This year, the Mental Health Foundation is putting the spotlight on anxiety for their annual awareness week. As part of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we have put together some tips to help prevent or reduce the level of anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal response to challenging situations. However, a recent Mental Health Foundation survey revealed that anxiety prevents a quarter of adults doing things they want to do, either some or all of the time. Sometimes, there is no obvious trigger for anxiety – which can be upsetting in itself – and anxiety can manifest as a feeling of dread, fear or unease, and its impact can range on from mild to overwhelming.
Seven simple and cost-free ways to reduce anxiety
A lack of oxygen is a known physical cause of anxiety. This means that deep-breathing, with the aim of increasing your oxygen level, is a useful technique to practice.The great thing about deep-breathing is that it can be done anywhere at any time, and it also helps to centre your thoughts on simply being in the moment.
Get more sleep
A lack of sleep increases the brain’s anticipatory reactions, which then causes an increase in feelings of overall anxiety. As a result, getting enough sleep is vital.
While it is usual to prioritise time for work, chores, family and friends, allocating enough time for sleep is often neglected. Consistent, good sleep is also important, as the negative effects of poor sleep all week cannot be reversed by a long lay-in at the weekend.
Regular, adequate sleep is an important part of good mental health and good self-care.
Reduce caffeine and sugar
Caffeine and sugar are both stimulants and can exacerbate feelings of anxiety through raising cortisol levels, which may even trigger an anxiety attack.
Exercise releases endorphins within the brain, which is a proven way to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, while also promoting positive feelings of wellbeing. This does not mean you must join a gym or embark on a rigorous exercise regime – in fact, anything that gets you moving can increase your endorphin levels and so help reduce anxiety.
Like deep-breathing, exercise can have the added benefit of mindfulness. Concentrating on the rhythm of movement will centre you in the moment and may help to interrupt any thoughts or concern, uncertainty, or worry.
There are many types of meditation, but whichever you choose, meditation may help to lower anxiety and stress levels. Learning to meditate is a commitment to self-care; that however busy your day, you will take even just 10 minutes to pause, breathe and reset.
Take a few minutes each day to recognise three new things you are grateful for that day.
This is a powerful tool in reducing anxiety and promoting a feeling of wellbeing, because it trains your brain to scan for positives, instead of scanning for threats.
You can also diarise one positive experience you have experienced that day. It can even be something as small as eating a favourite meal, a friendly interaction with a stranger, or something your cat did that made you laugh. Writing this positive experience down helps to cement it in your mind, and as visualization has the same effect on the brain as actual experience, you get an extra boost of happiness.
Visit your GP to rule out a medical condition for your anxiety
If your anxiety levels have increased recently for no obvious reason, your doctor can determine whether a medical condition is responsible. Talk openly to your doctor regarding your symptoms and request a wide range of blood tests.
What can employers can do for their workforce?
Having a workplace Mental Health First Aider is a great way to show support to your staff. A Mental Health First Aider can be on hand to spot the signs of mental illness and offer support; including for people suffering from high anxiety levels.
At Siamo we have a dedicated, qualified, Wellbeing Officer, available to all of our learners. We also offer a comprehensive employee assistance programme, for both our employees and our flexible workers.
Moving towards better mental health
The good news is that anxiety can be reduced with small and cost-free changes to our routine. Remember – you are the expert on your life, so pick and choose the tips that appeal most to you!
Useful Resources and links
We have also compiled some useful resources and links, for more information about the tips outlined above:
NHS website – breathing exercises
Breathing exercises for stress – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
NHS website – meditation for beginners
How to meditate for beginners – Mental wellbeing tips – Every Mind Matters – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
St John Ambulance offer Mental Health First Aider courses
Aida says… (sja.org.uk)
General mental health and wellbeing advice
The Mental Health Foundation