Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of anxiety.
Anxiety can feel a little bit like a paradox: on the one hand, it can be reassuring to know that many people experience it and you are far from alone. On the other hand, everyone’s personality, background and behaviours are unique; there are no quick fixes when it comes to how to cope with your own flavour of anxiety.
However, I’ve come to realise that even small improvements can make a significant difference immediately. And the best part? They often require minimal effort and come at little to no cost. Sometimes, it’s tough to prioritise ourselves in the midst of life’s chaos, but as cliché as it sounds, I’ve learned that I can’t take care of others unless I take care of myself first!
Find exercises you love
If your idea of exercise is jogging to get to the elevator before it closes, do not fear; you don’t have to rush out and make plans to join the work indoor netball team. If you can, going for a brisk walk can be enough. For bonus points, walk to somewhere you find relaxing; take your lunch to a park or find a spot near your favourite piece of street art – anywhere that lifts your mood.
Create time for relaxation
No, not three hours on the sofa watching reruns of ‘Friends.’ No, not having a nap. You need to make time for fully present relaxation: a warm bath with some relaxing essences, some quiet meditation, getting a professional massage, etc. We understand that when life gets busy, self-care is often the first thing we sacrifice, but it is far more important than the laundry or staying in the office during your lunch break. Life is all about juggling priorities; make sure you are number one.
Explore meditation and mindfulness
Cultivating mindfulness means recalibrating your inner voice so that it doesn’t keep jumping in with judgements and criticisms, but rather observes the present moment and whatever arises. A recent study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center even suggests that ‘mindful people’ feel less pain. The study’s lead author Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D. said, “Mindfulness is related to being aware of the present moment without too much emotional reaction or judgment. We now know that some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain.”
Meditation, just like physical exercise, is best started gently with just a few minutes a day as you improve your technique. After that you can increase the frequency and duration, setting aside hours each week to practise. Meditation is not about forcing thoughts out of your mind, but accepting and not resisting them. There are many apps and guides to meditation online, such as Headspace or Buddhify; why not give meditation a try and enjoy the increased energy, alertness and calmness that it can bring?
Talk kindly to yourself
Imagine your best friend phoning you in a crisis: they’re crying, they’re panicking and they’re neck-deep in self-loathing; what would you say to them? Probably not that they deserve it, or they’re pathetic for needing help, or that they’ll never be happy, right? So why say it to yourself? Treat your insecurities like they’re another friend that surfaces occasionally, desperate for help, and respond with kindness – otherwise, aren’t you just punishing yourself twice?
Talk to a mental health professional
Depending on who you see, there are many treatment options, including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – just ask the therapist which ‘modality’ they use. Psychiatrists and other doctors can also prescribe medication. Talk to your GP about your options.
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