Mental Health Awareness Week: My Top Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

“The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness, that we too can shine our own light” ~ S. Ajna 🌻

Every week should be mental health awareness week. We all have our demons. We all fear. We’re all vulnerable. I guess it’s what makes us sentient beings, what makes us human. Anxiety, stress, depression, grief, eating disorders… to name a few, are prevalent in so many people’s lives at some point, regardless of situation. But opening up and connecting with others gives us strength, it’s something I have found really helps me and it’s part of the reason I do the job I do.

I have always been a worrier, ever since I can remember. I’ve struggled with body image,   disordered eating, anxiety and depression. Sounds like a lot, but I’ve realised over the years that actually they’re all connected, they all come from the same place but just manifest in different ways. I’m still learning to accept that this is a part of who I am and probably always will be, but that doesn’t mean it defines me or has to rule my life. As unpleasant as these demons are, they have motivated me to develop a lifestyle centred around looking after both my mental and physical heath, they have deepened my awareness of the people around me and have inspired me to help others to feel good.

I thought I share some methods I use to help me manage stress and anxiety on an everyday basis…

1. Talk it out:

Feeling like sh*t can be really isolating, so having a friend, family member or counsellor that you can open up to and trust is invaluable. Talking to someone may not magically solve everything, but it can be really comforting to know that someone else is aware of what you’re going through. You may even find they have experienced something similar.

2. Write it down:

Sometimes it doesn’t feel right to talk to someone, and that’s okay. Getting thoughts out your head and onto paper can also be really therapeutic. I have written a diary for 14 years; my entries consist of what I’ve been up to, how I’m feeling, quotes, gratitude lists and positive things that have happened each day. It can also be reassuring to read over previous entries and see that something you were worried about last week, last month or  even years ago, is no longer a problem. Life is always changing.

3. Exercise:

Being a personal trainer, I suppose I am biased. However, this is backed up with so much scientific research; we know exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones). Anxiety prepares our body to go into fight or flight mode, i.e. if we were to come face to face with a lion, it would help us run away really fast. Now days, our lions are usually in our own heads, but our body still creates the same surge of adrenaline as a response. Exercising can help release this build up of energy.

I’ve also found practising yoga to also be really calming, it’s like meditation but for people who can’t sit still. I go to a local class every week and I love it, it’s become a place I feel really comforted and safe.

4. Learn something new:

Our brains are super intelligent, so if we’re not stimulating them, they tend to run a bit wild. Focusing on something that really interests you, for example learning a new hobby, can be a really great way of redirecting all that anxious energy into something more positive. We all have busy schedules, but taking time out to do something we enjoy, that’s separate from work, can be so beneficial in the long run.

5. Find a mantra:

I have a few mantras (quotes) that really help calm me if I feel anxiety rising, or help ground me if I’m having irrational thoughts. For example, every time I realise I’m comparing myself to someone else (something I do a lot, and it is not helpful!), I stop and repeat “I am my own experiment, I am my own work of art”. It’s actually something Madonna said years ago, and it really resonated with me. Whatever you say doesn’t have to be deep and philosophical, it doesn’t even have to be a quote said by someone else, but just something that challenges the irrational thoughts in your brain. This is essentially like CBT or neurolinguistic programming, on a very basic level.

 

 

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