Almost all Australians will experience some form of stress or anxiety throughout their lives. Anxiety is your body’s physical stress response, preparing you for fight or flight, leading to an increased heart rate and blood flow to your brain. However, persistent states of anxiousness can a severe impact on your physical and mental health further down the line. These include an increased risk of depression, heart disease, digestive issues and can even make you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses.
The impacts of Covid-19, social distancing, lockdowns, and the general climate of uncertainty is more than enough stress on anyone’s mental wellbeing. It is important, now more so than ever, that we look out for ourselves and those around us as we push through these challenges together.
5 tips to help you stay calm and regain control when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being able to acknowledge, accept and be at ease. It allows you to identify the elements of thought, speech and behaviour that have caused your negative thought patterns, as well as those that cause happiness. Mindfulness can help you become more present and aware of how you respond to certain situations. A great activity for practicing mindfulness is journaling. Set aside time to yourself in the morning and write what’s on your mind and set your intentions for the day. Taking the time to write things down helps to slow the pace of your thinking, visualise the day ahead and set out what you want to achieve, allowing you to start the day with a clear head. Studies on young adults have found that mindfulness-based therapy was an effective treatment for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as several other psychological problems.
- Establish an exercise routine. Setting aside time to exercise can be hugely beneficial on mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have shown that physical activity, even as little as 20-minutes of moderate intensity exercise, can significantly reduce the levels of anxiety in a healthy person. Exercise helps your body release endorphins, a chemical that improves mood and acts as a natural painkiller, whilst simultaneously lowering cortisol – the stress hormone. When done consistently it can increase self-confidence, improve sleep, and decrease the risk of long-term health problems associated with stress. The best way to start is to broaden the way you view exercise and find ways to implement activities that you enjoy doing – not ones that fill you with dread. These habits will help build consistency, which will have a greater effect in the long run.
- Watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption. The sedative effects of alcohol can ease feelings of stress and anxiety in the moment however, once the alcohol has left your system, the effects of withdrawal can actually worsen existing anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, alcohol reduces the quality of your sleep, so your brain is unable to get the deep rest it needs to function normally. On the other hand, caffeine in moderation can brighten your mood and give you a boost of energy. However, one cup too many can heighten feelings of anxiety and stress. Some anxiety sufferers have reported worsening of their symptoms following caffeine consumption. It is important to practice a healthy diet and recognise alcohol and caffiene as potential triggers that may affect your mood and stress levels.
- Prioritise sleep. Stress and anxietyare often directly correlated with sleep quality. A lack of adequate sleep can often have a significant impact on stress, energy levels, mood and your general outlook on life. Poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety, while increased anxiety can often lead to a poor night’s sleep – it is a vicious cycle for some. This is why it is crucial to prioritise sleep to relieve stress and feel calmer. A great sleeping aid for those suffering from anxiety or disrupted sleep is a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets can mimic deep pressure stimulation, a sensation that helps an anxious mind feel more secure, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. The improved quality of sleep can also have a positive impact on your mood and general wellbeing.
- Speak to a professional. If you feel your stress and anxiety is having an impact on your ability to enjoy life, it is important to consider seeking out professional help. Speaking to a trained and qualified professional can help you identify factors contributing to your stress or anxiety and will provide you with the most effective techniques to tackle any current or future problems. Organisations such as Beyond Blue and Headspace also offer free counselling and support.
Davie Fogarty is the founder of Calming Blankets – one of Australia’s highest-quality, science-driven weighted blankets. Davie established the brand in 2017, after discovering the benefits of a simple, weighted blanket on his sleep and health. Since then, Davie has grown the company into one of the country’s fastest-growing brands.
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