5 self-help tips to beat anxiety

If there’s one thing in life that I’m really good at, it’s worrying. I’d get a gold star for it. Anxiety runs in my family and I often wonder whether it’s in my genes or whether it’s learned behaviour. Whichever way you look at it though, I spend a lot of my time fretting about things. This is one of the reasons why I’m so interested in Eastern philosophy, holistic health and personal development.

Most people experience anxiety in some form or other, and in these uncertain times stress and worry are very much on the increase. But according to statistics, around one in 20 people are now thought to suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), where negative and anxious thoughts dominate daily life. Doctors dish out anti-depressants as a quick-fix for these problems but this doesn’t provide a long-term solution. Here are some techniques for tackling anxiety that I’ve found to be helpful, and I hope you find them helpful too.

Worried bride
Creative Commons License photo credit: spaceodissey 

Breathing exercises

If you are feeling anxious, a simple way to calm yourself down is through focusing on and regulating your breathing. When we feel nervous the in-breath becomes more dominant than the out-breath, so in order to restore a sense of calm we need to reverse this.

Focus on your breathing and try to breathe in for a count of five and breathe out for a count of five. Don’t worry about the speed at which you’re counting, just keep to a steady pace of five in and five out. Now start to extend the out-breath by holding the exhalation for an extra count of two. Don’t strain, just let the breath settle into a gentle rhythm. As your out-breath becomes longer your relaxation response will begin to take over. The only thing that will take you away from this are your thoughts and imagination. The more you practise this the more you will feel able to gain control of your anxiety.

Visualisation is a powerful tool for calming the mind and reducing feelings of anxiety and nerves. A simple visualisation exercise involves conjuring up in your mind an image of a ‘special place’, a place where you feel safe and free from fear. (I’ve used this very exercise during a harrowing visit to the dentist and I can tell you it got me through the ordeal.)

Start by closing your eyes and bring to your mind an image of a place where you feel safe and happy. It might be a tropical beach, a meadow, a forest, or even your bed. It’s entirely up to you – just use your imagination. Make the image vivid in your mind by thinking about what you can see, hear, feel and smell. Use your senses to guide you to a state of calmness. Stay in this calm place until you notice that your breathing is more regular and your mind is calmer. When you feel ready, open your eyes and breathe deeply in and out.

Where do you find happiness?
Creative Commons License photo credit: p medved

Mindfulness is a technique which originates from Buddhist meditation and it’s particularly effective in calming anxiety and focusing the mind. We spend so much of our time worrying about the future or agonising about the past that we forget to enjoy the present moment. This is where mindfulness comes in as it encourages us to focus on the present without allowing our minds to get caught up in unhelpful thought patterns. Here’s a few ideas you might want to try:

Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and begin scanning through each part of your body, paying attention to all the physical sensations you feel. Start with your toes and move up your legs to your stomach, chest, shoulders, neck and head, gently easing away any tension you notice. Finish by taking a few long, deep breaths.

When you are getting ready in the morning, really pay attention to everything you are doing, instead of worrying about what’s coming ahead in the day. When you’re in the shower, focus on the sound of the water and feel the sensation of it washing over your body. Enjoy the feeling of getting clean. When you’re brushing your teeth, focus all your attention on the task. Do the same with getting dressed and making breakfast.

Each morning make sure you take five to 10 minutes to be quiet and meditate. Look out of the window, listen to the sounds you can hear and be aware of everything around you. Be aware of the stillness and enjoy the quietening of your mind.

Dietary changes
Stabilising your blood sugar is an important factor in keeping anxiety at bay. Nervousness and a rapid heartbeat can often kick in when blood sugar levels become too low. The trick is to eat little and often, aiming for three meals and two snacks per day, and try to eat some protein with every meal. Good sources include fish, chicken, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu and eggs.

Creative Commons License photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd

Refined and sugary foods and stimulants such as coffee initially cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, quickly followed by a crash. So it’s best to steer clear of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods as these can all trigger panicky feelings. (If, like me, you love a good espresso and a glass of red, I feel your pain.) Swap refined (white) and sugary foods for brown, wholegrain alternatives such as brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread and try swapping caffeinated drinks for fruit or herbal teas like calming camomile. You could also keep a diary of everything you eat and drink to see whether this is affecting your moods. One last tip is to try supplementing your diet with magnesium as this naturally relaxes the body and mind and a deficiency can cause anxiety and rapid heartbeat.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
This is an interesting technique which is based on similar principles to acupuncture in that it addresses imbalances in the body’s energy flow. I must confess I felt a bit silly when I first tried it, but it did help to calm my nerves, which is why I’m sharing a shortened version of it here with you.

EFT works by gently tapping specific meridians or energy points whilst mentally and verbally tuning into the issue or problem (in this case, anxiety or nerves). The belief is that disturbances to the flow of energy are removed along with the emotional response and anxiety.

If you find yourself getting really anxious about something, try tapping gently five times on each of the following points with the forefinger and middle finger of one of your hands: between your eyebrows; under one of your eyes; under your arm (about two inches lower than your armpit); on the chest (just below the collarbone in the middle, you will find a spongy indentation). Lastly, tap on the outer side of the hand five times. You should begin to feel your breathing regulating.

Good luck and I hope these techniques help you in your anxiety. I’d love to hear any feedback you might have.

About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality.

4 thoughts on “5 self-help tips to beat anxiety

  1. I do have some worriers in my family but now I almost don’t worry at all any more.

    What I think helped me most was changing my perspectives: I know that life goes on no matter what (that means I also believe in life after death ;)). I believe that nothing has ultimately more power over me than I have over myself. I know that no matter what, probably no one’s gonna eat me. 😉
    Those perspectives do help me a great deal.

    When I do feel anxious though, I often use the release technique that is based on the Sedona Method. It’s a simple way to let go of any kinds of feelings. It doesn’t matter WHY you’re anxious any more, you just can let it go.

  2. Changing your prespectives , life goes on no matter what, I believe that nothinghas ultimately more power over me than I have over myself. I know that no matter what.
    When I do feel anxious I often use the release technique based on Sedona Method. It is simple way to let go of any kind of feelings,
    For weeks I tried to avoid them, tried to sleep them away, tried to eat them away. But it only left me tired and nauseous and less capable to deal with them. Oh no, I couldn’t even look at them, it was simply too painful.

    After a session with All-That-Is and Michelle Mettler I came to a big realization about me and my monsters which made it impossible to ignore them. It was like they were everywhere now and just waited for me to stare them in the eye. It was even more painful now.

    Finally I decided that I would deal with them and began walking towards them. A lot of old pain and hurt bubbled up inside of me but I finally began to see more clear. It was around that time that I discovered the Sedona Method, a technique that was supposed to help release negative feelings.
    hope this helps

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  4. I have had anxiety for as long as I remember (saying that, I am only 18 years old now!) yet I have been unable to cope with it to the extent of being confined to my home.
    I read this article and was surprised at two things in particular – the dietary changes and the EFT.

    I have tried almost every possible method of coping with anxiety, but I have never found the importance of changing my diet. However after reading, I realised how much sense it made! Everyone is weakest with low blood sugar levels – which is often when the anxiety can strike without the individual having the strength to cope.

    The EFT I found fascinating. Having high levels of anxiety 24/7 (resulting in me only getting a couple of hours sleep every 24 hours), I found that within the first attempt, my anxiety level had already began to lessen. Mindfulness is something in which I practice (often mindfulness colouring – that has been significant in my long recovery) and I found that mixing these two techniques was very significant for coping with my anxiety.

    I also wanted to add that the EFT is helping me progress in recovery from my PTSD. This technique seems to help a lot of things!

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