Do you struggle with anxiety and stress?
You’re not alone. In fact, according to recent statistics, 26% percent of Aussies are experiencing above average levels of stress and anxiety.
Like the monster hiding underneath your bed, anxiety and stress can steal the quality of life and leave sufferers feeling like there’s no way out.
Anxiety and stress can also sabotage your confidence, twist your stomach into knots, and have a negative impact on your overall well-being.
There is hope though.
You can start to eliminate the uncomfortable consequences of anxiety and stress by following this ultimate guide to reducing anxiety and stress, and living a life of calm and happiness that you deserve.
#1 – Practice Mindfulness
Your boss wanted to have that report yesterday, your baby has a fever, and your laundry is piling up.
Does any of this sound familiar?
No one is totally devoid of any stress, and stress can actually help us from a psychological perspective. But too much of it can result in symptoms that can get in the way of every day joy.
Symptoms can include:
- difficulty breathing
- an upset stomach
- excessive dread
The first step that you need to take to overcome these negative feelings is to realise that stress and anxiety are common. That’s not to say they aren’t very real or limiting, but that what you are feeling is a sensation shared by countless Australians.
Although it can be very uncomfortable, these negative feelings will typically pass sooner or later.
Trying to fight anxiety can actually make it stronger; and paradoxically, when you accept the act that you feel anxious, it can help to activate the natural relaxation response of your body.
According to the mindfulness experts from Mukti Freedom Yoga, practising mindfulness for just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference. They explain “mindfulness is about living in the moment. It is a state of non-judgemental focus on the ‘now’. By spending 5-10 minutes a day focusing on your surroundings, accepting what you feel without judgement, and observing the changes, you can let stress and anxiety wash away. This is a simple tool that any Australian can use.”
#2 – Learn To Self-Soothe
Imagine walking down a natural path and being met by a large bear – or worse – your boss breathing down your neck and demanding results.
Whenever we are faced with a situation that causes anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system in our body triggers physiological changes automatically. Your heart starts to race, adrenaline is secreted, and your breathing quickens.
The natural survival mechanism – referred to as fight or flight response – has been designed to help us escape from real life-threatening emergencies. However, when it is an imaginary threat, then the fight or flight response can be very uncomfortable and unnecessary.
Self-soothing techniques to help reduce your stress response. Consider the following techniques to help you navigate through the stress and anxiety in your life the next time these feelings start to overwhelm you.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Decreasing your heart rate is one of the more effective ways to get the relaxation response activated. Since we cannot alter our pulse voluntarily, more tangible measures are necessary.
Deep breathing techniques can lower a rapid heart rate. The strategy that is most commonly used is to contract the diaphragm, which is a horizontal muscle right over the stomach cavity in your chest.
- Positive Self-talk
If a child told you she was nervous about going to school on the following day what would you tell her?
You probably wouldn’t say, “well you should be really nervous since school is a jungle and anything could happen.” As humans we intuitively know how to help other people combat stress better than how to help ourselves.
In order to increase your emotional comfort, it is essential to practice realistic and reassuring self-talk. Whenever you start feeling anxious, try to say phrases like:
- “I feel my heart rate is slowing down”
- “I feel anxious right now, but I can make myself calm”
- “I feel safe right now”
- “I can get through this”
- “this too shall pass”
- Muscle Relaxation
Stress can cause our muscles to become tense and tighten. In order to increase your physical comfort and a relaxed state, start with your largest muscle group and release and tighten those muscles.
#3 – Check Your Diet
Our emotional state is impacted by the things we eat and drink. Are you giving your body the fuel you need to stay on top of your anxious thoughts and feelings?
The foods that are associated with the most exacerbating anxiety are ones that contain alcohol and caffeine.
Even when only small amounts are consumed, it has been found by studies that caffeine’s stimulatory effects can increase feelings of irritability and nervousness, trigger panic attacks, and cause anxiety.
Caffeine can also cause physical symptoms like shaking and trembling. However, eliminating caffeine from your diet abruptly can result in withdrawal symptoms like irritability, restlessness, and headaches.
So the best thing to do is to gradually decrease your consumption. Similarly, although people consume alcohol to often try to “take the edge off,” what it does is dehydrate the body and increases anxiety ultimately.
According to nutrition and gut health experts Get A Healthy Life, when there is an imbalanced amount of bacteria inside the gut it can cause numerous symptoms that are associated with anxiety as well as other types of mood disorders. They explain “studies have pointed to evidence that the biggest contributing factor to the balance of bacteria in your gut might have the most to do with your mood. So the things you eat can have a direct influence on the way you feel.”
#4 – Get The Body Moving
Most people know that exercise is beneficial to your physical health.
Over the past couple of decades, it has been suggested by research that exercise might be even more highly effective than medication.
It has been proven that exercising on a regular basis helps to:
- increase energy levels
- enhance self-esteem
- improve mood
- reduce stress.
During exercise, chemicals are released by the body called endorphins. They interact with the receptors inside the brain that reduce physical pain and cause euphoric feelings.
Endorphins play a massive role in sustaining mental health according to hypnosis anxiety practitioners, Act Now Hypnosis. They explain “when stress affects the brain, the body suffers. So it stands to reason that this process can be reversed. When the body feels good, so too can the brain. Exercise produces endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers, and is a simple technique all Australians can use. Get the blood pumping and see the results.”
Even if you just want to get out in the garden and get ready for summer, small steps can take you towards big improvements.
#5 – Get More Sleep
Almost everybody feels a bit worse for wear after a bad night’s sleep.
In fact, many emotional disorders are associated with disrupted sleep and it can be hard to know which came first – poor sleep or stress. Studies have shown that losing only a couple of hours of sleep can increase feelings of exhaustion, sadness, anger, and stress.
The simple fix? Get more sleep.
Go to bed earlier, and more importantly, limit your use of smart devices prior to bed.
Not only can you train your brain to associate being in bed with using your devices (as opposed to sleeping), but the blue light that is emitted from modern smart screens can disrupt your body’s internal clock – or Circadian Rhythm.
So put the devices away, institute a digital curfew and get the sleep your body needs to feel as good as it should.
With these 5 simple but effective tips, you should be able to start working on reducing the anxiety and stress in your life, and get back to a life that you deserve.