Some people find relaxation very useful whilst others might find it hard to sit still when feeling anxious. Similarly, some people find exercise the best way to burn off excess adrenaline whilst others can’t face the idea of jogging or walking anywhere. Test out how you feel about different ways to manage your anxiety– see which approach is best for you.
Sarah talks about her experience of using relaxation:
“In the depths of my anxiety I found it impossible to sit and meditate, or listen to a guided relaxation CD. My mind was all over the place in a million directions and I just wasn’t able to take it in. What worked for me in the end was taking up yoga. I didn’t feel up to taking a class to begin with so I bought a book with a program in and just did it at home. It helped because some of those poses are hard! Trying to stay in them made me focus my attention on what I was doing and gave me some respite from the anxiety. I ended up doing it everyday for at least half an hour. I can’t recommend it enough!”
Other useful relaxation techniques
- Trying a guided meditation. Anxiety UK members currently receive a year’s free subscription to Headspace, so make sure to redeem your code!
- Using a specific relaxation or hypnotherapy CD
- Lighting some candles, running a warm bath and listening to some quiet, soft music
- Yoga or Tai Chi are active ways to relax if you are unable to sit still and rest. Our Relaxing Yoga DVD is a good starting point for beginners looking to learn yoga.
- Breathing techniques, such as the ones described below which can be useful for starting to control the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR), where you work through each muscle group at a time flexing and relaxing. This can be useful for learning where the tension is forming in your body, and to then alter your posture.
- Some people find alternative remedies helpful, such as valerian and camomile teas, Bach flower remedies (available from health shops) and lavender essential oils. Always speak to your GP first about herbal or complementary remedies as they can interact with other medications or cause side effects.
This way of breathing is probably opposite to the way you may normally breathe, but the purpose behind it is to open up your lungs to their full capacity so that you can get as much air in them as possible.
To begin with, you may need to practice deep breathing regularly to give you a good, calming boost. After that you may find you only need to do it twice a day, or whenever you feel particularly anxious.
- Lie down on a bed or sit on a comfortable chair
- Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest
- Let your stomach rise as it fills with air
- Try to keep your chest and shoulders still
- Let your stomach fall again
- Breathe in slowly to a count of 4
- Rest for 2
- Breathe out slowly to a count of 8
- Rest for 2
Repeat, slowly breathing in and out for 20 breaths (or about 3 minutes)
A Good Night’s Sleep
A restful night can make all the difference to your mental health, but it is easy to fall out of the habit of practising good sleep hygiene. Getting enough zzzs can improve memory, creativity, lower stress and sharpen your attention, and some of these tips may feel like common sense but are essential to living healthily.
Develop A Sleep Routine
- Get into a regular bedtime routine
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day (set the alarm and get up, even if you did not fall asleep until late)
- Don’t try to catch up sleep by having naps. (If you really need one it should not last more than 20min!)
Activity and Exercise
- Activities that involve physical and/or mental stimulation have implications for improved sleep quality (for example regular exercise or reading).
- Moderate exercise can lead to feelings of tranquillity, personal satisfaction and well being that can help with sleep. If joining a gym is too much of a commitment at this point in your life, finding space to work out at home or go for a jog around your neighbourhood will boost your endorphins and make you rest easier.
- Practising yoga or meditation could help you to unwind your mind.
- Try to go outside for at least half an hour each day, especially in the afternoon.
- Malted bedtime drinks like Ovaltine and Horlicks have been associated with ‘good’ sleep. However, your sleep might get disrupted if you need to go to the toilet.
- Avoid drinks that contain caffeine as these possess stimulant properties that will prevent you falling asleep. Try not to drink coffee in the evening and instead switch your Nescafe for a herbal tea like chamomile or cinnamon.
Relax Yourself Before Bedtime
- Have a bath, light a scented candle or read a book before going to bed.
- Avoid using computers near the time you want to fall asleep, and don’t take your phone to bed with you!
- Avoid eating heavy meals and undertaking activities that increase your heart rate before going to bed.
- Make sure your sleep area is quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature.
Positive Change: Clinical Hypnotherapist and Anxiety UK Patron, Ursula James, has provided this free mp3 download. Positive Change, written and spoken by Ursula James, has been created to help you let go of any frustrations from your old habits and to embrace the benefits of positive change. The audio contains both voice and music and is wonderfully relaxing.
By using the code ‘AUKFREE’, Anxiety UK members will receive this MP3 for free. Many thanks to Ursula James for this generous donation.