Ask an Expert: Natural Remedies for AnxietyBy amelia richards
These are trying times for everyone and anxiety is more prevalent than any of us can probably recall – during our lifetimes, at least. So we asked holistic life coach, Lily Silverton, to weigh-in on some of the best tips and tricks to overcome anxiety and cultivate calm:
While staying in has begun to feel like the new norm, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier on our mental health. To feel anxious, scared or worried is a very normal response to a difficult and new situation. In fact, to feel nothing at all would be strange and pretty worrying in itself.
Anxiety is essentially a part of our body’s natural reaction to stress – a cognitive state connected to an inability to regulate emotions. We don’t necessarily need a reason to be anxious, however this pandemic has given us more than a few (and then some).
If you’re experiencing anxiety right now, please know that you are not alone. I’m seeing a lot of clients and friends who are experiencing varying degrees, from mild concern to debilitating worry. And if you think you should have ‘gotten over it’ by now, then spare a moment for your mind and – we are in a period of extreme change, which is deeply challenging for the brain.
So give yourself a break, stop worrying about worrying, and let’s look at some of the tools and techniques that may help you live and work with a bit more ease. Some of them take practice, and like anything they don’t always work 100% of the time, but my hope is at least one will help you.
‘Everything is Not That Bad’ List
Make a written list of 10 things that make you happy – do this everyday to remind your brain of all the good things it has to focus on, giving it less space to start thinking about all the challenging stuff.
Speaking of thinking of the challenging stuff, don’t let your brain get out of control imagining and preparing for the worst. Yes, this is a scary situation. However, constantly imagining the worst-case scenario ignites your stress response and leaves you in an even greater state of fear and anxiety. Each time you find your thoughts drifting to the worst-case scenario, ask yourself: “Is this thought helpful to me right now? Or is it just making me feel more panicked?” If the answers are no and yes respectively, tell your brain “shut the f*ck up!”, and quickly find something to distract it – listen to a podcast or put on a piece of your favourite (upbeat) music and dance your heart out.
Deep Belly Breathing
If there was one thing I could teach for the rest of my life, this would be it. It bolsters the immune system, calms the nervous system/stress response and is good for any unconscious tension being held in the body. It can be used anytime you begin to feel anxious/panicked/overwhelmed, but is also brilliant for insomnia. With a relaxed belly, place your hands on your lower abdomen, and take full, deep breaths into this area, encouraging the breath away from the chest and upper lungs. Imagine there is a balloon in your belly – expanding on the in-breath and deflating on the out-breath. If you’re only going to do one of these tips for beating anxiety, make it this. Repeat for as long as needed, as often as needed. (It’s easiest done lying down). Try it with this balancing breath technique for a double whammy of calm.
Let the Small Stuff Go
Right now, right this minute; choose something small that you have been worrying about to let go. Mentally discard the stuff that you are agonising over that is unimportant, and free up some mental energy for focusing on yourself and your needs instead.
As a meditation teacher, this was obviously going to come up as one of my tips to beat anxiety. A daily practice increases grey matter in the pre frontal cortex, which is the area of your brain responsible for reasoning and thinking – both tools we need to combat anxiety which can often come seemingly out of nowhere! I have a free two minute meditation on my IGTV and a longer ten minute one on my website. Little and often is best, try and do it at least five days a week.
Practice Social Action
Stop thinking about yourself, and instead reach out into the community and go pick up supplies for a local food bank (which are struggling enormously), or drop some bits round to your elderly neighbours. I can’t remember (and nor can Google) who said that enlightened self-interest is the driving force of man, but they were right – take this opportunity to do something good. Trust me, you’ll feel instantly better.
For many of you, your entire daily routine and life has been turned upside down. Change is hard in any circumstance, but this one is particularly challenging. One of my biggest tips to beat anxiety is to be kind to yourself and make life easier by finding the things that help and ACTUALLY DOING THEM. Whether that’s a morning meditation, a breath work technique, a lot of chocolate, dancing like an idiot round your bedroom or screaming into a pillow.
I recommend setting silent alarms on your phone to remind you to stop to refer to these or other helpful tools throughout the day – listen to a song, meditate, have a stretch, call a loved one, go for a walk, or anything else that fills you with joy and keeps you sane.
P.S. Limit your social media time – we all know it exacerbates loneliness and anxiety – and unfollow or mute anyone who isn’t helping your mental health right now.
Lily Silverton teaches yoga and meditation, works as a holistic life coach, and also writes – generally about wellbeing and mental health. She has over 23 years of yoga, meditation and mindfulness experience (she started young, at 12) and strives to bring her personal experience of the transformative and healing effects of these practices to others. Lily’s aim is to enable you to better navigate this challenging modern world.
You can join Lily each and every weekday morning at 8.15am for more tips to beat anxiety alongside a live meditation and coaching session via Instagram Live.