This time of year can fuel anxiety related conditions. The cold weather, dark nights and the thought of numerous Christmas parties and work events. Not to mention the presents that need to be bought, oh and thought of dealing with the in laws!
Everybody worries, it is a completely normal reaction. However, if you find that these worries are interfering with your daily life or sleep pattern, then it might be time to take action.
My top five tips for dealing with anxiety:
Belly breathing. Most people breathe with their chests. But taking a moment to breathe with the stomach muscles actually increases the amount of oxygen in the body and promotes a feeling a calm.
First of all you need to exhale. Sigh as though you've just found out that your train has been cancelled. This will loosen the muscles in the upper body. Then breathe in slowly, whilst at the same time pushing your stomach muscles out. Place a hand on your stomach to make sure you're doing it correctly. Hold for three seconds. Then release and repeat. This can really help with nerves before parties or social events.
Lists. If you find that you have lots of thoughts buzzing around in your head then it makes sense to organise them. Write a list of everything that needs to be done. This may sound basic, but it's very helpful. The list can then be organised by priority and time scale. Having those thoughts on paper instead of being stuck in your head will reduce any excess tension.
Diet & Exercise. Everybody loves a naughty breakfast sandwich, (myself included). But nutrition is an important part of mental health. Blueberries, almonds, avocado, salmon and spinach are all foods that support the nervous system. Try porridge with almonds and blueberries for breakfast. Or a salmon stir fry with spinach for dinner. Think of it as brain food! Cut down on caffeine too (yes I'm afraid this includes tea). One cup of coffee a day is fine, three is not. Cardio exercise in particular is a great way to regulate the adrenalin/cortisol levels in the body and boost the mood. Cardio can be anything from running, a spinning class, or a brisk walk with the dog. Aim to do fifteen minutes a day. You might not be enthusiastic at the time, but you'll feel so much better afterwards.
Make time for YOU. Never underestimate the power of an hour to yourself. Whether this is with a relaxing bath, reading a book, or painting your nails. Turn off your phone, ask you partner to watch the kids for a while and just be present with yourself. This will enable your brain to recharge.
Be kind. Most women are far too quick to criticise themselves for not meeting certain standards of perfection. However, this is unhealthy and frankly just demoralising. So before you unleash a wave of harsh comments, take a moment to think; in a few days' time will it really matter that the Christmas Turkey was a bit dry? Instead try and find one positive about the situation. E.g. Yes the turkey was dry, but the trimmings were delicious and everyone had a lovely day. Emotions are driven by thoughts, so be kind to yourself. A good friend once told me, "there aren't many people in life who'll be on your side, so you better bloody had be!"
Claire Eastham is an award winning mental health blogger and her book We're All Mad Here is available on 21st November.