Anxiety – it’s one of the most common mental health disorders in the USA, yet only 38% of people suffering from anxiety are being treated. We weren’t surprised this common disorder had taken the lead; with the constant pressure of social media and technology, switching off and actually relaxing can be hard. But what shook us, was the number of people who are dealing with anxiety, without help. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with worry, whether it’s school or family, social media or personal issues, we’ve got you covered. To help, we got in contact with Samantha Morris, accredited and certified Life Coach and Integrative Art Psychotherapist from Therapy Harley Street. Here are all the ways anxiety could be affecting you, and eight steps you can take for kicking anxious thoughts aside:
What causes anxiety?
Samantha explained that anxiety can be caused by a whole range of different things, for different personalities, “It can be related to their personal relationships, family, and life. For others, the stress of career expectations, promotions, professional responsibilities, money or financial security can trigger even the most laid back of people to have sleepless nights.” She said that the harsh reality is, “We’re swarmed by media and social expectations who tell us that we should be able to handle unprecedented pressure and to rise, not only to meet these expectations but to also ‘have it all.’”
What does anxiety look like?
Samantha said that even if someone appears as if they have it all “together,” it may not be the case: “From the outside, someone may be perceived to be strong and be able to handle these situations, but what goes on behind closed doors isn’t necessarily what people show to the world.” Samantha added that anxiety can manifest in a whole range of symptoms: “Perhaps you suffer from cold sweats, racing thoughts, headaches, sleepless nights, a harsh inner critic or limiting beliefs? Everyone will have their own healthy and unhealthy, or even toxic ways of coping (short term) with these symptoms.”
To tackle these emotions, Samantha insists that you should start asking yourself, “Healthy questions and incorporate the following habits, which will enable you to you feel in control and empowered, so that you can start to live a fulfilling life.”
Samantha’s Top Tips For Overcoming Anxiety:
1. Ask yourself: what are you fearful of?
Samantha told us, “Depending on the level of anxiety, it’s helpful to talk to either a coach, therapist or someone you trust to explore what you’re really fearful of. By saying it out loud you can begin to disempower anxiety and its effects.” Or, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone, sometimes asking yourself the question aloud can be helpful as when you hear it, you’ll be able to gain some perspective.
2. Grade your anxiety
“Often our mind and imagination fast tracks and we become anxious or fearful of situations, which may have not even happened yet (and may never happen!). Grading your fear out of 10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), can again, help you place your anxiety in perspective, so you should ask yourself how likely and unlikely is it that your fear(s) will become a reality?” Samantha suggests.
3. Start to think about the best outcome rather than the worst situation
Samantha realizes that “often our default button is set to fearing the worst outcome rather than the best. Most people are naturally self-critical and will always jump to the worst conclusions first.” But Samantha asks: “Why not think of the best scenarios first? This will then help to shift your mindset and your feelings.”
4. Prioritize your wellbeing over worrying
Samantha said that often when you’re anxious or worried, you can “feel ill, tired, and exhausted,” stating that, “Often people can feel as though they’re on a runaway mine train, only to wind up in a cycle of losing momentum, willpower, and energy.” But instead, she said that you should “Start to pour your energy into considering the effects that anxiety and worrying is having on your short-term and long-term emotional and physical wellbeing? Then ask yourself, is your worrying and anxiety worth it?” More often than not, the answer will be not!
5. Be your own cheerleader
Samantha insists that we need to “Stop being so critical,” although she realizes “it’s easier said than done!” Instead, Samantha suggests trying to “feel proud and grateful for what you have, and all that you’ve accomplished (small and large), and start to feel mindful of the present rather than worrying about the past or the future.” In a recent study into the practice of gratitude – where you list what you’re thankful fo – it’s been shown to reduce depression and increase happiness. So, while you’re enjoying your cup of hot lemon water, showering or getting into bed, think of three things you’re grateful for; it can be anything from having the water in your cup to a loving partner, an exciting day ahead, or even just a good night’s sleep.
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6. Think long-term
Samantha said that “Sometimes we can become so focused that we can forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. So the next time your anxiety is overwhelming you, simply ask yourself: ‘one day will all this worry and anxiety matter?’” She reminded us that “It probably feels huge at the moment, but believe me – anything is manageable, and you can begin to feel empowered again! I always encourage my clients to step back and take a bird’s-eye view of the situation.”
7. Plan and delegate for happiness
One of the main reasons people feel anxious is a lack of control, which is why Samantha said, “Planning (within reason) can help you to feel better. Start to prioritize and sub-prioritize your calendar, diary, goals, and even delegate to other people. Through doing this, you are preparing for success and you’ll feel more empowered and less likely to freak out.”
8. Stop, Pause, and Breathe
Finally, Samantha says “Remember to breathe! It’s so basic and yet it’s the one necessary thing people forget to do! Take a few deep breaths in and out.” The practice of meditation is another hobby you should invest time in, which can really help to deal with anxiety: The Harvard Medical School released an article in 2017 showcasing numerous studies proving its calming effects. Meditation is such a powerful tool as it forces you to be present with your body, bringing your focus away from your mind, through breathing and visualization exercises. There are tons of amazing free apps that make getting into and learning how to meditate really simple; check out this post for our five faves.
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A lot of people don’t take herbal medicine seriously, but actually, there’s so much science (and thousands of years experience) behind the powers of herbalism. For mood or stress-related disorders, there are teas, herbs and adaptogenic herbs that can help to relax and calm your moods. One of the most common herbs used to combat anxiety is kava, which can be taken as a tea and has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety after a study was carried out in 2010 by physician Max H. Pittler. Alternatively, Gotu Kola tea, chamomile or lemon balm, which you can buy at any local health store.
Another popular herb is Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb popular in Ayurvedic medicine that can combat stress and depression and even balance thyroid hormones. We also love the This Works Stress Check Breathe In Roller, $24, which combines a natural blend of essential oils like Eucalyptus to invigorate and help counter physical and mental fatigue, Frankincense essential oil to aid physical and mental relaxation, and Lavender Oil to relieve hypertension, nervous tension, and insomnia. You just roll it on your wrists and breathe deeply.
Exercise is one of the most efficient ways of managing anxiety as it releases endorphins that counteract feelings of worry. Studies have shown that exercise of moderate to high intensity, for 2-2.5 hours a week is enough to significantly reduce anxiety. So, even if you don’t feel like going on a run or hitting the gym, a brisk walk for half an hour each day can make a really positive impact. Not only does it provide a healthy outlet for nervous energy, but it also improves your quality of sleep, which can often be challenged when your mind is overworked with anxiety.
Let us know if there are any other wellness or mental health issues, you would like us to write about in the comments below. Remember, never be nervous to ask for help or to speak someone.