Often we develop anxiety following a series of stressful life events. This is especially true if we experience many different pressures all at once. When thinking about it in this way, anxiety is often the result of feeling as though we cannot cope with the demands placed upon us.
Not having enough free time to relax and do the things we enjoy can also contribute to our higher anxiety levels. On the other hand, having too much free time can mean we have lots of opportunities to engage in worry and feel anxious
Anxiety is undoubtedly an unpleasant feeling, but it is something that everyone experiences. Some people experience anxiety more regularly than others, but it is a completely natural experience that is part and parcel of daily life. Due to the unpleasant nature of anxiety, people often worry that experiencing it is harmful. Such fears naturally make people even more anxious which creates a vicious cycle of anxiety.
However, when exploring anxiety more closely, we can see that it is a very healthy response which actually helps to protect us. By learning more about anxiety and why we experience it in the first place, we can see that it is not harmful. This can help us to be less fearful of the symptoms which in turn has a positive affect on our overall anxiety levels. If however you are concerned that some of your symptoms are not caused by anxiety, contact your GP if necessary.
It is important to make time to relax and do activities that are enjoyable. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind. It can also help you to sleep. Without taking the time to unwind, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Relaxation can involve doing something that you enjoy, or just being by yourself. Good examples might be reading a book or having a bath. Exercise is also particularly effective at helping us to relax. What you do does not really matter. Try to choose something that you will look forward to and that gives you a break. Doing an activity that you enjoy will also give you less time to spend worrying. Here are a list of activities that might help you to relax.
- Do some exercise. Exercise helps with burning nervous/anxious energy. Try a swim, brisk walk, mild jog, bike ride
- Read a book
- Watch your favourite TV show
- Go to the cinema
- Do something creative (e.g. draw, paint)
- Visit a friend or family member
- Have a bath
Exercise is also particularly effective at helping us to relax and there is evidence to
support the claim that exercise is related to positive mental health as by relief in symptoms of anxiety.
When you are suffering with anxiety, exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do but once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference. Everyone is aware of the benefits of exercise for our health but research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear but working out can definitely help you relax and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re eeling better.
Exercise may assist in the following ways:
- Releasing feel-good brain hemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and ndorphins)
- Reducing immune system hemicals that can worsen depression
- Increasing body emperature, which may have calming effects
Exercise also has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialise with others.
- Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy
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Tension often builds up when we feel upset or stressed. These symptoms can be painful and can cause anxiety in themselves. Muscular relaxation exercises can help you to control such unpleasant symptoms. They can reduce physical tension and help you to relax in general.
During this exercise you have to tense and then relax different muscles in your body. You should focus on the feelings that you experience whilst doing this. With practice you will then be more able to recognise and respond to the onset of tension.
You can work through as many muscle groups as you like. Don’t feel that you have to cover every muscle in your whole body. It can be helpful to stick to the same muscle groups each time you practice. That way you can get into a routine which you can easily remember. If you practice this nearly every day you will probably notice an improvement after a couple of weeks.
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet where you won’t be interrupted. You can either sit or lie down to practice this exercise. Begin by focusing on your breathing. Try to have a slow and comfortable pace. You could use the controlled breathing technique described earlier. Do this for a few minutes to prepare for the muscular relaxation exercise.
Try to tense each muscle group for around five seconds. Don’t tense the muscle too tight. Focus on the sensations that this brings. Then relax your muscles for a similar length of time, and again, focus on how this feels. Then move onto the next muscle group. Try to remember to keep your breathing at a comfortable pace throughout. Below are some suggestions of muscle groups that you may wish to work through:
- Legs – point your toes and tense your muscles as if you were trying to stand up.
- Stomach – tense your stomach muscles.
- Arms – make fists and tense your muscles as if you were trying to lift something.
- Shoulders – shrug your shoulders. Lift them up towards your ears.
- Face – make a frowning expression. Squeeze your eyes shut and screw up your nose. Clench your teeth.
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