It is perfectly normal to feel anxious in situations such as exams, performances and presentations etc. In fact, some nerves are a good thing as they help you to stay alert and perform well. However, when anxiety becomes prolonged or has no apparent cause it can leave you feeling worried, frightened and physically unwell, and this can affect your everyday life and create more anxiety in turn. Learning to reduce and manage your anxiety is important to keep your mind and body happy and healthy. Here are some tips.
- Ask yourself what it is that you are afraid of. Try writing down your worries and working through each one; i.e. what is the worst that can happen? This technique can help you to put things into perspective and help you to deal with your anxious thoughts. It may help to discuss your worries with a friend or relative.
- Even if your anxiety has no obvious trigger, it may still help to write down your worries. Maybe keep a journal of how you feel every day and notice when you feel anxious. For every negative thought you write down, try to think of a positive one.
- When you feel anxious, focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, concentrating fully on each one. Continue this until you feel calmer. Repeat positive affirmations (in your head or out loud) such as “I am calm” and “this feeling shall pass”. Avoid phrases like “don’t panic” and “I am not scared” as these words can subconsciously trigger further feelings of anxiety.
- If you can’t calm down through controlling your breathing, try distraction. Read something – a book, a newspaper, even a poster on a noticeboard! Start chatting to someone nearby, or if you are alone, pick up your phone and browse the Internet or play a game. There are also some great apps available for helping to manage anxiety, such as Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM).
- Try deep muscle relaxation. Lie down in a quiet, comfortable place and breathe slowly and deeply. Begin tensing and relaxing all of your muscle groups working from your feet up to your head. Notice the difference in how your muscles feel when they are tensed and when they are relaxed. This exercise is especially helpful to do when you go to bed if you are having difficulty sleeping.
- Try yoga or meditation.
- Try complementary therapies. Aromatherapy is especially helpful for anxiety because smells evoke memories – inhaling an essential oil blend that has previously helped you to feel relaxed will instantly take you back to that calmer time. Reflexology is also deeply relaxing and can help to restore balance to the mind and body.
- Take care of yourself – eat well, exercise and make sure you get enough sleep. Put yourself first and don’t take on too much.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling to cope. Whether it’s a friend, relative, GP or counsellor, talking to someone can help you to overcome your anxieties.