So how are you coping through these difficult days of isolation with COVID 19? Anxiety disorders don’t just go away, because the rest of the world is worrying about other stuff. This lockdown period is a great time to start being more kind to yourself so that you can calm the anxiety in your mind and body.
If you are feeling on edge today, here are three simple and healthy ways you can use self-care to ease anxiety.
1. Eat Well
Eating well helps to ease symptoms of anxiety because it reduces physical stress inside your body. You can learn to take care of your gut by helping to manage healthy bacteria and reduce unnecessary toxins. It will help your organs to stay strong and healthy.
Especially now with the fears and frustrations of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is easy to succumb to sugar cravings and comfort eat your way through refined sugars and carbs whilst you self soothe perhaps with another Netflix series. I want you to understand that when your blood sugar levels spike, your body releases insulin in order to bring itself back to balance. As the insulin takes effect, within a couple of hours, you will find yourself craving sugar again! The rollercoaster of this ‘hypoglycemic cycle’ can unbalance your nervous system and trigger anxiety. Caffeine and artificial flavourings in many sweets, and toxins in processed meats similarly create spikes in your nervous system, increasing your heart rate, nervousness and irritability.
I tend to suggest that 80% of the time you have a balanced diet with some healthy carbs with a good amount of protein and a small amount of fat. Then you can enjoy 20% treats. Never make comfort food forbidden to you – it is human nature to crave what you can’t have. Instead, to give yourself treats in moderation to look forward to.
2. Learn How To Relax and Get As Much Sleep As You Can
Everyone wobbles at some time or other. It is very normal with all the uncertainty and fears of COVID-19. With background worry, your subconscious will automatically release more of the stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. These trigger a ‘fight-flight’ anxiety response, which causes you to breathe in a shallow way. The more you breathe this way, the more stress hormones get released and the more anxious you feel.
Learning how to breathe for relaxation will help you to override this stress response, and guide your body and mind towards feeling calmer. You do this by directing your breath deeper down to your tummy.
How to Breathe for Relaxation
- Place a hand on your tummy and imagine a balloon inflating as you breathe in through your nose, and feel your tummy hand rise.
- Hold the breath at the top and then push your tummy hand inwards, breathe out through your mouth and imagine the balloon deflating.
- Practice doing this to a count of 3-2-6 and increase to 4-2-8 as it feels more natural. Notice the calm this creates and how it helps you to relax.
Rest and Sleep
Your body needs deep rest and sleep every night to process and regenerate healthy cells. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body and mind will have not gotten enough to process all the stimulation, worries and demands of the previous day and your body will feel physical stress, so a lack of rest and sleep will worsen anxiety. Try to be disciplined with yourself and get to bed at a reasonable time. Resist the temptation to binge too late into the night on movies, dramas, or YouTube videos, and switch off from your phone a little while before going to bed.
Use the time instead to remind yourself of what has been good about your day, and what you are thankful for. This will mean you go off to sleep with nicer thoughts. You can’t be feeling grateful and anxious at the same time. The mind can only process one emotion at a time, so be kind to yourself and you will set yourself up for a more relaxing sleep.
3. Get Outdoors and Exercise
Do you ever try to relax by watching TV or reading a book? The problem with this is that you are not moving your body and the stress hormones have nowhere to go. To best help yourself, you need to get active.
Stepping outside for a walk can really help to ease anxiety levels. If you live in the country or near the sea, and you can exercise social distancing safely, getting some space and some fresh air in your lungs can really help you feel more relaxed in your body and clear your head. Just being out in nature and away from technology may allow you to re-set and regain a feeling of balance. If you can’t get out in some way, you could perhaps at least watch nature videos and take yourself there in your imagination. This will still calm you to an extent, as your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between imagined and real!
Your body needs to move regularly to discharge a build-up of those stress hormones. Exercise gets the toxins moving through your body so that they may be excreted naturally.
It’s a fab idea to exercise in lots of different ways at least a few times a week such as:
- Get your blood pumping and your heart strong like running, kickboxing, skipping, cycling or intense interval training
- Strengthen and stretch your body, whilst they focus and calm your mind, like Yoga and Pilates, or resistance training
- Move around randomly like dancing, racket sports, or even playing active games with your family and your pets
In whatever way you choose, aim for 20-30 minutes at a time and your body will counterbalance those stress hormones with endorphins to help you feel good.
Get these three baby steps right and you will feel a lot more motivated to take the next step in order to get your emotional needs met. It is entirely possible for you to overcome the anxiety you are living with. I’m here whenever you need me, to show you how.
I hope this helps you today.