12 practical tips for coping with crippling anxiety

There’s no denying it – we all worry about something. Anxiety comes in varying forms, causes many different symptoms and affects us all in some shape or form. Sometimes it’s a result of something. Sometimes it’s a result of nothing at all. For many, it can be debilitating.

It’s also much more common than many realise – one in five people experience anxiety on a daily basis.

“We have seen a steady increase in people coming to us for support with their anxiety over the years” says Nicky Lidbetter, the CEO of Anxiety UK. “We are living in what many would see as an ‘anxious time’ and seem to be increasingly surrounded by news of uncertainty so this understandably is having an impact on how people worry generally.”

“According to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress, anxiety or depression now account for more than half of all lost working days in the UK. In 2017/18 it was reported that 15.4 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety or depression, a staggering 57.3% of sick days due to ill health and an increase of 2.9 million working days lost to these conditions on the previous year.”

If you’re one of those affected, here are 12 practical tips for coping with anxiety on a daily basis. You’ve got this…

1 Manage your time

Let’s face it – we’re busy women, and that’s not going to change. Juggling work, families, Facebook updates, the weekly food shop and social commitments can feel totally overwhelming. Sticking to a routine can ease the symptoms of anxiety as it will make you feel more in control. Set up a Google calendar or keep a paper diary – and make sure there’s a fair balance between work, home and you.

2 Know your triggers

You may know exactly what causes your anxiety – perhaps it’s public speaking at work, it could be driving, or even big events that leave you short of breath. If you can get to the root of what brings you out in a sweat, it can be easier to manage.

3 Practice relaxation

Ah, the fine art of doing absolutely nothing at all. What’s that again? Allocate time every day – even if it’s just 10 minutes – to stop and breathe. Apps such as HeadSpace, Calm or Clementine are great for practicing meditation. You could take a yoga class, read a book, run a bath. Or, just stare out of the window with a cuppa – whatever brings you tranquility.

4 Talk to someone

It’s near impossible to stress just how much this helps. I’ve been signed off work in my life twice with anxiety – once due to office stress, and again due to a family member going through cancer. Both situations made me so anxious I needed professional help. I felt so alone until I confessed how I was feeling and realised just how common that feeling really is. Talking therapies – and just talking to friends about it – genuinely changed my life and eliminated the physical symptoms I’d been battling, too.

5 Keep a journal

Therapists will offer up this tip and it really does work. Writing down how you feel every day can is a powerful outlet for your thoughts. Putting pen to paper (or even writing something in the Notes app on your phone) means there may just be a little more room in your head. You can also make a list of your worries and come back to them at a set time each day.

6 Increase your physical activity

It’s a cliché, but it’s the truth. Exercise really is the best beta blocker and antidepressant there is. Increasing your heart rate and releasing endorphins can significantly ease the symptoms of anxiety, improve your sleep, release tension and give you an instant boost of energy. You don’t have to join a gym – walk the dog, take a dance class or join the kids on the trampoline.

7 Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can cause all manner of physical and emotional problems. None of us can function on no rest, but getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. Anxiety can mean you’re staring at the ceiling battling nerves for the day ahead. Create a relaxing bedtime routine that limits the use of anything that will stimulate your mind.

8 Keep technology to a minimum

Limit your phone usage before bed, in fact place your phone far away from your bedroom so that it doesn’t distract you. Invest in a separate alarm and make bedtime all about relaxation. It’s also a good idea to slow down on social media. While it’s great to keep up with friends, sometimes watching others’ edited highlights will just make you feel worse. 

9 Eat well

Feeding your body healthy fuel will result in a healthy mind, too. That means less salt and sugar intake and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Cut out caffeine and alcohol, both of which are stimulants and can have an emotional impact on your mind.

10 Celebrate small wins

So you didn’t make it to work today? But you made it out of bed and washed your hair. You didn’t make that gym class? But you cleaned the house and paid that bill. We consistently focus on our ‘to-do’ lists without actually focussing on what what we have done. Give yourself a pat on the back for the tasks you made it through.

11  Learn breathing techniques

Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. It’s the body’s way of instigating your ‘fight or flight’ response to what it thinks is a hazardous situation, by making your blood pump faster around the body ready for you to react. So, trick it into thinking you’re okay (and you are), by slowing down your breathing. Try the Headspace app for a guided exercise.

12 Accept that there is no ‘cure’

Anxiety symptoms can be managed, no matter how severe. But it also helps to accept that while you can get them under control, anxiety may rear its ugly head again when times get tough. All that means is that you’re strong, you know how to cope and and WILL get through it. Because you did before.

For more severe cases such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder and panic attacks, more structured medical treatment is usually required. Visit your GP if you are worried or visit Anxiety UK or Mind for more information.

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