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How To Manage Anxiety (With No Suggestions Of Medication And Meditation!)

How To Manage Anxiety (With No Suggestions Of Medication And Meditation!)

It’s a shocking statistic that one in four of us will at some point this year suffer a mental health issue, and amongst those, depression and anxiety are the most common disorders.

In a GB survey, 1 in 6 adults had experiences some form of “neurotic health problem” … in the previous week In fact, 1 in 10 of us will develop a specific form of anxiety that will be considered disabling.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common illness in the USA, affecting 18% of the population – that is 40 million adults! What is shocking about these statistics is the fact that this is such a high percentage of the general population. What’s even more shocking is the number of people that do not speak about it or seek the right help to make it better. Sticking a plaster on it will cover the wound from public view, sure. But it doesn’t heal. And unfortunately these social plasters that we are using to mask our anxiety often come in the form of alcohol, smoking, comfort eating and the like. Unfortunately whilst this creates a good façade, putting on a wonderful show to others that everything is fine, it doesn’t stop the worry and the helpless feeling of anxiety.

What is anxiety???

According to Anxiety UK,

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“anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the ‘flight or fight’ response. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems arise when this response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or indeed is generated when there is no danger present”.

The feeling of anxiety is a distressing one. There is nothing worse that the feeling of helplessness, panic, worry, confusion and uncertainty. The symptoms of anxiety are physical as well as mental, and include a tight chest, nausea, sweating and insomnia. Whilst everyone is different, and what works for one might not work for another, here are my top ten tips for managing anxiety, so that you can come through the other side stronger than ever.

Management tip 1: Know your triggers

This comes with time but once you learn to recognize your triggers, then you will find managing any anxiety or worries a lot easier. What do I mean by a trigger though? Any kind of behavior that might be erratic or out of character that indicates to you that something is not quite right. This might be eating excessively, over exercising or a particular worrying, reoccurring dream. This will be your subconscious, letting you know to take a step back, analyze what is wrong and prepare yourself to deal with it head on.

Management tip 2: Exercise

For me exercise is the key to a stress free mind and a can-do attitude. I am sure I don’t need to bore you about the endless mental and physical benefits of exercise (if you do want to know, read Health24’s article). Even if you are not the sporty type, you’ll find benefit in engaging in light exercise, such as a gentle bike ride or a walk in the park.

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In a study reported in the book, “The Happiness Advantage” it was confirmed that exercise is a key to successfully overcoming depression. The study looked into three groups of depressed patients who were treated with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two and their relapse rate. They found that “those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!”

Management tip 3: There is nothing to fear but fear itself

If you haven’t already, read Susan Jeffer’s amazing book “Feel the Fear…and do it anyway”After reading this it suddenly became extremely clear to me that there was in fact nothing to be afraid of in life. After all, if fear was a “real thing” then we would all have the same fear. Be it a fear of failure, loneliess or public speaking, this fear really boils down to the fact that all we really fear is… the unknown. Reminding myself that there is nothing to fear, reminds me to be brave and grab life by both hands.

Management tip 4: Spend time around those that are positive

If you are feeling anxious or unhappy then make sure you surround yourself with positive people. Actually even if you are not feeling symptoms of anxiety but know that you are susceptible to it, then I also recommend this as a tactic (prevention is better than cure after all). When I say positive as well, I don’t mean that you have to be around people that are happy clappy 24/7. This is unrealistic. Surround yourself with people that are positive in the sense that they are confident, have a can-do attitude and will ultimately be an encouraging influence in your life. Those that are pessimistic and play the victim are not welcome in your inner circle, I call these kind of people “toxic people” and you don’t want to feed off that kind of energy.

 Management tip 5: Take time out

If you do find yourself in a situation where it is all getting on top of you, then don’t be afraid to stop, take a breath and take some time out. Whether this is a day off to clear some mind clutter, or a week off to fully get away from it all. This is where tip one comes in handy – spotting and listening to your triggers will mean that you can take a break before it gets all too much for you.

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Management tip 6: Have things to look forward to

I have many passions and hobbies and one thing I have learnt over the years is that the key to my motivation is to have regular activities booked in to my diary! I like to schedule regular weekends away to see friends, evenings out to try new restaurants and personal milestones such as kick boxing gradings.  It is extremely important to have things to look forward to in order to remember what is important to you in life and to see the bigger picture.

Management tip 7: See small tasks as achievements

I am not sure where it stems from, but I find a lot of people (and myself included sometimes) don’t stop to congratulate themselves on the small tasks in life and feel that only the larger achievements (work promotion, new baby, new house etc) deserves a pat on the back.

But why?!

We should take pride in the small things in life – when you do, you’ll find that your confidence will grow and in turn help manage your anxiety as you start to take pleasure and pride in yourself. You will start to see, that when you overcome your worries and fears, amazing things can happen! If your cooking is as good as a blind panda in the kitchen with oven gloves sello-tapped on, then take pride in yourself when you manage to bake your kid’s birthday cake from scratch. This may seem like a small achievement but it is little steps of self improvement that eventually add up to the big ones!

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Management tip 8: Eat healthy

As with top tip two, this is one that I cannot advocate enough. I truly believe that what you put in, you get out. Pump it full of chemicals, processed foods and sugar then you can’t expect your mind or body to function how it should be. Studies too show there is a strong correlation to depression. It is worth noting here too that whilst a large glass of vino after a stressfully anxiety filled day seems like the right antidote, alcohol is actually a depressant.

Management tip 9: Music

I am not a hard core music fanatic (I go to music festivals but have no idea half the time who is on the stage) but I have always found music to be good therapy. Just ten minutes listening to your favourite songs might be enough to perk you up on your drab and dreary commute to the office. If you are feeling down, worried or any other signs of anxiety, pop in your ear phones and take a moment out.

Management tip 10: Set goals and make baby steps

One of methods I found useful for me in containing my worries and stress was to set myself achievable goals, and start making slow baby steps towards them. Following on from tip 7, these don’t have to be massive goals either, they could be something to push you out of your comfort zone to take your mind off things and to help gain confidence. For example, it could be to start a new sport or take up a class at night school. Break down the bigger goal in to bite sized chunk and use these as stepping stones, and remember to reward yourself at each milestone.

If you are feeling any symptoms of anxiety, seek medical help from you GP immediately. Don’t suffer in silence.

For more information visit the Mental Health Foundation and Anxiety UK and Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Featured photo credit: unknown via freeimages.com

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Alice Dartnell

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Last Updated on October 23, 2018

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

The Neural Knitwork Project

In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

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While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

The knitting and neural connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

More mental health benefits from knitting

Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

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“You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

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“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

The dopamine effect on our happiness

Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

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“Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

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