When anxiety hovers over us it can often feel like there’s no way out. The trappings of anxiety inherently narrow our capacity for hope and joy. However, nobody should have to live with anxiety and there are many steps, both small and large, that you can take on a daily basis that will bolster your defences against anxiety. Here are five ways you can build mental resilience and beat anxiety this winter.
1 Reframe The Threat
Anxiety is a physical response to a perceived threat somewhere in our future – and often our bodies mistake innocent events for potentially harmful. If your anxiety has a focal point, say, interactions in your place of work or an upcoming exam, beginning to reframe the perceived threat can help to beat anxiety.
To do this, write down things you feel anxious about with a reference to these future threats – being mistreated at work, failing on an upcoming task. After the event has taken place, return to this journal and catalogue the outcome. Over time you will build up a record of the evidence that your body is perceiving threats that don’t exist and reflection on this can ease your anxiety.
2 Breathing Techniques
Sometimes no amount of rationalizing can help us beat anxiety and in this case, the physicality of anxiety requires a physical strategy. Breath offers an incredibly powerful tool for overcoming anxiety and anyone can master it for instant relief.
We’re all familiar with the shortness of breath that comes with anxiety. Combat this by consciously relaxing your muscles and slowing your breathing down. Focus on exhaling for seven to ten seconds, forcing your body to empty itself of air, and then repeat a long deep breath. Try to identify where in your body the breath is filling – your chest, your belly. This focus on the physical can break the spell of anxiety.
3 Prioritise Sleep
Anxiety can lead to a vicious cycle where a lack of sleep breeds anxiety. And then you’re kept up all night worrying. But a few good night’s sleep can have a profound impact on your body’s capacity to subtly moderate its responses to a threat, and reduce your anxiety.
When you feel anxiety building, placing a conscious effort in improving your sleep pattern can head off the worst of your fears. Habit is the key to forming a strong sleeping pattern. Limit your access to screens and technology in the evening. Try going to bed at the same time every evening, with eight restful hours ahead of you.
One of the mechanisms that give anxiety such a stronghold on us is the way it fixates us on problems in our own lives. So it makes sense that stepping outside of our world and helping others can alleviate stress and anxiety. Indeed, research has shown the connections between volunteering and good mental health.
Finding somewhere to volunteer can encourage your mind to take a break from worrying about your own world. Thus providing a greater perspective on the troubles that others are facing. This isn’t about seeking external praise or validation. It’s about encouraging the mind to find peace by building connections with our community. Find an outlet that works for you. Whether this is mentoring kids or volunteering in a pet shelter to work with animals.
5 Planning Ahead
Sometimes uncertainty can be a trigger for anxiety and if you find yourself worrying about various outcomes in the future. Building a strong plan can ground you and reduce your anxiety. Often, anxiety builds up around a sense of overwhelming tasks. So setting up a to-do list and working your way through it can give you more space to think. Having a fixed schedule can take the sting out of a stressful day.
Anxiety can be a paralysing affliction and in its grips, it sometimes seems like there’s no way out. However, even small steps to build structure and routine into your day. Strengthening sleeping patterns and discovering breathing habits can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing. If anxiety is getting on top of you it can be helpful to reach out to your doctor. But there are many habitual cures to beat anxiety that can give you space to breathe.