The anxiety trap: taking time out for you
It can sneak up on you, like a bad cold. One day you’re fine, the next you’re in its throes and chastising yourself: ‘why didn’t I take those vitamins/get that flu shot/pack a raincoat?’.
Except in this case, the unwanted visitor is anxiety. And just like a bad cold, punishing yourself for it won’t make it better.
It’s true that prevention is better than a cure. It’s also true that everyone worries and has anxious feelings at some time or another; some of us more than others. But it’s important to know that it isn’t a matter of steering clear of situations you may be challenged or stressed by; after all, we often need that extra nudge, or buzz of nervous energy, to get things done, meet a deadline or push ourselves to do better.
It’s only if these feelings become a problem in your everyday life that they become an issue. Even then, the most important thing you can do when faced with anxiety is to try to face the very sources of your apprehension, fear or nerves.
If you want to try and stop yourself falling in to the anxiety trap, the good news is, there are plenty of ways to do so – and they all start with you.
Relaxation and mindfulness
- Taking regular time out to relax and do something just for you is a great place to start. It can be as simple as deep, slow breathing, listening to relaxing music or luxuriating in a lovely bath, or maybe something that takes a little more effort, such as going for a massage. The key word here is regular – don’t just wait until the next time you’re frazzled. The idea is to not let things get to that point (if possible) by giving yourself regular time-outs.
- Mindfulness is all about helping you to be more connected to the present moment, so you don’t focus so much on the past or the future. Just pausing in the moment can help to stop worries or anxieties in their tracks and prevent them from morphing into something unsettling. Breathe slowly … become aware of your surroundings … focus on them and notice and accept what you can see … and hear … smell … feel … taste. You’re in the moment. And it’s a lovely, stress-free place to be.
- Many of our anxieties often begin with negative “what if…?” thoughts; that you may make a mistake, hurt yourself, get into trouble, look silly, or maybe fail. Try catching those thoughts as they creep in. Practise mentally swatting them away, like an annoying fly, and replacing them with positive, encouraging thoughts – like a beautiful, gentle butterfly. Keep a diary to see what triggers those unhelpful thoughts and challenge them. And remind yourself that one unhelpful thought is not the sum of you.
- It makes sense that a healthy diet – one that includes plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains – is a factor in good mental health. Eating regular meals throughout the day that contain some form of protein such as dairy, legumes, nuts, eggs or meat will help to keep energy levels – and in turn, your mood – more stable.
- MOVE! Try for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day to brew up some of those feel-good endorphins in your brain. They’re mood improvers and will help you cope better with stress.
There’s a few steps involved in reducing your risk of anxiety, but remember, it’s in your hands. So feel the power, and use the power for good!
For more information, tips and tools, visit the Jean Hailes Anxiety portal. Peninsula Hot Springs is also running a limited time promotion which is available until 20th November, Take time out for yourself this festive season.