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Letters from the Heart: 11th January 2023

This time of year can be highly anxiety inducing, so I thought this would be a great time to share some of my simple anxiety-easing strategies and techniques, that you can easily try at home.

Having navigated the stress and anxiety of the holiday season, now we face the “New Year, New You” laden with expectations, anticipation and, well yes, anxiety.

In 2020, I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and depression and received a call each day from the doctor’s surgery to make sure I “didn’t do something silly”.

Now, I have let in the light and have the freedom to be all of me. I have easily managed anxiety and no signs at all of depression. I was not alone in what I was experiencing in 2020, but sadly, I am in the minority who has found a way through it. 

Today I want to share some of my strategies and techniques that have helped me turn my anxiety and depression into passion, joy and excitement for life.

Anxiety can stem from a whole host of underlying causes, such as: unresolved trauma; trying to conform to societal expectations; fearing the future or that which we can’t control; stress; substance abuse; incongruence to your core values and more besides. But I am the proof that you can move from a place where anxiety rules your day-to-day life to a place where it is the tiniest of insignificances.

First some statistics about the prevalence of anxiety in the UK (Anxiety Statistics UK | 2022 Data | Champion Health):

  • 8 million people in the UK are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time
  • 822,000 workers are affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety
  • Less than 50% of people with generalized anxiety disorder access treatment
  • Each week, 6.6% of people will be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder
  • 58% of employees are experiencing anxiety
  • 34% of employees experiencing anxiety are aged 25-34
  • 62% of employees experiencing anxiety are female
  • Only 9% of employees are seeking mental health support

 

Strategies to Address Anxiety

Our strategies are those actions we take in order to prevent or minimize the role anxiety plays in our life.

Time Blocking

Feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks we have to do, can often bring on a state of anxiety. I spend about 10 minutes in the evening to plan out my following day, allocating blocks of time to the activities that I must do (including eat, rest, play with my kids, chill out etc.) and then I can schedule in some of the tasks that are lower priority, if I have time. It is crucial to be realistic about how long each task will take and to be disciplined to stick to the time blocks. This is really helpful in assisting you to feel in control and to see, realistically, what you can and can’t achieve.

Morning Routine

Setting yourself up for success in the day ahead is so important. When we first wake, our brain is in a highly suggestible, alpha state. This is the same state we access with hypnosis. This is the moment to make sure we are ready for the day – not to pick up your phone and start scrolling! When we start the day with affirmations, gratitude, meditation and positive vibes, we are wiring ourselves in for a great day.

Focus on What you can Control

Feeling out of control is a highly anxiety-inducing state, so focus on what you can control. You are not going to be able (probably) to solve the world’s energy crisis or spiralling inflation, so instead can you focus on those elements that are within your sphere of influence. Our brains love to find solutions for problems, so give it something tangible and manageable to focus on. That said, our brain loves to play “what-if” games so keep bringing it back to what you know to be true.

Techniques to Address Anxiety

Our techniques are the things we do and the skills we work on in order to minimise how anxiety features in our life.

Wrist Band

Wearing a band around your wrist that you can “ping” when you notice anxious thoughts can be a great interruptor to your brain going down an anxiety slippery slope. When you notice the anxious thought, ping the band and find a better thought. We can’t think positive and negative simultaneously, so when we find a positive thought, even if it’s only slightly more positive than the previous thought, we stop ourselves sliding down an anxiety spiral. 

Meditation

When we meditate regularly, we learn to observe our thoughts as being separate from us and our core essence. When anxious thoughts pop up, we are then better positioned to see this as merely a thought, rather than a fact, and to not simply absorb it as part of our being

Breathwork

Our breath is the most powerful tool we have, and we carry it everywhere we go. Using specific breathing techniques, we can really remove the feelings of anxiety from our body. One of my personal favourites is “box-breathing” but even learning to breathe out for longer than we breathe in will ease the activation we feel in our nervous system as a result of the anxiety we are experiencing

Cold Showers

As a self-professed cold hater, I was appalled when someone suggested to me to start having cold showers! However, it serves multiple purposes: before 8am each day I have already done something that is toning my vagus nerve (responsible for our nervous system regulation) and I have probably done the hardest thing I will need to do all day! As long as your doctor is happy for you to do this, I HIGHLY recommend cold showers!

Resolve the Underpinning Trauma

Very often anxiety stems from an underlying trauma that you have probably been carrying around since early childhood. When we shine the light and gain awareness of what this is, and then work on healing it, the anxious part of us that exists has less of a job to do and can become far less prevalent in our day-to-day lives.