Keeping our minds healthy should be as important, as looking after our bodies. Mental health struggles are not unusual for anyone, and if we were to talk about them more openly we might result in a society that treats people who suffer from mental health problems with more empathy.
Some people say that feeling anxious occasionally is as normal as feeling tired, sad, or even happy – it is part of our lives. Whilst this is true, there are cases when it occurs both more frequently and more severely, and it must be taken seriously.
There are ways to alleviate this uncomfortable feeling, but first we need to establish the most common symptoms and causes of it. Understanding the reasons and triggers behind anxiety can help treat the cause, which in turn can ease the symptoms.
We tend to follow similar patterns to being fearful when we feel anxious, both mentally, and physically. However, unlike fear, we don’t always know why we might feel anxious, and that’s a lot more confusing.
Mental signs of anxiety include negative thought processes that you cannot break out of, feeling worried and restless, and insomnia. Depending on the severity of it, there are a lot of physical symptoms that can occur during an anxiety-induced episode. You might get sweaty palms, shaky hands, nausea/diarrhoea, heart palpitations, or even migraines!
Everyone’s life is different, so not all of us are concerned about the same things. Furthermore, some of us are more prone to anxiety than others. The following list tries to cover common reasons behind anxiety.
Caffeine: A study concluded that caffeine can either cause or worsen anxiety, especially in people with pre-existing conditions, like social anxiety or panic disorders. If you would struggle to get rid of your morning coffee routine, try and switch your drink to a decaf one. It tastes the same, but it does not produce the above-mentioned side-effects.
Alcohol: Although it can act as a sedative and could numb the bad feelings for a little while, it isn’t a permanent – or healthy – solution, and when the effects of it are over, anxiety can come back stronger than before.
Smoking: A study from 2013 suggests that people with smoking habits have a much higher chance of developing anxiety disorders later in life, than non-smokers. Nicotine consumption can alter biological pathways in the brain that are linked to anxiety.
Lack of nutrition: Skipping meals is never a good idea, because your body needs energy during the day. Food has an impact on your overall mood and if you are hungry, you are more prone to feeling sad. This is where the new word, ‘hangry’ comes from.
Stress: I know it has been said a thousand times, but a stressful life can result in a stressed-out body and mind. Stress can be caused by financial worries, conflicts, or an unhealthy work-life balance.
Social events: For example, public speaking, performances, parties, concerts, meetings, or presentations.
Personal triggers: As mentioned above, everyone processes things differently. Therefore, everyone can react differently to the same thing. Negative thinking patterns is usually a common denominator amongst people prone to mental health issues.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet can do wonders for us. Processed foods and too much sugar can alter your overall mood, and consuming them regularly can lead to other health problems. Staying hydrated and eating lots of nutritious food, like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, plays an important role in managing mental problems. As mentioned above, caffeine or alcohol can trigger these issues, so it is best to only consume them in small amounts. Alternatively, you might want to just replace these drinks to chamomile tea, which helps reduce anxiety and gives you a good night’s sleep.
Being physically active does not just keep you fit, but it keeps your emotional levels and responses in check. It releases endorphins which make you feel great – sometimes hours after working out. If you do not consider yourself as a runner or a cardio person, then yoga or pilates could be a good alternative. For yoga, I personally recommend the YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene. Both pilates and yoga are focused on breathing techniques as well as body movement, which can help you relax more.
Speaking of breathing exercises, meditation is a wonderful tool for de-stressing yourself. Deep breathing from the diaphragm has been proven to help with asthma, improve migraine symptoms, decrease fatigue, and reduce anxiety.
Journaling and/or counselling sessions can help in pinpointing and in managing your personal triggers and patterns. Talking to yourself or writing down your negative thoughts makes the burden feel a lot easier.
Overthinking, and letting negative thoughts go round in your head does not solve your problems – on the contrary, it just makes it all worse. Creating distractions for yourself when you feel this way is advised. Reading a book, volunteering, spending time with your friends and family, walking your dog, listening to music or dancing are all good places to start. Getting out of your house and your head can do you a world of good.
Anxiety is not something anyone enjoys, but it is something that everyone experiences. Paying attention to our bodies and souls can help boost our mood.