“I am here, now!” – How to tame the anxious mind?

Have you ever experienced anxiety or had an anxiety attack? The chances are – if you are reading this – that you have. You are not alone. Most people had anxious periods in their lives due to trauma, big changes or just due to every day life. You are perfectly normal if you struggle with this too!

Moving to the UK when I was 20, literally following my heart after falling in love with an Englishman, I had no idea what was coming. I have no regrets, don’t get me wrong, this was one of the biggest – actually, I am pretty sure, it was the biggest decisions that I have ever had to make. I had no doubts about it being the right one, but I had no clue of the consequences. Building myself up from the ground, with no family or friends around, a new culture and language that I was lucky to speak but not yet perfectly – it was a big shock to the system. I wouldn’t change it as it has lead me to the independent and resilient person I am today.

However, no matter how confident you are, how educated, where you have come from, anxiety can affect you just the same way. I often become harsher to myself and that little “mean girl” inside of me shouts louder and says, that “you have gone through worse, pull yourself together, enough self pity for now”! And sometimes this is all I need to carry on. But often with me masking the issue or trying to put a plaster over it, “carrying on” just makes it worse in the long run. Have you ever had that? I am sure, you have! So what can you do to be a little kinder to yourself, honour the feeling but at the same time not to become totally consumed by it?

The things that helped me:

  1. Feel the feeling! Notice and acknowledge that the anxious lion/ess has knocked on the door. Open it and say hello! It sounds silly, yes I know, but accepting this uncomfortable state is a very good start.
  2. Get curious about it! What is s/he wanting to tell you? Literally, ask her/him the question, “what are you trying to tell me today?” For example, you might have had a bad night sleep and feel more fragile, so the answer could be just that “you need a bit more rest today!” that simple.  Sometimes it can be a little more complex. You do not need to peel it back to the core straight away, but you can start thinking about the things that could have led to it.
  3. Be kind to yourself! Try not to beat yourself up about it or think this is a sign of weakness! It is not! Look at your plan for the day and have a think how it could be altered to accommodate your energy levels. Anything that could be rescheduled, move to another day. Anything that someone else could do, ask for their help. Concentrate on the urgent and important tasks. It is pointless pushing through as it will drain your energy even more. If you give yourself a bit of time and space, your body and mind will thank you for it.
  4. Move your body! What do you enjoy doing? Are you a runner, a swimmer? Or prefer to go to a zumba class? Ask yourself, “what do I need today?” and choose an activity that comes to mind. Exercise generates dopamine and raises your mood, multiple research backing this. However, be mindful about the timing and intensity of this as doing exercise too late and close to your bedtime can interfere with your circadian rhythm and can cause you problems falling asleep. Lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can worsen your anxiety so choose wisely.
  5. Catch your breath! When you are having anxiety attacks, your heart goes faster, your breathing becomes shallow and you are most likely moving faster. All of this tells your nervous system to switch on the “fight or flight mode” and keep you in this highly alert state. This consumes a lot of energy and will make you feel more drained. Slowing your breathing down and doing a few rounds of square breaths (breath in for 4 – hold for 4 – breath out for 4 – hold for 4) a few times or alternate nostril breathing will help. Slowing your movement down, walking slower and moving slower will signal to your nervous system, there is no emergency, it can stabilise.
  6. Choose a mantra! A few weeks ago when I woke up anxiously, I clicked my fingers and said “I am here, now!” and visualised erasing all the tasks off my to-do-list that were just there to clutter my day. “I am good enough!” I kept saying, as ticking those items off my list will not make me a better person or more productive if the whole process just makes me miserable and irritable. See if you can come up with a little mantra that you can pull out as soon as you notice your mind wondering down the rabbit hole and starts to self-destruct.
  7. Eat your greens! Being anxious, to lift your mood you probably often choose foods that are high in sugar, and heavily processed. These provide a quick fix but only for a few minutes. In fact you will most likely feel guilty while you are eating them, knowing these won’t help. I do not argue with the healing affect a Netflix movie with some ice cream can bring but I would urge you not to opt for this on a daily basis. Having the sugary drinks and food will raise your blood sugar levels, only then to plummet and drop quickly causing you feel even worse than before. Eating wholefoods, healthy grains, vegetables and fruit will provide you with vitamins, phytochemicals and fibre that will nourish your body. It will also feed your gut bacteria which – we now know from many research studies – can affect your mental health. ( I have written my diploma on this topic so I will share some more tips in a separate post that will concentrate on nutrition.)
  8. Connect or disconnect! Do you need some time alone to deal with this and some space to process what has come up? That’s perfectly ok, ask the people around you to give you what you need and to respect this. Sometimes this is enough. However, if you are feeling lonely and feel that sharing what you are going through would be more beneficial, connect with your friends or family. Whoever you think would understand and be able to support you, get in touch with them.
  9. Cold water You might have heard of Wim Hoff and his ice bucket challenges. If this is something that you would love to try, this is the time. However, it might be enough to put your wrist under the cold tap, or have a refreshing shower as this can help regulate your nervous system and calm it down too.
  10. Ask for help! Please speak to a professional if you have been experiencing long term anxiety or if you think the lifestyle hacks no longer helping and you need something more.

I hope this has helped and given you some new ideas on how you could manage your anxiety. If you have some other tips, please share this with us in the comments.

If you want to connect and work with me on a one-to-one basis, please get in touch to arrange a free consultation to discuss how I could support you.