Saturday, 4 April 2020

How can we deal with anxiety?

Can exercise help treat anxiety? - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard ...

a quote from the Dalai Lama

"Physical comforts cannot subdue mental suffering, and if we look closely, we can see that those who have many possessions are not necessarily happy. In fact, being wealthy often brings even more anxiety"

These are testing times for us all - I type this on Saturday 4th April 2020 - with the world in lockdown from the Covid-19 Virus outbreak. Social Distancing, Self-Isolation and just being Responsible are how we are living our lives.

All this will naturally bring stress and anxiety. Anxiety can be defined as:
"an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure."

According to a leading UK based mental health site, anxiety is a "perfectly normal response" for human beings. However, if the symptoms persist then it can become a problem.  They say that, in the UK, a little over 1 in 10 of us "will be living with an anxiety disorder at any one time" - which is between seven and eight million people. However, people experience anxiety differently.

Anxiety becomes a problem if:

  1. your feelings last a lengthy period
  2. the feelings of worry are out of proportion to the situation
  3. you start to avoid situations which may cause you to feel anxious
  4. you start to feel distressed and unable to control feelings, which can feel overwhelming
  5. you start to have panic attacks
  6. your quality of life is affected negatively by these feelings, and you cannot enjoy life

So, what can you do?

Get help, Speak to people.
There are some fantastic organisations around who can help - but you have to make the first move. Overcoming anxiety and stress is achievable, but you firstly have to acknowledge it, and secondly be proactive and ask for help. The first port of call should be your doctor. There is no need to be scared about this. The medical profession are very used to dealing with this issue. They can refer you to relevant people. Be open, be honest, but most of all embrace the help. It may feel like an enormous mountain, but even Everest gets conquered with patience, time and effort.
Don't rely on texts and the internet. We need verbal communication in our lives - preferably face to face (which of course is not so easy at this time of isolating). But technology is incredible these days, particularly around communication. You can Whatsapp (free) and video call people. This is just one of several options - which can include Skype, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, and others.

Keep a routine
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bods focuses on five main areas, one of which is routine. If you are out of work, or going through difficult times, it is very easy to stop doing regular chores, hide yourself away, and change good habits.  But we thrive on regularity, Psychologically, knowing what to expect will do us good. Get up at your usual time, eat at mealtimes, go to bed as normal.
When we design a personal routine that works for us, it facilitates developing good habits by encouraging us to repeat the same tasks - such as brushing our teeth every morning, or going for a walk every evening. We can foster habits that match our goals and targets and dreams.

Be Active Every Day | Helping kids be more active and make healthy ...

Be active
Anxiety can lead to inactivity, and poor choices on behaviour. Doing physical exercise isn't just to strengthen muscles, but has an effect on your health overall - and that includes physical, mental and emotional.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the number one form of heart disease. Exercise can help attack the plaque in your arteries that builds up on a poor diet. Better blood flow can help the arteries widen, the blood flows more freely, and your blood pressure eventually starts to drop. And as your heart is getting a workout too (it is a muscle after all) hypertension will decrease.
Importantly at this time, short-term exercise programs can help your immune system, according to various studies.
Even stretching helps increase the flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients around your body - and these can affect your mental health and focus, which in turn control mood and thoughts.
It also releases hormones - Dopamine (the reward hormone), Serotonin (the happy hormone), Endorphins (feel-good hormones), and Cortisol (a steroid hormone), and others. These can have a positive effect on your mood, confidence, focus, decisions and lift anxiety.
Sometimes it can be difficult motivating yourself to do any fitness, especially if on your own. But go onto youtube - find some exercise videos to work alongside. Only you can make the right choices.

Thoughts go round and round your head - and they can be all you concentrate on. Instead, try and distance yourself from your own body. Take yourself away to a beach, or a forest, or the sea - metaphorically, not physically.
Lie down and listen to the noises of nature. Remember a good holiday and focus on where you went. Think about times when your were happy and what you were doing. Control your breathing - and focus on inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth - taking deep breaths. Let your muscles relax from your head to your toes.

Meditation is exploring. It’s not a fixed destination. Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought, utterly undistracted. It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that) and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing a trumpet).
Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.

Move away from social media
I am not saying you should stop using it as social media can be a fantastic tool and guide in your life. We have this blog for example - and Healthy Minds, Healthy Bods has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too. Used wisely, it can significantly help you as you move forward.
Instead, ask yourself if you are using it constructively or destructively. It can really help you connect with people when you are low, but you are then more vulnerable to unfavourable comparisons, people being judgemental, or just plain nasty. You are also more likely to be drawn to things than confirm how you feel and emphasise these feelings. Be aware of looking for positive feedback and help. Motivation videos, encouraging groups, and inspiring words.

HMHB says:
Listen, it is not easy. We are a mentor led mental health intervention project and we have all had times of great distress, discomfort and frustration. We have experienced loneliness, despair and dark times. The challenge is to understand that you are not alone, but it is up to you to seek ways to improve - which you can. Everyone is special. Everyone is amazing, Believe it of yourself.

Diabetes and exercise | Getting active | Diabetes UK

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