Anxious? 7 hacks to get you back on track

It's normal to get anxious from time to time; when a test is looming, we have a job interview or we're concerned about health or money. However, left unchecked, anxiety can become a bad habit. We look at 8 ways to set yourself straight:

1. Relax tense muscles

When we're anxious, we tend to tense our muscles; it's part of a 'fight or flight' response in the brain, harking back to when we were preyed upon by larger animals. Learn to let go of that tension, either through listening to a relaxation track, taking a yoga class or meditating on a regular basis. When our muscles relax, it's easier to quiet our anxious mind.

2. Make a list

Try not to let anxiety crowd your mind all day. Instead, when you feel an anxious thought coming on, write it down, telling yourself that you'll 'think about it later.' Assign a time each evening to look at the list - chances are, when calmer, you'll realise most of your anxiety was unfounded.

3. Focus on reward

If you're anxious about a journey, think of something wonderful you can do when you arrive. If getting through the day is difficult, plan to treat yourself with your favourite film or chocolate bar once evening comes. Focusing on this future reward can give us the incentive we need to keep going.

4. Just breathe

When anxious, our breathing can get shallow and panicky. When feeling nervous or edgy, try this simple breathing technique: breathe in to a count of three, making sure you inflate your stomach, hold it for a couple of seconds then breathe out slowly. Proper breathing can calm both mind and body.

5. Distract yourself

Just as a toddler can be distracted from a tantrum by the offer of a fun task, you can distract your anxious mind from the constant feeling of worry by becoming involved in something that requires concentration. Try turning your hand to something creative: writing, painting, crafting or playing music. Not only will you refocus your mind, you'll also be enhancing your creative skills.

6. Work that body

Exercise releases endorphins - giving us a happy 'high' once complete. Regular exercise can have a positive impact on anxiety and mood. Try exercising outside if possible, and focus on surroundings rather than your internal dialogue as you walk, run or cycle your anxiety away.

7. Stay present

When anxious, people forget to live 'in the moment' meaning they miss opportunities for joy. Mindfulness - the art of staying 'present' - can force the mind to focus elsewhere. For a short, easy meditation, try focusing on the sensation of walking - the ground under your feet, the feeling of your shoes, the pressure and lift as you move. Focusing entirely on this simple action will help you to move on from your worried mind-set.

Anxiety can be tough, but with effort we can tune out the negativity and focus on something new.

Gillian Harvey is a freelance writer, qualified teacher and mother-of-five young children, currently living in France. Follow her on twitter: @GillPlusFive


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