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As we settle in to the next month under a second national lockdown, mental health awareness is now more important than ever before. With such uncertain and strange times ahead, anxiety is soaring amongst all ages. Is a rapid decline in the mental wellbeing of our society the real pandemic? Despite how debilitating it can be, I want to approach anxiety in a positive way by looking at certain techniques that can help to ease and reduce stress, worry, anxiety and negative thoughts. Whilst we can’t help the circumstances we are in at the moment, and arguably it feels as though the importance of mental health has been overlooked during this pandemic, we can try to approach such times with optimism and hope, and attempt to try these five tips to help us keep calm and as anxious free as possible.

Books

The power of reading to calm anxiety can often be overlooked. ‘Reading’ does not mean your favourite fictional book, but rather it is important to read about anxiety, worry and stress and gaining knowledge on what exactly is happening to you. This can help you understand and even overcome it. Speaking from personal experience, Stop Thinking & Start Living by Richard Carlson actually calmed my anxiety and negative thoughts as I was beginning to understand why I was having distressing thoughts and how I was letting them affect me. For some, part of the problem of anxiety is being unaware of what is ‘happening’ to you or how to control it.  Once you can apprehend what is going on in your mind, you can then begin to tackle more effectively how to control and manage your anxiety and worries. For a more light-hearted and less technical book, Calm the F**k down by Sarah Knight is also a pleasant way of taking a moment to release some of your anxiety. Anxiety: Panicking About Panic by Joshua Fletcher, which I recommend listening to as an eBook, is incredible for giving you understanding, reassurance and optimism regarding anxiety. Furthermore, Fletcher’s book is appropriate for those who suffer with panic attacks as part of their anxiety. The scientific foundations that Fletcher gives in explaining panic attacks I feel was instrumental in relieving my own. My Sh*t Therapist & Other Mental Health Stories by Michelle Thomas gives a comical and light tale of mental health that will make you feel, even just a tiny bit, better. There are so many books out there now regarding mental health, wellbeing, and mindfulness, so definitely have a look around and try and read something as a way to counteract anxiousness.

 

Journaling

The oldest trick in the book – journaling. Whilst writing down your thoughts, feelings and stresses is hardly a contemporary nor innovative approach to managing anxiety, for some this very technique can be an instant release. Taking the time out to reflect on your worries, acknowledge them and write them down can help to purge you of the thoughts constantly consuming you. A problem shared is a problem halved, and journaling helps to create another space for your anxieties that isn’t your mind. Similarly, if it’s not just negative thoughts but also an overwhelming amount to do that is causing your worry, listing everything you need to do and tackling each task one by one, although seemingly obvious, can work wonders for helping you feel just that little less inundated. Whilst any piece of paper can work for this, there are journals specifically tailored for mindfulness and, for those feeling anxious, can really help and, even better, are very aesthetic and satisfying.5 Minutes in the Evening by Anthropologie is a favourite journal for mindfulness.

 

Meditation

This is a trend that is becoming more popular and well known, and also more accessible online. Whilst there are many notable meditation and anxiety apps, including Headspace, Happify and Moodnotes, I couldn’t recommend Calm enough. The app includes ‘Sleep Stories’ to help you sleep despite your anxiety, which range from meditations, to fiction and nonfiction stories to soundscapes. If this wasn’t enough, Harry Styles has a sleep story called Dream with me, which he narrates. The app also has a meditation series for anxiety, panic, stress, work, self-care, inner peace, focus, emotions, relationships and personal growth. There are even series on confidence, gratitude, breaking habits and emotion. Although it helps massively with anxiety, it is not limited there. Taking as little as ten minutes out of your day can help calm your mind, not just in the present, but indefinitely. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. explains that meditation helps with anxiety because it quiets an overactive brain. She notes that meditating helps us to be less consumed and over attending to our thoughts, and allows us to gain a perspective. Therefore, especially in these stressful times, meditation could be an effective way to release our anxiety.

 

Self-Care

Sometimes, something as simple as self-care can be an effective way to calm anxiety. Deciding to take time out from our daily activities and focus on something that makes us feel better can be an actual way to de-stress, reducing negative and persistent thoughts. Self-care is completely personal but forms of self-care include; bathing, lighting a candle, a facemask, lighting incense, meditation, reading, or watching something. Interestingly, psychologist Pamela Rutledge notes that if we watch the same entertainment multiple times, it can create a sense of safety and comfort as it reaffirms order. Therefore, if you have a favourite show or film, it can be comforting to re-watch these in times of anxiety or stress as a way to relax and wind down. When feeling worried and overwhelmed it can be hard to make time for self-care activities, but to try and combat our anxiety, particularly over the next month, ensuring time for self-care is set aside, is a good place to start.

 

Panic-Attack Relief

With heightened states of anxiety, for some, can cause panic attacks. With a panic attack you lose all sense of perspective and can feel like you have gone completely insane. For some, a panic attack can be so distressing they feel like they are going to die in that moment. Panic attacks are extremely upsetting and frightening, both mentally and physically. It is important to be able to practise the techniques to try and calm an attack. These include;

  • Deep breathing.
  • Grounding techniques: naming something you can touch, see, smell.
  • Remember nothing is permanent. Panic attacks are a state of heightened anxiety and stress, which you can think of an emotion in the same way happiness and sadness come and go. A panic attack will also come, and then go.
  • Panic attacks take physical form, and this can be very distressing. It can feel like a heart attack, or a stroke, or feeling like you genuinely can’t breathe, which can cause even more panic. When having an attack like this remind yourself it is just a panic attack and although they feel harmful, they are harmless and will pass.
  • No one has ever died from a panic attack!
  • When having a panic attack try and accept you are having one and be patient and wait for it to pass. The self-fulfilling prophecy of panicking about panicking can often make the attacks even worse.
  • Try to picture a happy place or memory and focus your mind on this.

 

 

Whilst not every approach to calming anxiety and the mind works for everyone, it is important to try different techniques and discover what works and doesn’t work for you. I do back all of these activities, with confidence, from personal experience with anxiety and panic disorder. With a better understanding of what aids us in times of severe stress, we are better equipped to keep our stress, worries and anxieties at a manageable level, hopefully making such weird times a little less scary.

 

Words By: Holly Hurt

Edited By: Hannah Martin 

 

 

 

International History & Politics graduate from the University of Leeds.
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