The UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 21 May) this year chose the theme of “anxiety”.
We all feel anxious now and again, for all sorts of reasons. The cost of living crisis might have left you worried about your finances. Equally, a new job or another life event might be to blame. Anxiety is a normal human emotion but it can get out of control.
If anxiety escalates, it can stop you from doing the things you want to do and then it becomes a mental health problem.
But you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety affects 60% of UK adults at least some of the time.
A few simple steps could help you to manage better this Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond. Here are just five of them.
1. Try mindfulness and meditation apps
Mindfulness and meditation can be a great way to clear some headspace. The lessons they teach can help you to relax and order your thoughts, and possibly even lessen the symptoms of depression and stress.
You might be new to mindfulness or already a pro. Either way, there is technology on the market that could help you to make this form of self-care part of your daily routine.
Apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations for beginners and experts and have more than 100 million downloads between them.
You’ll also find soundscapes and sleep stories designed to help you switch off and get a good night’s rest.
2. Exercise often… especially in nature
Exercise is great for releasing endorphins and generally making us feel better. And it can be really simple to make exercise a part of your day-to-day life.
Walking is a great way to start. Try using a pedometer to count your steps and set yourself a target (like 10,000 steps a day) to give yourself something to aim for.
You might consider taking up a new sport. Not only will you be exercising more, but you’ll get to meet new people too.
If you’re already staying fit and active, you might be able to push yourself harder. Try the Couch to 5K app, or, for the very adventurous, Couch to 10k!
Any exercise will help to release endorphins – the hormones that reduce your brain’s perception of pain while also triggering positive feelings. That makes exercise perfect for staving off anxiety. But exercising in nature could be even better.
While the Norwegians swear by the concept of friluftsliv – or “open-air living” – the Japanese have popularised “shinrin yoku”, the art of “forest bathing”.
Both concepts prize time spent in nature and value the wellbeing benefits of the great outdoors.
Friluftsliv might mean a walk, cycle, run, or even a simple picnic. Forest-bathing, meanwhile, involves being mindful in a wooded space, concentrating on your breathing or the sounds and smells of the forest as a way to recentre yourself and invoke feelings of calm.
3. Enjoy a healthy and balanced diet
The Mental Health Foundation recommend a healthy diet as a way to help manage anxiety.
You might consider the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fresh produce, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and poultry.
The diet has been linked to decreased risks of heart disease, depression, and dementia. It’s also tasty and non-prescriptive, meaning that you can eat healthily without calorie-counting or forcing down foods that you don’t like.
As with all diets, a change to your eating routines will only stick if you enjoy what you eat and can turn your new regime into a habit.
4. Try to get the right amount of good quality sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to short-term issues like tiredness and irritability, as well as long-term problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
As a UK adult, you generally need around seven to eight hours of good-quality sleep each night. But if you’re feeling anxious, this can be hard to come by.
Sleep and mindfulness apps (like Calm and Headspace, mentioned earlier) can offer guided meditations designed to help you relax. Be sure to make the physical environment as conducive to rest as possible too.
Think carefully about the temperature, noise and light levels, and your pre-bedtime routine to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s rest.
5. Seek help from the professionals
While we can all feel anxious from time to time, if your anxiety is stopping you from doing the things you want to do, it might be time to speak to a healthcare professional.
Contact your GP or try the Anxiety UK website where you’ll find details of all the helplines and services they offer.
Remember too, that loneliness can negatively affect our mental health, so simply speaking to friends and relatives could make a huge difference. The UK’s Loneliness Awareness Week runs from 12 to 18 June, so keep your eyes peeled for further information or visit the Marmalade Trust to find out more about this year’s events.
Get in touch
If money worries are the root of your anxiety, you might find that speaking to our team of expert professional advisers helps. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01234 713131 if you have any questions about budgeting in the present or managing your future plans.