Anxiety is something most of us will experience in our lives. A lot of the time, we learn to live with it; other times, it can feel as though it’s taking over. The good news is there are things you can do to relieve anxiety before it becomes unmanageable. In a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, a quarter of adults said they felt so anxious it stopped them from doing things they wanted to do. That’s why they’ve chosen to make anxiety the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week 2023.
They’ll be providing information on things you can do to manage anxiety, as well as upping the pressure and demand for change at a governmental and societal level. We’re keen to do our part too. In this post, we’re sharing 3 tips to help relieve anxiety and some resources we find useful.
How to relieve anxiety:
1. Come back to your breath
No matter where you are, what’s going on around you, or the thoughts swirling around in your brain, your breath will always be there.
By maintaining slow and rhythmic breathing, your body should start to feel more relaxed. By focusing on your breath and how it feels in your body, your attention will move away from the thoughts triggering your anxiety.
There are many different breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques you can try, but a simple one to start with is:
Breathe in through your nose for 4, hold your breath for 7, and breathe out through your mouth for seven. Repeat several times until you start to feel calmer.
Useful resource: Breathing exercises to calm anxiety
2. Challenge your thoughts
The thing about anxiety is it never gets bored. It’ll put the same thoughts in your head over and over again, in an unhelpful manner called ‘rumination’. Luckily, you can intervene. If you notice yourself ruminating on an anxious thought, write it down in a journal. You can then challenge it by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is what you’re worrying about likely to happen?
- What’s a positive outcome that could happen instead?
- Are you being realistic?
- Is there evidence to prove you otherwise?
- Have you had similar thoughts which have not turned into reality?
- What makes this scenario any different from the ones before?
Challenging a thought means you can put a different, more positive one in its place. This way, you won’t get stuck dwelling on the same-old-same-old worries!
Useful resource: Challenging anxious thoughts worksheet
3. Talk it out
Anxiety can lead to avoiding certain situations, which can become isolating and lonely.
It’s important to stay connected with people, even if your anxiety is making you want to hide away instead. If you’re comfortable in groups, try activities such as volunteering or a social club. If you prefer to talk to people one to one, a walk in nature with a friend or a catch-up over coffee works too.
When you’re able to talk to people about the feeling bubbling up inside, it can take away its power over you and help you see the situation with a little more distance and clarity.
Useful resource: Guide to talking about anxiety