Let's face it, life would be a lot easier without the pressures that lead to stress and anxiety. Everyone suffers anxiety to some extent in their lives, but whether you are going through a period of stress, or suffering with an anxiety disorder, we should be mindful of the fact that we needn't compare ourselves to the way others are feeling and put ourselves on the back burner because our to-do lists are 'much more important'. There are ways to manage the effects of stress and anxiety that we should be implementing into our daily lives, because we don't need to keep struggling through with it simply being there all the time. Stress and anxiety can not only be 'accepted', but it can also be managed.
1. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
This goes without saying. Eating a healthier diet and drinking more water can improve our wellbeing immensely by boosting our mood and energy. Staying hydrated can also help to mitigate headaches, which can be a significant symptom of stress. In addition, getting a proper nights' sleep by going to bed at a good hour and switching off our electronic devices earlier in the evening can be incredibly beneficial for our body and mind.
Exercise is another way to manage the effects of stress and anxiety that is celebrated by doctors and therapists alike. Exercise not only keeps us fit and healthy, but it can also improve the way we feel about how we look. Don't get me wrong, I struggle with the idea of forming a regular exercise routine and it's definitely something I've got to work towards, but this doesn't have to be 'three-hours-in-the-gym-sweating-profusely-and-coming-home-to-glug-protein-shakes'. If you can do that, I admire you! But for those of us who are just starting out, it's as simple as taking a walk each day, getting out in the garden and bending and stretching for weeds, or doing yoga once a week. An exercise routine is something to build upon, but it has a brilliant and undoubtable effect on our physical and mental health.
Although meditation is not everyone's cup of tea, I strongly recommend you give it a try. There are lots of apps you can download for your phone that guide you through a peaceful session of meditation if you need some help, or else you can listen to calm and ambient sounds by yourself. My go-to app for guided meditation is Headspace. I can sit at my computer in the middle of a mammoth task and decide to take mere minutes out of my day to shut off and relax, before finishing and feeling completely refreshed. Or else, you can find a comfortable space on the floor or on your bed to meditate first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
Whatever you find therapeutic or comforting to do, be it gardening, colouring, painting, writing or reading, go ahead and do it! There's nothing quite like taking time out to do something you enjoy, for yourself, with no pressure. It's activities like this that act as building blocks for our creativity. On the other hand, if watching educational videos is your thing, go ahead and do that! I find I get an enormous amount of motivation from watching others do what they love too.
In a similar vein, self-care is not an indulgent activity you should disallow yourself to engage in. Make time for a hot soak in a bubble bath, wash off the day's work and slip your PJ's on early. Spend some well-earned time on the sofa! Get out in the garden early, or stay out there until it gets dark and the air dampens. All are simple but effective ways to unwind after a particularly stressful day.
This is one is paramount in my book. There is nothing like talking to loved ones about the way you feel and asking them for advice. Socialising and surrounding yourself with people you love is a great way to come to terms with rough patches and can show you that there may be more important things to focus on than whatever you are worrying about. Just remember that if you are beginning to feel as though you have more bad days than good, it's time to seek help from your GP. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting your feelings are too much to bear and that you need some expert advice. It takes a lot of courage and is a very difficult step to take but you will feel better for it. Your GP can help point you in the right direction, and you will certainly not be the only one. Verbalising our feelings can help us to understand why we are feeling the way we are, as well as lift a lot of weight off our shoulders!
7. 'No expectations'
The final point is one courtesy of thedailyzen.org and it resonated so poignantly with me that I had to include it here. It's not one I had ever really considered before until I read it and realised how much I should be applying it to my own life. So many times have I gone to bed after a stinky day and woken up the next morning thinking 'Right! Today is the day that I will feel better, I've got this!' The truth is, sometimes I say this and it only takes me a couple of hours to realise that maybe I haven't. But that's alright! When you're coming out of a dark patch or sticking point in time, it takes a while to get yourself back together and remember that everybody has bad days. It's part of life that we have those days we would rather bury in the past and forget about, but no day will ever be the same. One of my favourite quotes to tell myself on a bad day is: this day too shall pass. It's a reminder that every new day is a chance to build on the last, and that it won't always be like this. Rather than having expectations, we should simply focus on each step we take towards a clearer, fresher state of mind.