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5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

Remember that anxiety is, at its root, always simply about our thoughts. Anxiety is a fear of something that might happen in the future. Have you ever been worried about things that haven’t happened yet? That’s anxiety right  there. It is normal to sometimes feel concern about future events, so make your anxiety work for you rather than against you.

Use your anxiety to identify positive changes you need to make.

No one likes feeling stressed or anxious. Always remember that anxiety is simply one of nature’s signposts for change. You may feel that racing heart beating, feel a bit breathless or a dull feeling in your tummy. These anxiety symptoms will be because your mind is concerned about something and your mind wants you to find a solution. In ancient times anxiety was normally about an immanent danger. For our ancestors the solution was often to either stand and fight or get out of there and flee. Today we still have an anxiety response to events that feel worrying.

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In today’s hectic world, our fears are more about work, family or personal issues than any imminent danger. Consider what is really worrying you and then create a plan of action to deal with the source of stress. If you are anxious about an exam or work presentation, sit down and thoroughly prepare. Remember that anxiety is lowered when you know clearly how to cope with the stressful situation.

Use your anxiety to identify what is important to you.

Have you ever got annoyed about something that you don’t care about? That was a trick question, of course! We only feel concern about those people or events that we actually care about. If you didn’t love someone, you wouldn’t worry about their safety. If you didn’t want that new job then you wouldn’t get nervous for the interview. If you feel guilty since you aren’t motivated to do an activity or project, perhaps don’t use that as a stick with which to beat yourself up. Your lack of concern isn’t always laziness. If the activity really was meaningful for you, then you would indeed be motivated to act. Here your lack of anxiety may in fact point to this activity not being as important as you perhaps originally thought it to be.

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Look after your well being when under stress.

It is common to want to press ahead and put life on hold until you have dealt with the anxiety producing situation or source of stress. Don’t allow stress to prevent you looking after yourself. We all need to eat healthily, have ways to relax and ways to get gentle exercise. Don’t tell yourself that it is okay to neglect your health and well being. In fact the opposite is the case. It is really exactly during those times when you feel higher levels of stress or anxiety, that exercise and relaxation are very important. Don’t put looking after your well being on hold.

Use anxiety as an opportunity for self growth.

Sometimes we find it hard to accept events to be simply as they are. This leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Decide what you can control and what you can change. Let go of what is holding you back from just accepting things as they truly are. Sitting in traffic can feel stressful until you discover the liberating feeling of just allowing things to be just as they are. You can’t control the weather, the traffic, other people’s behaviour or the outcome of many events. Allow stress and anxiety to be reminders to let go of wanting to always be in control. Take a flexible approach since, let’s be honest, though you may feel like you are doing something, often getting stressed will have absolutely no effect on the outcome. Work hard to make the changes that are needed but don’t allow events to govern how you feel inside. Practices such as Mindfulness, help you stay flexible in thought, whilst still being focused on what needs to be achieved.

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Anxiety is not your enemy.

It is okay to sometimes feel stressed and it’s okay to be worried about aspects of life. See your emotions as guides to help you make positive changes. Healthy responses to anxiety and stress are about listening to your thoughts and hearing the messages from your body. If you feel worry, consider what to do. No one likes feeling worried or anxious. However don’t ignore these feelings or suppress them.

Do you ever use an unhealthy or addictive behavior pattern to avoid feeling anxious or worried? Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, drug use, zoning out in front of the television, staring at your smartphone or your tablet, are all examples of behaviors often used to avoid dealing with feelings such as anxiety. Are you ever busy just to be busy or overeat when feeling stressed? Notice any common unhealthy behavior habits. Sometimes we can get addicted to things which initially feel positive such as going to gym or exercise. Do you ever overexercise as a way to feel better about feeling anxious? Notice any habits which seem to have gotten a little unhealthy. This pattern may be there to help you avoid thinking about a fear or concern that needs attention. Find ways to relax that leave your mind relaxed and body calm.

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(Of course we are talking here about reasonable level of anxiety. If you are feeling a constant feeling of anxiety without any clear cause seek the advice of suitable professional such as your GP.)

Featured photo credit: irl-looking-at-the-sea-through-sunglasses via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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