Eve Simmons | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 8 December 2015

5 Practical Things You Can Do To Deal With Your Anxiety

Practical Things You Can Do To Deal With Your Anxiety

The Debrief: Finding yourself in the middle of a big old panic? Here's a few ways to help you calm down.

If I had a quid for every time someone advised me to ‘stop worrying’, I’d be Richard sodding Branson. I’ve spent the last 24 years perfecting the art of being in a constant state of fear arousal, just in case of an impending suicide bomb attack/random open fire shooting/ sudden onset of Elephant Man disease (all unlikely, but ALL POSSIBLE).

And, I’m not alone, it would seem. Figures from the Mental Health Foundation show one in six Brits will experience an anxiety or depressive disorder at some point in our lives, with anxiety disorders being among the most common mental health conditions in the UK. 

In fact, 3.3% of British young adults are ‘clinically’ anxious. Hardly surprising seeing as you’re ‘fat’ ie you’re not a malnourished, plastic doll,  you’ll probably never be able to buy a house and we’re basically at war with half the world. However, it’s only after my latest anxious obsession (BREAD GIVES YOU CANCER... WHAT?) that I’ve realised the uselessness of worrying simply for the sake of worrying.

So far, none of my fears have become reality and all that my anxiety has achieved is a great relationship with my GP (I wish they gave out loyalty cards). Oh, and I’m terrible at crossing roads, I still can’t swim and if the lightbulb blows, I sit in the dark until a fearless, daredevil is brave enough to replace it. 

Needless to say, I need help. Recently, I’ve decided to seek some external input in order to give my poor brain some respite. It turns out, there are simple and genius tricks that ease your endless woes, as if by magic. Here are some I’ve found most effective.

1. Distraction

Sometimes, when your mind runs away with you, it’s tough to focus on anything but your worries. Depending on the extent of your anxious state, distraction can involve anything from phoning a friend to lol at their drunken weekend behaviour, to playing a song that reminds you of a specific event.

If you’re looking for a more long-term distraction, consider taking up a new hobby. Join a choir or try a new dance class, even an hour of engagement can be a welcome rest for your weary mind.

2. Be mindful

Mindfulness is the latest school of psychological thought to be hailed by clinical psychologists and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as an effective treatment for a variety of mental health disorders.

Developed in the 1980s by psychologist, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness stress reduction is based on the philosophy that being actively involved in what you’re doing at any present moment will ease pre-existing anxieties. It kind of makes sense, seeing as life is basically just a series of random moments and what’s the point if you’re not engaged in them, but instead fixated on something that hasn’t happened and probably never will? 

Mindfulness practices range from breathing exercises (lots of non-ridiculous ones here), to simply taking a ‘mindful’ approach to everyday activities. For example, consider your walk to the tube station. Instead of the familiar internal conversation about what ‘could’ happen that day, spend the time taking in your surroundings. Concentrate on the way your foot makes contact with the pavement. What can you smell? How many colours can you see?

Mindful eating can help you connect with the sensory experience of eating, rather than worrying about the amount of calories in your falafel wrap. It’s delicious, so just EAT IT.

3. Assess the pros and cons

I’ve been known to carry around a piece of A4 paper with pre-prepared lists of supposed outcomes to anxiety-provoking situations. Helpful as it may be, it usually ends up smothered in gross, leftover chocolate that decorates the bottom of my handbag.

Plus, it’s not really practical when you’re on a date and trying to decide between vanilla and raspberry ripple. 

Fortunately, with practice, it’s something that’s easily done mentally so the outside world is none the wiser. It’s an especially useful tool when it comes to the act of worrying itself. What are the pros of engaging in the worrying? The chances are, they’ll be very few.

4. State the facts

We spend an awful lot of energy concerned with the outcome of events that we have very little, if any, control over. Either that or we’re basing our worries on nothing but our own predictions. Hence, when you consider the circumstances as they are, in that moment, there is usually nothing worth worrying about.

Practice saying the cold, hard facts of the current situation either out loud, or in your head. Acknowledge any emotions that might be hanging around too, as this will contextualise your anxiety, helping you to recognise that the flutter in your chest doesn’t mean you’re having a heart attack, it’s just your old friend Mr Panic, popping back to say hello.

5. Use your body

You know when you get a sudden attack of crippling foot cramp and suddenly, the only thing you can think about is the bastard stabbing in your muscle? Well, wouldn’t that distraction (minus the pain) be nice when you’re sending yourself loco with anxious thoughts about contracting Ebola?

Becoming completely in tune with your bodily sensations can provide a shock interruption from the pattern of worries. Try putting ice cubes on your wrist, splashing your face with icy water or running yourself a just-about-bearable, hot bath.

If you’re alone and in a soundproofed room, try listening to really loud, aggressive music and don’t worry – it’s supposed to be unpleasant. If death metal ain’t your thing, call on your smell skills and boil cinnamon sticks or embark on a hardcore baking session.

Mindfulness courses are available across the country and it’s currently recommended as a treatment for anxiety and depression on the NHS. If the worrying gets much worse, go and visit your GP. See, there’s no excuse to waste time worrying – but just try not to worry if you do.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

I Quit My Dream Job For My Mental Health

How To Cope When You're Dealing With Depression At Work

Six Things You Only Know If You Have Anxiety In Your 20s

Follow Eve on Twitter @EvieSimm

Tags: Mental health