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Becoming Less Anxious

The good news this week is Boris's roadmap shows close contact services opening as part of Step 2. And so I'm stuck at home drinking lemon water (or Neal's Yards Quiet Tea) for a little bit longer! But it's such a relief to know we have a roadmap out of this situation – even if it's a cautious one. It gives us a little ray of hope :-)

I cannot wait to get back to hands-on treatments from April 12th.

As the world starts to slowly and cautiously get back to normal, are you looking forward to hugging all your family members and celebrating with friends? Or are you feeling anxious about getting back to 'normal' and worry about how safe the big, wide world outside is going to be?

Anxiety is something that we all feel from time to time. Just before an interview or a test, for example, we notice our heart rate and breathing getting faster, and both of these are natural reactions, helping to direct more blood flow to the brain and help us perform better.

However, if things get too intense, you might also start to feel light-headed or a bit nauseous. If this happens too often, our anxiety can become chronic and negatively affect our physical and mental health. And it's been a very long year of anxious thoughts and feelings for many of us.

Stressful life experiences (like a worldwide pandemic) affect our health in many ways, and here are a few examples.

Panic attacks – panic attacks often accompany anxiety. We can experience heart palpitations, chest pains, lightheadedness and a sense of impending doom.

Behavioural changes – emotional and social withdrawal is common; irritability and compulsive behaviour leave people feeling lonely and drained.

Generalised ill-health – prolonged anxiety can lead to sleep problems, fatigue, and frequent unexplained physical ailments.

Fight or Flight response – when you are anxious or stressed, your brain floods your system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. That's a good thing when there is a real threat, but harmful in the long term if we don't calm the body between episodes.

Central Nervous system function – panic attacks can be terrifying and lead to anxiety as we worry about further attacks, so your brain continues to release the stress hormones. This constant worry can lead to headaches, muscle tension, clinical depression and substance abuse. It can also lead to long term health issues, such as weight gain. When fat begins to build around our internal organs is starts to become dangerous to our health. It is one of the primary sources of inflammation that underpins every chronic disease.

Immune system response – in the short term, anxiety can boost the immune system. However, prolonged stress and anxiety stop the signals which allow the body to return to normal functioning. This weakens your immune system, which can interfere with your ability to fight bacteria, viruses and other illnesses.

Respiratory response – anxiety causes rapid, shallow breathing; therefore, people with anxiety are more at risk of respiratory illness like influenza and the common cold. Anxiety can also exasperate any asthma attacks.

Cardiovascular changes – anxiety and panic attacks can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations and chest pains. These changes will increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Digestive system – anxiety is connected to digestive issues such as IBS, bowel infection and loss of appetite.

You may experience stomach aches, nausea, diarrhoea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can happen too, and researchers have found a strong link between anxiety and IBS.

How to improve your anxious symptoms

If you show any signs that anxiety and lockdown fatigue is starting to affect your health, then here are four easy things you can start doing to improve your health and well-being.

1. Take a deep breath

Deep breathing activates our relaxation response, balancing the stress hormones and relaxing the nervous system.

Inhale slowly for a count of four. Gently hold your breath for four counts. Then slowly exhale for four counts.

2. Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine drives anxiety and increases the pro-inflammatory stress hormone cortisol production, so it's best avoided.

Gradually wean yourself off caffeinated food and drinks, for example, coffee, tea and chocolate, and replace them with more nurturing options like herbal tea, fruit-infused water and green tea.

3. Get moving

Movement is one of the best ways to combat anxiety. A brisk 30-60 minute walk releases endorphins that can lead to a reduction in anxiety.

Create a list of physical activities you enjoy, and plan them into your week. For example, walking, running, rollerblading, cycling, dancing, fitness classes, or when things open back up, try swimming, step aerobics or team sports such as netball, tennis, or football.

4. Get more sleep!

Insufficient sleep can trigger anxious thoughts and symptoms. Unfortunately, it can be a vicious circle – struggling to sleep can provoke anxiety, and then tiredness the next day can exasperate symptoms.

Go to my Reflexology self-care page for tips on reducing stress and a hand reflexology sequence to help you sleep better.

Smile, breathe and go slowly – Thich Nhat Hanh

*** Would you like to know my Top 5 Tips for controlling your anxious thoughts? Then click here for your FREE downloadable PDF ... ***

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