Self-Care During Crisis: 5 Coping Strategies For Anxiety
All of us have been affected differently by the current global crisis but mentally and emotionally we all need to figure out how to deal with the uncertainty of our current circumstances. Many of us have experienced increased levels of stress, anxiety, the feeling of not doing ‘enough’ despite having more time, nightmares and inability to sleep leaving us tired the following day. For me personally anxiety triggers migraines on top of all this. So I am sharing with you my most effective coping strategies. If you too have been affected (and I really can’t imagine anyone who hasn’t), this blog post is for you.
The first and most important step in lowering and overcoming anxiety is acceptance. Recognise that we are all in a difficult situation and ask yourself how you feel about it. Be honest and raw in your introspection. The simple act of identifying how you feel helps your subconscious mind to understand the source of your discomfort so that you can start slowly letting go of a negative feeling. By consciously acknowledging that ‘this is a feeling of anxiety’, your body no longer associates itself with the anxiety: it becomes a feeling separated from the essence of ‘you’ and this way you can start distancing yourself from it. The more you do this, the bigger the benefits. Try to bring awareness to how you feel as often as you can. This becomes a mindfulness practice which also gives your mind a break from thinking about the crisis because you can’t be ‘observing’ how you feel and ‘thinking’ at the same time.
2. Finding moments of stillness
To help with the essential step of acceptance, carve out quiet moments in your day when you remain still and silent so you can start consciously ‘feeling’ your feelings instead of just carrying them with you unknowingly. Naturally, meditation is one of the best ways to do this: if you haven’t tried it yet, check out my post on its many benefits. But if you are not ready or not interested in meditating, there are other ways to achieve stillness: for example: sit quietly for a few minutes after you get out of bed in the morning instead of reaching out for your phone immediately; or take a five minute break after lunch.
To find moments of stillness, you can use props: play some gentle music, use an essential oil diffuser, or light up aromatherapy candles. The therapeutic benefits of essential oils are widely documented in aromatherapy and inhaling their scent is an easy way to change how you feel instantly. Ever smelled a perfume that reminded you of someone special and made you ‘time travel’ in a moment? You get the concept. The same happens with essential oils, with the added benefit of them being natural compounds that favourably affect your mental state. Follow this link to a beginner's guide and essential oils to help with anxiety.
During moments of stillness, think of something you are grateful for. The benefits of keeping a gratitude journal have been shown to enhance mental wellbeing. Bringing gratefulness to your life can be as easy as thinking of at least 5 things you are grateful for ‘right now’. The more things you find, the better you will feel. Start with simple things, like asking yourself if you have a safe place to stay at right now, is your bed comfy, do you have enough food, etc. and build on these. If your brain tries to trick you by suggesting something negative (i.e. ‘toilet roll might run out tomorrow’), rein it back in with something positive instead. This way you slowly start creating new neural pathways in your brain which help you automatically start seeing the glass half full and keep you in a happy state.
Along with finding stillness, find a way to move your body. With limits on spending time outside and the closure of gyms and yoga studios, this seems harder than ever right now, but it is completely possible. You can go for a run (dare I suggest this to non-runners?) join a class online — there are many online platforms and yoga teachers offering classes, even free ones on Instagram live, etc. The increased levels of endorphins produced during vigorous exercise have an immediate and lasting effect on boosting your mood and are not to be underestimated, plus you will feel a sense of accomplishment further contributing to your mental wellbeing.
Yoga is always a good idea because it gives your system an overall boost but also activates the parasympathetic nervous system: it enhances the rest and repair functions in the body, improving your breathing and making you feel more peaceful.
If you are working from home chances are you are sitting for prolonged periods of time and your posture may suffer. Poor posture and lack of movement lead to lower quality of breathing which in turn reduces how well you feel. Make sure to stretch throughout your day and take a break at least every hour.
4. Looking after your body
In addition to physically moving your body, there are many things you can do to feel more relaxed. And simply by knowing that you are doing something for yourself, you can snap out of a negative state of mind and feel nourished instead. Face masking comes at the top of my list! Also, the effects of anxiety often pop up on the face in the form of breakouts. There is no better way to help your skin recover, or even prevent them, than applying a face mask. Here is my list of DIY face masks which you can do at home now without requiring many ingredients. Follow up with one of my organic face oils to deeply nourish your skin and enjoy the ritual of massaging your face.
Another calming home ritual is dry body brushing: it supports your nervous system by stimulating nerve ends. The repeated calming motions of dry brushing also contribute to a feeling of calm. Check out my ‘how to’ guide and all the additional benefits, like improving circulation and lymphatic support, both of which boost the immune system.
My last suggestion in this category won’t need much convincing: take a bath! I haven’t indulged myself in takings baths instead of showers as much as I should so I thought you might appreciate a reminder too: a bath will make you feel so relaxed. You can enhance the feeling of slowing down in a cosy warm bath by adding some magnesium salts. Magnesium has many functions including helping to keep the nervous system healthy and by dissolving the salts in your bath the magnesium will be absorbed through your skin. You can also add a few drops of Serene Harmony — my organic body oil which doubles up as a bath oil. As the name suggests, with its soothing scent it will help bring a feeling of peace and calm, plus your skin will get a moisture boost. If you don’t have a bath tub don’t fret; you can take a magnesium supplement and apply my body oil after a shower for a home spa experience.
5. Having a schedule
And last but not least, come up with a schedule you stick to, even if you are off work at the moment. Bringing structure to your day will help you feel in control. We are living during a time where it feels like we have very little control even over simple things, such as where we are allowed to go, travel, shop, etc. Getting up and going to bed at a regular time daily will help your circadian rhythm resulting in better sleep and more energy. And it can help reduce the likelihood of the so called ‘pandemic dreams’ — nightmares during quarantine and vivid dreams which leave you feeling tired the next day. A great mindbodygreen article suggests 4 steps to help you actually stick to a regular bedtime: set an alarm which reminds you to go to bed; try a sleep-promoting supplement, like magnesium; create a bedtime routine so you can signal to your brain it is time to switch off (get off the screens!); get up when you are supposed to. I struggled with the last one the most but whenever I succeed it feels so good.
I urge you to set yourself a task to achieve each day. Whatever you decide to do is your call and please start small but do something, even if it is a tiny step. The reward of feeling better with each step is definitely worth it.
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