Natural ways to manage stress and anxiety

*the advice here is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice and prescribed medication should be used until otherwise directed by a GP. These ideas are intended to reduce stress and anxiety levels on a day to day basis.

  1. Get outside

Fresh air is so beneficial to your health and wellbeing, and can really help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. We spend more time indoors than ever and this has such a major effect on not only our physical health, but our mental health too. Exposing your lungs to fresh air and your senses to the smell of flowers and plants increases oxygen and serotonin levels in the body, which in turn contributes to lowering stress levels and increasing feelings of calm, happiness and relaxation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed then get outside and go for a walk. The benefits will really help to boost how you’re feeling and time away to think really helps with clarity and reducing anxiety.

  1. Move your body

Exercise has some incredible mood boosting benefits. Not only does it make you feel good about yourself in general but it boosts brain activity, releases feel good endorphins and nourishes the brain cells. Exercising makes your heart beat faster, allowing more oxygen to pump into the brain. Moving your body has a positive impact on depression, anxiety, stress, mood and sleep patterns. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym – you can exercise at home with a fitness DVD, weights, a HIIT Workout or if you like to get out of the house, go for a walk/run or find a class local to you that you enjoy.

  1. Catch some zzz’s

Sleeping for 8-10 hours a night has shown to be invaluable for mood stabilisation and reducing feelings of stress, panic and worry. If you struggle to go to sleep at night, try using essential oils such as lavender or camomile to help you to relax – you can add drops to your bath, pillow or treat yourself to a herbal bedtime tea. It isn’t always possible to get a full nights sleep, especially if you are caring for someone who needs assistance during the night. If you can, try and catch up in the day with a power nap or by taking some time to yourself to relax whether it’s with a hot bath, a good book or a sit down in the garden.

 

  1. Are you having a laugh?!

Laughing releases endorphins which promote an overall sense of well being and helps to decrease stress hormones. Spend time with people who make you laugh, or watch your favourite feel good comedy. It’s important for our mental health to have friendships and socialising regularly helps to prevent loneliness as well as improving our sense of importance and wellbeing. Talking to friends is also a great way to vent and release feelings of anxiety and stress.

If you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed or stress, anxiety, depression and feel that you need extra support and would like to speak to someone the following helplines are available for on hand, expert advice:

Anxiety UK

03444775774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)

www.anxietyuk.org.uk

 

MIND

03001233393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)

www.mind.org.uk

Samaritans

116123 (free 24 hour helpline)

www.samaritans.org.uk

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Sit down to eat
Sounds simple, but so many of us are eating on the go, grabbing something on the run or eating whilst working/busying ourselves. Allow yourself the time to sit down, with no distractions, to eat your meals. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent and avoid social media. 10-15 minutes is long enough to reset a busy brain, and relax an anxious mind. 30 minutes will give you a completely fresh outlook.

Mindful eating helps to stop overconsumption, and increases enjoyment of food. Ever eaten something so fast you’re not even sure what it tasted like? Or given yourself indigestion rushing your lunch so that you can get on to the next task?

By taking a little bit of extra time, you can change your relationship with food and mealtimes. Mindful eating can be incorporated into a busy lifestyle. Try involving the whole family and banning electronic devices at the table. Conversing with each other creates real time social interaction that can be massively overlooked in this day and age.

Fit in some exercise
Another scary concept – but something that can be fit into your daily life without expensive gym memberships or hour long classes that you just don’t have time for. First off, decide what it is you need. Are you looking to destress at the end of a long day? Try yoga. Need to boost your energy for the day ahead?

Try a HIIT Workout, or a morning walk if you have time.

You can get cheap workout DVD’s or even follow workouts on YouTube or other social media platforms. There are plenty of 10 minute workouts available that you can squeeze into your day that will be hugely beneficial to how you feel. I also recommended slotting in sneaky exercises into your daily routine. Waiting for the kettle to boil? Do some squats or calf raises. Take the stairs two at a time, or just instead of the elevator. If you can get somewhere in less than 15 minutes, walk or cycle instead of taking the car.

Exercise doesn’t have to be something you set time aside for, although if you can then the mental and physical health benefits are so worth it. If you know that you just won’t be able to get out of the house alone for long enough, then try implementing these little things into your routine to build up fitness and you’ll soon find it becoming a part of your routine.

Mental Health Awareness Week
In light of this year’s Mental Health Week being focused on stress, we want to highlight the importance of taking care of the mind as much as we would the body. In particular, how important managing stress is in preventing future health issues; both mentally, and physically.

Over the past few months, an online poll undertaken by YouGov has revealed that 74% of people have felt so stressed that they have felt overwhelmed, or unable to cope. This can lead on to so many more mental health issues, such as anxiety, which 61% of adults in the poll reported feeling through stress.

If someone has a physical accident (for example they cut their hand on a piece of broken glass) you would immediately direct them to the nearest first aid box and administer first aid. So why not first aid for the mind? In terms of de-stressing, one simple first aid method could be taking deep breaths and taking time out to do something you enjoy. Taking time to de-stress and relax can help your mental health, but also prevent your body from becoming overwhelmed and run down. We will be posting more Emotional First Aid tips over the next few days.

Thanks to Mental Health Foundation for use of this image.

Prep and plan your meals in advance
I know; this sounds impossible – but meal preparation doesn’t have to be scary or time consuming. In fact, done right it can save you a lot of time, money and you will feel the benefits of having healthy food choices on hand. Ever been so hungry and tired, with nothing ready for lunch so you just grab a latte and a pastry?

Or a sandwich and a can of fizzy drink?

It perks you up for a bit, then a few hours later your energy is flagging and you’re craving sugar. If you can relate, then this will definitely help you. You can usually store a meal in the fridge for 2-3 days with no problem, so prepping a large salad and portioning it out will give you a few go-to lunches. Another favourite is to use leftovers – we don’t tend to do this as much as we used to, and a waste culture has unfortunately prevailed. But many foods can be reused the next day.

For example, a bean chilli can be served with a jacket potato or rice; put the rest in a Tupperware and eat cold in a wrap, or heat up and serve with a jacket potato and salad. Slow cookers are amazing for bulk cooking – just be sure not to reheat rice, and make sure food is thoroughly reheated before consuming! Leftover vegetables make great soups and sauces too.

Emotional First Aid

 

The PhD psychologist and keynote speaker Guy Winch has published a book,  ‘Emotional First Aid’. His TEDTalk focuses on ‘Why we all need to practice emotional first aid’, point being that we need to look after our emotional health as much as we would our physical health. 

Injury 1- Rumination

Cause: This could be a mistake you think you have made, bad news, an argument.

Symptoms: Over- analysing the situation, beating yourself up, replaying and reliving upsetting moments over and over again.

First Aid Tips: Guy Winch says that even a two minute distraction can break the habit to ruminate. So if you feel it coming on, really concentrate your mind onto something else. Guy Winch said it worked for him! Also try to be philosophical (easier said than done I know), if you can’t change what has happened then why agonise over it, instead think how you might react differently the next time.

Injury 2- Loneliness

Cause: This could be your caring role, moving to a new area, illness, the end of a relationship.

Symptoms: Retreating into your shell, loss of self-esteem, depression, negative approach.

First Aid Tips: Try to challenge negative perceptions, create new opportunities, take a leap of faith and let someone in.

 

Injury 3 – Rejection

Cause: This could be a relationship ending, not getting a job you have applied for, being left out in a friendship situation.

Symptoms: You may feel angry all the time, down on yourself and deeply hurt.

First Aid Tips: List your best qualities and spend time with people who boost your confidence and mood.

 

Injury 4- Loss / Trauma

Cause: This could be a bereavement, the loss of a relationship or being involved in a traumatic incident.

Symptoms: Feelings of disbelief, bitterness (why me?), feeling anti-social and forgetful.

First Aid Tips: Be kind to yourself and give yourself time. Try to find a meaning and purpose in your loss. Connet with the loved ones that are still here and can support you.

Injury 5 – Failure

Cause: Failing an exam or a driving test, a job or relationship not working out.

Symptoms: Defeatism, as though there is no point in even trying, loss of self-esteem.

First Aid Tips: Try and list the factors that were in your control and think about what you might do differently next time. Don’t become convinced by failure, don’t think it will always happen. In short, keep the faith, you can do it!

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Benefits of Coffee...
Take time to breathe
Obviously, right?! We all breathe, of course; but taking deep, concentrated breaths isn’t to be undervalued. If you feel yourself tense, stressed or anxious then if you are able to, take a step back from the situation.

Inhale for 5-6 seconds, hold the breath for 1-2 seconds and exhale for 5-6.

You will find your own pattern that works for you, this is just an example but find your centre and practice it. Just counting whilst breathing deeply helps to ground and refocus your mind. At the same time, focus in on your core and draw your belly button in towards your spine, straightening your back and relaxing your shoulders. This might seem like a lot to concentrate on but it soon becomes habit and will be something you make time to do without much effort.

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