lose hope!

Here are some of the tips I have learnt over the years to reduce those anxious feelings:

Breathe - the number one thing you can do to calm your anxiety is to practice diaphragmatic breathing (or more simply put deep breathing). Anxious bodies breath quickly and more shallow, as a result of your body being in fight or flight mode. This primal response, historically, was to protect you from predators which, let’s be honest, isn’t needed as much now in modern life. When in fight or flight mode, your blood and energy is diverted to your extremities, so you can either fight or run away. The side effect of this is that less blood flows to the rest of your body. Your brain prioritises escape over all other bodily functions. The result; digestion grinds to a holt, brain activity slows down (major brain fog) and your immune system takes a time out.

All this can increase your chances of catching the office lurgy but also and more seriously, can lead to disease and inflammation.

To trick your body into calming down, try taking some deep, slow breaths. Do this every night for 10 minutes and also before you get out of bed in the morning. You can also practice breathing at any point during the day for example waiting for the train, making a cup of tea at work or even sitting in a meeting.

Take a moment to notice your breath, is it shallow and quick? Stop and take some full deep breaths. Try to breath down into your stomach and not just your chest. Count in for four seconds, hold for two seconds and out for eight seconds, repeat 5-10 times.

Kick the caffeine (sad face) - I used to love my morning oat cappuccino, I was addicted! The problem with caffeine, is that it actually stimulates your flight or fight mode, which can increase your anxiety.

Caffeine can also disrupt a good nights sleep which leads to a vicious cycle of needing more caffeine the next morning. Sleep is so important for our general health and happiness and a good 7-8 hours a night is key (I will explain more in a bit). We all think we need caffeine to function, but the truth is once you break the cycle, you will actually feel so much more awake (without getting that 3pm crash!). It will take a couple of weeks of weaning yourself off coffee, but once you do, I promise you will never look back.

 There are so many alternatives now too. A lot of why I would drink coffee was the ritual of going to my favourite coffee shop and having something to sip on, on my way to work. You can still do this, try something like a turmeric latte instead.

Natural remedies - give natural remedies a go! Herbs known as adaptogens are a great natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Ashwagandha will help to support your adrenal gland and regulate hormone levels. Magnesium is best at night to aid a good nights sleep and CBD oil (make sure good quality) helps to lower those heart palpitations and give you a feeling of calm. Brands I really recommend are Wild Nutrition or Terra Nova.

 Self-care - Be kind to yourself, especially when you feel down and anxious. Do things that you know will comfort you like; watching a funny film, go to your favourite gym class, have a bath. Personally, I love to find something to bake or cook, as this makes me happy and helps me focus my wondering mind. Massages are also great as they help to switch off your para-sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight regulator of your brain. Muscles that have become tense through anxiety will loosen and this will give you a nice relaxed feeling. You can also practise your deep breathing at the same time, multiplying the calming effect. Just remember is this not your fault and the feelings will ease, nothing is permanent.

Rest up - Give your body the sleep it needs to repair and re-energise. 7-8 hours sleep a night is key to functioning well the next day, a good sleep is one where you don’t even need an alarm to wake you up, maybe this can be your goal! If you struggle to get to sleep, try avoiding screens after 8pm and ban phones and laptops from the bedroom. Purchase a lavender pillow spray, it smells awesome and also helps calm the mind, personally I love the sleep mist from Neom.

Do your deep breathing, or meditation if you can. Headspace is a great app to try if you are new to meditating. Finally, try to eat dinner early so you aren’t digesting food as you lie in bed.

Go green - Research has shown that just looking at the colour green has a calming effect on the body. Getting out in nature reconnects us and grounds us. Fresh air, and the calming sound of birds will lower your anxious feelings. I try to get out in nature every day, even if it is just for 10-15 minutes it will help. Maybe you could walk some of the way to work, or find a route that cuts through a park.

 You are not alone - CBT counselling or talking therapy is amazing for sharing your feelings and learning new ways to cope when you feel anxiety rising. You can’t completely avoid stress (unfortunately!), but you can learn ways to deal with it. Understanding what your triggers are is an important step in managing them.

Connect with friends and family. Share how you feel and let close ones comfort you. You never know, they may be experiencing something similar themselves. It’s even scientifically proven a twenty second hug releases oxytocin, the happy hormone, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Get active - This is so key in keeping your mind positive and reducing anxiety. Find an exercise you enjoy, whether its; yoga, weights, running, walking, climbing or swimming. If you can do something active for 30 minutes each day to get your heart rate up, this will help to reduce your anxiety.

 Microbiome management - I am obsessed with gut health - but this is for good reason! It is becoming more and more apparent that a healthy gut is a healthy brain. Modern medicine is always looking for the quick fix and so most of us will have taken various courses of antibiotics over the years. Little do we know that this has left many of us with weak, unbalanced gut bacteria. Overgrowth of fungi and bad bacteria, are now understood to affect our moods and even the choices we make. It is likely that if you have anxiety you probably have some sort of gut issue. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, am I right?

Try a good probiotic. I recommend Symprove, to boost the good bacteria in your gut. Eat plenty of prebiotic foods like asparagus, banana, onion and leeks. Kefir and sauerkraut all contain lots of good bacteria too. Finally, try and avoid too much sugar in your diet, as this just feeds the bad guys.

 

 

Music and Massage

Music plays a really important part of my treatments and can really help my clients to be able to switch off. I am passionate about playing the right music to help maximise relaxation, here is a playlist is often use during treatments: