5 tips for managing anxiety
Anxiety. We’ve all felt it at some point and we all have different reasons why we have it. It could be anxiety about relationships, work, children, busy places, flying, we all have different triggers. When you become sick with a chronic illness such as SIBO, worrying about your health and wellbeing can feel overwhelming and cause anxiety. Our 5 tips for managing anxiety are about helping you to create a more positive outlook on life, seeing the little things and realising their importance.
I know that I found myself feeling anxious, spending time looking at my symptoms, trying to understand the complexities of what was happening to my body, dealing with feeling unwell and trying to manage my life. Those stressors added up to me feeling anxious all the time.
Managing anxiety is one of the biggest reasons that I developed the SIBO: Back to Basics Coaching Program. I believe that having an open forum to talk about any worries and concerns with others and the opportunity to learn more about your condition can really help you confidently tackle SIBO.
This week Kate from The Healthy Gut talks us through her top 5 tips for managing anxiety.
Before we get into my own 5 top tips for managing anxiety I want to reassure you that it is manageable and you will feel better. My own tale of anxiety started when I was pregnant with my second child. I had numerous issues with my pregnancy and was also suffering with severe gut health problems. I was plagued with panic attacks, could barely sleep at night, felt on edge all the time and became irritable over the tiniest things.
My stress about just being fit and healthy enough to be a mummy to two small boys became overwhelming and ended up with me feeling anxious all the time. It took a good friend to recognise that I’d tipped over the edge. She insisted on making me go out for a long walk with our buggies once a week. During this time we’d talk about everything. I’d download all of my worries and so would she. Somehow just verbalising it all helped enormously. Over time I realised that I was coping better, my anxiety had receded and I felt able to cope better with everything.
Anxiety occurs when you’ve been putting all of the things that make you stressed about into a box and not dealing with them. When the box is so full of those stressors that it starts to overflow, and you can start to become anxious. Stress is the cause of anxiety. One doesn’t happen without the other.
If you’re suffering from stress check out our 7 ways to destress with The Healthy Gut team. Dealing with stress before you become anxious is important but once you are already anxious then finding ways to manage anxiety in a way that works for you is key.
Talk about it
Talk to friends, family or a professional counsellor. Talking about how you feel can help you to feel the release you need, and enable you to get to a point where you are managing anxiety not just living with it. One on one time or in a small group is best. If you’re feeling emotional, you need to know that someone cares and is listening. It also gives you a chance to hear about someone else’s life, which often helps us to realise that we aren’t alone, or the only ones who have worries and concerns. I try and make sure that at least once a month I schedule some time in with a good friend to just catch up, talk about our lives and vent any of those things that are frustrating or upsetting me. Turn this into something fun. The last time I did this with a girlfriend, we went paddle boarding and made complete fools of ourselves. Laughing together was a massive release.
It sounds simple but stop and think, when was the last time you took a big, deep breath? Try it now, feels good doesn’t it? Breathing is an unusual bodily function in that it is both voluntary and involuntary. Breathing is managed unconsciously, however, when you want to you can be totally in control of it. Controlled deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to come online and counter your sympathetic nervous systems fight or flight response. You can find many apps online for assisting with breathing for relaxation. My own favourite is Breathing Zone. I try and earmark a few minutes a day, usually just before bed, lying comfortably, to breathe consciously. This lowers my blood pressure and puts me in the right frame of mind to get to sleep. If I need a little more support I’ll tune into one of the sleep stories on my Calm app just to completely turn my brain off.
Find your joy
I say to my family all the time, ‘it’s just the little things’ that make us truly joyful. The big joyful events like the birth of a child, marriage, buying your first house, all evoke feelings of joy by a heightened, extreme form of joy. When you are feeling anxious you can struggle to deal with this kind of rollercoaster of emotions. Finding those little things that bring you joy is so important when you are struggling with anxiety. They are the sunshine from behind the clouds, the moments when you will feel like you are managing anxiety and that it’s not managing you.
We all have those little things that make us joyful, so what’s yours? Write a list somewhere you won’t lose it; on your phone, in your diary or just on a piece of paper that you pin on the wall. My own little things are simple and easy to find time for when I need that little shot of joy. I take the time to make myself a really great cup of something warm and drink it mindfully as it’s my treat, I persuade my boys to bundle into bed with me in the morning at the weekend and just be together and sometimes I just crack open a new bottle of bath bubbles and escape to the tub for a while. Whilst it’s not possible to be joyful all the time, those little pockets of joy keep me going when things are hard.
Write your own story
Writing down our problems has long been a recognised way of beginning to chip away at those things that cause you worry and stress. Think about the things that are worrying you and once they are written down spend a little time asking yourself what can be done to resolve any issues or make things better. Chipping away little by little will help you feel more in control.
There is nothing worse than a long ‘to do’ list. If you can’t deal with everything on your list alone then don’t be afraid to share it with friends and family. You might be surprised what help and assistance people come up with. For example when I first moved to a new town with my second son a mere 2 weeks old, I happened to mention to another mum, who I’d never met before, how hard I was finding the school run after a C-section. I was amazed when she offered her help and brought my older son home for me most nights until I felt able to cope again. The kindness of strangers is not to be overlooked. I belong to a couple of gut health forums where I also find the support invaluable.
I remember someone telling me long ago when I was relatively footloose and fancy free that I’d grow to treasure and appreciate a good night’s sleep as I got older. I never knew or appreciated the amazing feeling that comes from a really good night’s sleep, as little disturbed me in those days, sleep came easy.
Now though, on the edge of menopause with depleted oestrogen, kids who think nothing of waking me up no matter the time, worries and stress galore and a snoring husband, I long for those simple days when I went to sleep at 10pm and woke up at 7am. When you’ve slept properly your physical response to anxiety is improved and you’ll find that you are managing anxiety better as your cortisol (stress hormone) has had a chance be regulated while you sleep.
My tips for better sleeping better are:
✓ Establish a regular bedtime ritual
A regular bedtime, a cup of herbal tea, magnesium tablets, whatever works for you.
✓ Take time to wind down and switch off
Turn your devices off and leave them out of the bedroom. Sometimes a warm (not hot) bath helps too, have you tried Epsom salts?
✓ Make sure your bedroom is sleep friendly
Dimmable lighting or a lamp, your favourite bed linen and a tidy room can all help.
✓ Keep a sleep diary
What disrupted your sleep? Diet or emotions for example, what can you do to improve this.
The important thing to remember is that everyone feels anxious from time to time; you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out, there are so many ways to connect with people. Take our Facebook Page; SIBO Bi Phasic Diet Recipes. It’s so great to see people sharing ideas and helping each other. There’s a real sense of community and of supporting one another.