The tricky thing about mental health issues is that not all coping strategies work for everyone.
With anxiety in particular, everyone experiences it differently - with numerous types, different triggers, symptoms, and levels of intensity.
Physical activity, nutrition and adequate sleep are some of the most effective strategies for reducing anxiety in the long-term (along with seeking professional help!) but there are many lesser-known strategies that can help in the short-term too.
Here are five simple strategies you can try for managing anxiety symptoms:
1. Shake, jump or dance
Ever noticed someone jumping and shaking their arms before a nerve-wracking experience, like a performance or an interview?
Moving about, even for a minute or two, is a great way of reducing feelings of anxiety.
So why does it work?
- Jumping about and/or shaking your arms can help to release nervous energy and ‘reset’ our nervous system
- Dancing can increase dopamine levels in the body to improve mood
- Physical activity is a great grounding activity, helping us to focus on the present moment and worry less about the future
- Moving about requires little time and no experience/skills, making it a simple, quick and effective strategy compared to others that can time and practice to learn
2. Reduce caffeine on a temporary or ongoing basis
The side effects of caffeine can mimic feelings of anxiety or make existing anxiety worse.
Try de-caffeinated products instead (although there is still some caffeine in these), or replace with a healthy alternative like fruit smoothies or water!
How does caffeine increase anxiety?
- Caffeine triggers the release of adrenalin in the body, resulting in bursts of energy and increased heart rate. This means that caffeine, particularly in large quantities, can trigger panic attacks or heighten feelings of anxiousness
- Caffeine blocks the brain chemical that makes you feel tired (adenosine) which can result in restlessness and trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety symptoms
3. Try structured problem solving
Structured problem solving involves breaking down a problem into its different components, and making a decision on what you will do to address each component.
Why does it work?
- Anxiety is about worrying and over-thinking. By focusing on how to solve a problem, you can work on actually solving the problem rather than continuing the cycle of worry and ‘what if?’ thoughts
- Anxiety often also revolves around fear of the unknown. By deciding on a course of action to solve a problem, this reduces the number of unknowns regarding the issue
4. Keep a grounding object
A grounding object can be used as a reminder to clear your thoughts and calm your feelings by touching the object.
A grounding object might be a piece of jewellery, a small gemstone or seashell, a photo you keep in your wallet, or some other small object you can keep in your pocket or close by.
Stuffed toy animals are a common grounding object too!
How do these help?
- It can be difficult to stop thinking about your worries when you don’t have something else to focus on. A grounding object helps to shift your focus and distract you from these worries, giving you the opportunity to calm yourself
- If your grounding object is something that’s meaningful to you, the object can evoke the positive feelings/memories associated with the object – providing comfort and helping to ground you when you feel unsteady
5. Use lavender and other calming essential oils
Aromatherapy is a natural remedy that may help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Try using essential oil diffusers, scented candles, scented soaps, and even scented drawer liners/sachets for your clothes storage.
Keep in mind that it is recommended to use therapeutic-grade essential oils (rather than synthetic fragrances).
Which essential oils can help?
- Lavender can calm feelings of anxiety, regulate breathing and improve sleep quality. Research shows that breathing in the scent of lavender for around three minutes is ideal for reducing stress
- Chamomile in the form of tea can he used to calm the stomach, and can also help if you are struggling to sleep!
- Ylang ylang can be used to lower stress and heart rate. Use it in an essential oil diffuser, or you can also find soaps/body washes that use ylang ylang
Liz Gellel | Communications Coordinator