It's a strange time of life at the moment with all that is happening around the world due to COVID-19. With so much stress and uncertainty comes a lot of worry and anxiety. Those who haven't experienced anxiety in the past may now also be having anxious thoughts. You're not alone, we're all in this together feeling new and different emotions and experiencing things that usually belong in a movie.
Although many of us are still in lockdown, there are still numerous outlets that are available to you at any time if you need further help and advice. Here are some tips which may also help...
Foundations of health.
To be able to function adequately, our bodies require food, water and rest. Choose whole and natural foods as much as possible as these provide the body with the essential nutrients it needs. Limit alcohol, sugar, high fat and processed foods as these can all negatively affect our mood. There is much research on the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet on mental health as it includes high amounts of foods which are beneficial for brain health. Here you'll find more information on the Mediterranean diet.
As well as nutrition, we also need sufficient amounts of water and sleep. As every single cell in the body needs to be well hydrated in order to function, ensure you're drinking at least 1.5 litres of pure water per day. Sleep allows your mind to reset so that it can take on the challenges of the next day, so aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to allow sufficient rebooting. These foundational requirements will allow the body to perform more efficiently to help you to feel your best.
We live in a coffee culture. For many of us the first thing we do in the morning is make a coffee. We visit our local cafe daily where they know our order. But we forget about the affects coffee has on our bodies. Just like illegal drugs, the body can also become dependant on coffee resulting in headaches if doesn't get its regular dose. But somehow it's socially acceptable for an adult to drink 4, 5, 6 cups of coffee per day. While limited amounts of coffee can have some benefits for our health, coffee is also a stimulant that can trigger anxiety. How? Basically, coffee blocks a receptor in our brain that allows us to feel tired resulting in us feeling more alert, and as a secondary mechanism, increases adrenalin in the body. Both of these can contribute to anxiety. To avoid this, replace coffee with a caffeine free drink. In decaf coffee, the caffeine is often extracted with harsh chemicals so look for water decaffeination methods when purchasing decaf coffee or ask your barista what type they use. Chai, dandelion and green teas are other great options.
A popular anxiety management technique, mindfulness is a type of meditation where you become more aware of your senses to bring you back to the present. Mindfulness can be practiced on a daily basis to minimise anxiety or, in those moments when we get caught up with our emotions, it can help us through by redirecting our thoughts. To practice mindfulness take a few moments to close your eyes and notice your surroundings. What can you hear? Peoples' voices, the heater blowing out air, cars vroom-ing past, dogs barking in the background, an aeroplane going over... What can you smell? Flowers in your garden, food cooking on the stove... What can you feel? Your clothes against your skin, the cold ground that you're standing on, the warm sun that you're sitting in... Connect to your senses and guide your mind away from anxious thoughts.
Working from home.
Many people are now working from home when they would normally go in to an office. Whilst at first it was fun to participate in zoom meetings in your PJs and ugg boots, the line between work-mode and home-mode has become blurred causing increased stress and triggering anxiety. To help overcome this it's important to set boundaries for yourself to allow your body to relax. Continue your routine where you get up and get ready for work just as you would if you were going into the office and dedicate an area of your home to be your 'office'. Only go to that area during 'work' hours. Set a work schedule for yourself and take regular breaks where you can move your body and get some fresh air. This schedule will allow you to 'switch off' and return to home-mode more easily. Turn off notifications on your devices when you're not working so that you're not drawn back into work-mode. Maybe even change your clothes when you're switching back into home-mode? If it works for you, do it.
Matcha tea in Japan, mint tea in Morocco, high tea in England... There are many tea traditions around the world where tea is brewed and enjoyed as part of a relaxing ceremony. The act of taking some time out to make a tea is also an excellent excuse to take a few moments for yourself. To help calm your body further there are a few herbal tea options that are easily accessible such as chamomile, lavender and lemon balm as well as many relaxing tea blends. If you would like further help there are also naturopaths who now offer online consultations.
Do something that brings you joy.
We're limited with what we can do but try to find something that you enjoy. Eat your breakfast or lunch outside, read a book in the sunshine, go for a walk and listen to a podcast, find an online exercise or yoga program (Yoga with Adriene is excellent and Walk with Leslie is a bit of fun!), go for a bike ride and buy your lunch from your local cafe or FaceTime your friends over dinner. If you all live in the same area order food from the same restaurant! To keep your daily walk interesting go in a different direction...discover new areas of your neighbourhood that you might not have seen yet. If there is something you've been meaning to do because you didn't previously have time...now is your chance. Online class options are endless...learn a language or musical instrument or join a dance class. Keep your mind entertained and interested in discovering something new.
The hardest part of isolation may be not being able to see family and friends as often as we'd like but although you can't see them in real life you can still see them on a screen... Organise a time for your family to get together over an online meal. You could find a recipe that you all can create in your own homes. FaceTime your friends, they're probably missing you just as much as you're missing them. If you usually go for walk with your friends put your headphones in and go for a virtual walk with them over the phone.
If you would like further help, call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or visit their website here.
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