Our first guest article about anxiety by Swissphysio employee Aysha McMullen. Before we get into her advice, here is her disclaimer:
“I am not a mental health professional; I’m just offering some advice that you may find helpful. If you are in crisis or just need someone to talk to, you can call the Anxiety UK helpline: 03444 775 774 or the MIND helpline: 0300 123 3393.” – Aysha
1 in 4 experience mental health issues
According to studies, 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems such as anxiety each year. During this unique period of time many who do not usually experience anxiety are finding they are struggling with a decline in their mental well-being. The COVID-19 outbreak has been causing many of us a lot of stress, and the unique situation of necessitated self-isolation can put a strain on our mental health.
Aysha’s top tips
This article offers some advice on how to cope with the symptoms of anxiety, starting with a simple fact: Anxiety is simply too much energy in your body all at once with nowhere to go. The following exercises and practices are designed to provide an outlet for anxious energy.
To practice mindfulness is to be fully present in the moment. Often our minds are occupied with different tangents of thoughts and worries running rampant. Mindfulness exercises are designed to fully occupy your mind, which helps you to stop ruminating on worries.
One thing at a time
The simplest mindfulness exercise you can do is to completely concentrate on a task, for example taking a shower. Focus all of your attention on the sensations that accompany the task: the feel of the water on your skin, the sound of it splashing on different surfaces, the scent of the soap you are using. If a thought enters your mind, that’s OK – just let it go. Do not hold onto it. Be present, experience that moment for what it is, for however long it lasts. There is no rush. You may not be able to change your current situation with mindfulness alone, but you can control how you respond to it.
The 54321 exercise
This exercise helps you to get out of your head through your own physical senses. Essential oils are useful for this exercise, and we sell them as handy roller balls in the clinic.
- Identify 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can feel
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
Stopping the spiral of anxiety
It is easy to become overwhelmed by anxiety. We start worrying about one thing, and then our mind guides us to all the other things we ‘should’ be worrying about, and then we start thinking of potential worries and ‘what ifs’. This is called catastrophising or catastrophic thinking.
- Divert your nervous energy: Anxiety is just energy and when we have no outlet it is easy to become overwhelmed. Try some aerobic exercise, something that gets your heart racing and blood pumping but in a good way.
- Allocate a time to worry: Some of us are natural worriers, and that’s ok, but letting your worries consume all of your time is not. Allocate 30 minutes of the day when you are allowed to worry. Write down your worries and then list possible explanations and solutions for them. Identifying sources of anxiety and approaching them with a productive, problem-solving mindset helps to reduce stress in the long run by changing how we approach stressful situations.
Mindful breathing involves abdominal breathing (aka belly breathing) which calms the body because it’s how we breathe when deeply relaxed or asleep, as opposed to the shallow, short breaths of an anxiety attack. Belly breathing eases anxiety because it assists in regulating erratic breathing patterns and lowers blood pressure.
- Become aware of your breath. Breathe normally and naturally.
- When you breathe in, be aware that you’re breathing in, and when you breathe out, be aware that you’re breathing out.
- Rest your hands on your belly. Feel your belly rise and fall with your breath.
- Maintain this awareness of your breath. Your mind may naturally wander: acknowledge these thoughts, and then bring your attention back to the rhythm of your breathing, the feeling of your belly expanding and shrinking underneath your hands.
Meditation may conjure to mind images of Buddhist monks and Hindu temples, but anyone can meditate; you simply need a comfortable place to sit, ideally cross-legged with your hands resting in your lap or on your knees, and your back straight but not stiff.
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place without distractions.
- Bring your attention to the present moment, be aware of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations in your body.
- Focus on your breath. Move your attention now to centre on your breath as it travels in through your nose, down to your belly, and up again and out through the mouth.
- Return your attention to your body. Become again aware of your body beyond the narrow focus of your breathing, but maintain the same breathing pattern.
Practising yoga has mental as well as physical benefits because it is an exercise that involves various postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. Yoga reduces stress responses which in turn eases anxiety and calms the mind and body. It functions as a self-soothing technique and coupled with meditative breathing is helpful in modulating stress by reducing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure. There are many easy ways to do yoga in your own home. Yoga mats are available online and there are apps and youtube videos which will guide you through routines from beginner to expert, with many available for free.
We hope that you found these tips useful and that you are going to share them.
If you would like some more professional help contact our psychotherapist Joanna Askew.
Tel: 0191 296 0567
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Published on: 31st March 2020