This Mental Health Awareness Week (15th-23rd May 2023) the theme is anxiety. How to recognise an anxious episode? Anxiety commonly involves tension, panic or nervousness, tearfulness or trouble sleeping, but it can also result in an increase in heart rate, headaches, loss of appetite, breathlessness or chest pain.
Experiencing episodes of anxiety is completely normal, but if this emotion gets out of control and consumes our life, then it can develop into a mental health problem. Many have struggled with mental health in recent years, and the current cost of living crisis and the financial pressure have added a heavier emotional burden. This official week aims to kickstart the mental health conversation, and by highlighting anxiety to be openly discussed and shared, the hope is that mental health problems can be prevented before they begin.
Anxiety can be challenging to cope with, but there are several strategies and alternative therapies for anxiety that can help you manage and get back to a sense of calm. We spoke to Malminder Gill, an award-winning Harley Street clinical hypnotherapist, about how she brings balance during anxious episodes.
Deep breathing and relaxation techniques
Practice deep breathing exercises to help calm your body and mind. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation or other relaxation techniques to alleviate anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness exercises or meditation are a quick way to help calm your mind and increase your awareness of the present moment. “Manage your anxiety through regular meditation. I can’t stress how important it is for not only this but improving your focus and overall wellbeing.”
Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis can help reduce anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing. “I love dancing, doing squats and giving my body a full stretch, but nothing beats pole fitness for me! It’s liberating, creative, toning and so much fun,” says Malminder, “Find a hobby which can double up as part of your fitness regime.”
Maintain a balanced diet
Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can positively impact your mood and energy levels. Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, as they can increase anxiety symptoms. “I’m a big foodie and enjoy earing. My favourite food is a rainbow quinoa bowl with a side of sweet potato fries – yum! Tip: Chew each bit of food 30 times before swallowing. This will slow down the entire eating proves and help you be more mindful of what you eat.”
Get enough shuteye
Lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleep environment to improve your sleep quality. “I try to take daily afternoon naps and sleep 8 hours per night. Familiarise yourself with your own circadian rhythm and work with it not against it! Don’t feel pressure to get up really early or look at what everyone else is doing; everybody’s clock is different and you only need to listen to yours.”
Take time to relax your eyes (away from screens) and let your mind wander – you’ll feel a profound effect on your body. “Daydreaming is hugely underrated. We’re all guilty of being glued to screens, so the art of day dreaming has been lost. I encourage clients to sit with just themselves by a window or in a cost corner and low their minds to drift. I come up with some of my most creative work whilst daydreaming.”
Remember to seek social support: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or an expert therapist about your anxiety. Sharing your feelings and experiences can give perspective and understanding.
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