Here, Clinical Psychologist, Dr Hazel Harrison, shares her advice for coping with anxiety.
Following our recent survey on mental health and wellbeing, we found that 55 per cent of small business owners have experienced anxiety in the past 12 months. That’s why we’re working with experts to bring useful resources to our Better for Business wellbeing hub.
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We’ll all feel anxious at some point in our lives. And many people have experienced an increase in feelings of anxiety during Covid-19.
Unlike stress, anxiety doesn’t always have a specific trigger – it can often be worried thoughts that get stuck in our head.
Anxiety can present itself in many different ways, including feeling agitated, impairing your ability to make decisions, increasing your heart rate (which can also make you feel hot and sweaty), and making you want to avoid certain situations.
If you’re noticing you’re feeling more anxious at the moment, here are a few things you can try.
The way we take care of ourselves may impact on emotional experiences. Anxiety can increase when you don’t get enough sleep. Try to establish some good sleep hygiene routines like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, not looking at screens too close to bedtime and being cautious of how much alcohol and caffeine you consume.
Physical exercise can help to regulate some of the intense emotional experiences that can accompany anxiety, so (if you’re able to) try to be active every day.
Anxiety is often accompanied by changes in our body that make us feel more tense and agitated. Some people find it useful to practice relaxation techniques to help their body (and their mind) feel calmer.
For more ideas, here’s some specific tips on looking after your wellbeing while working from home.
Anxiety has a tendency to snowball. One anxious thought can trigger another and another until it feels like it’s taking over your whole day. Some people find it helpful to give themselves a ‘worry time’.
Setting aside a time each day to ‘listen’ to your anxiety and acknowledge the things that are making you feel frightened or overwhelmed can be a useful strategy. Sometimes it helps to write down the things you’re worrying about, or to talk about them with someone you trust.
When your ‘worry time’ is up, try to move on to another activity.
It may also be helpful to monitor how much information you’re taking in that might be ‘feeding’ the things you’re worrying about. It's important to have the facts, but anxiety can sometimes drive you to continually keep checking information to the point where it’s not helpful anymore.
For example, constantly watching the news to find out what’s happening with the pandemic may actually make you feel more anxious. Notice if there are things you’re doing that make you worry more.
Even as adults, we still need to play. When you play, you signal to your brain that you’re safe and this allows the fear centre of your brain (that may be constantly on high alert) to have a little rest.
Playing can help you to shift your perspective to the present moment again. Find things you enjoy and that absorb your attention. When you’re really engaged in an activity – for example cooking, painting, gardening, dancing – you’re likely to have less time to get caught up in your worries. Plus, doing what you love may also boost your mood.
Sometimes anxiety can impact on your ability to live your life or it can impact significantly on those around you. It may be that you need additional support. Speak to your GP or a mental health professional for more advice.
The NHS also has some useful resources on managing anxiety.
Dr Hazel Harrison is a Clinical Psychologist with more than 10 years' professional experience in both the National Health Service (NHS) and private sector. Bringing psychology out of the clinics and into everyday life, Dr Harrison is also an award-winning presenter and writer for BBC Bitesize and BBC Teach.
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