The Anxious Mind
Anxiety makes you feel the craziest feelings which you will experience physically and emotionally. It’s inevitable when changes in your life occur especially when moving to another country! If you think about it though, the anxiety isn’t exactly real. It is caused by thoughts in your mind, anticipation and fear. Anticipation of upcoming changes or challenges. Fear of the unknown. Your brain perceives that you are in a life endangering situation and sends warning signals everywhere. At first they start as little niggles, recurring worries, constant negative thoughts, and can grow to strong physical reactions like aching in your chest, feeling very unwell and even suicidal thoughts.
Living with severe anxiety and associated disorders such as insomnia and disassociation, I have had to learn to accept it and how to live with it. It’s not easy. It takes time. Years. And I am still reprogramming my brain actually but I have come to realise there are two critical steps to take when an anxiety attack or episode is about to occur. Doing these two things will prevent the anxiety from getting worse.
Step One: Awareness and Breathing
It’s important to be aware of anxiety and to say to yourself ‘this is not real’. The next thing to do is BREATHE! Often you will catch yourself not breathing. So take one deep, slow breath, remembering to hold that breath in for a while before releasing your breath out slowly. Many will tend to catch themselves not breathing or may even be instructed to breathe but they will take quick short breaths, this kind of breathing will only make your anxiety worse. If you can do this first and very important step then congratulations - you have achieved mindfulness! Continue being mindful in your breathing by taking 10-20 long, deep breaths and focusing on only that. In fact, count them, you'll find that your mind may wander so start from one again till you can hit 10 or 20 in a row. You'll feel so much better!
Step Two: Distraction
Distracting your mind and refocusing it away from negative or unnecessary thoughts will help you move on and make you feel more stable. So after several deep, long, slow breaths get yourself to take action. Grab something to read, inhale essential oils (candle burners are fantastic), ask your partner to give you a massage or apply pressure at acupressure points, listen to music or podcasts, meditate. If you know yourself well, make a list of things to do that work for you when experiencing anxiety, so that every time you can turn to it and work through the list.
Did you know you can prevent anxiety by making the smallest changes and introducing new habits? My favourite is drinking 1-2 full glasses of water every morning. It sounds like something my mum always told me to do but I never listened. Here's a little spiel on routine, exercise and your immune system because its all connected and provides the best foundation to preventing anxiety.
Routine, Exercise and your Immune System
Routine will be important to giving you the best chance at avoiding and managing feelings of anxiety. When I say routine it doesn’t have to be a hardcore organised schedule, it can be as simple as the basics of day to day life and focusing on them. For example:
- Have a Morning Routine: Get up and shower. Drink a full glass of water (preferably with lemon). Eat breakfast and take vitamins
- Have a Day Time Routine: This doesn’t have to be the same everyday but you must stay occupied. Keep yourself busy with work, hobbies, responsibilities, exercise, meeting people
- Have an Evening Routine: Dim lighting. At some point stop looking at screens; tv, mobile, tablet and laptop. Get ready for bed; shower/wash you're face/brush your teeth. And if you need help with relaxing at night try putting on some meditation/sleep music, or a podcast, read a book or magazine, ask your partner to give you a massage and use an oil burner. Personally, I always take a homeopathic product called ‘Sleep Remedy’. Ever since my first night of using it i’ve noticed a great big difference in my sleep, so I highly recommend it.
I have come to realise first-hand that routine, exercise and your immune system are most definitely related when it comes to being your best self. Regular exercise and ensuring you give your body the right fuel is required to keep your bodies chemicals in check! Don't forget our bodies are biological machines, they need all the right stuff to function as best as it can. Who would've known that the real simple basic stuff your body needs such as drinking enough water (not only when you feel like having a little drink) and breathing properly was so important!