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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The official theme, this year as set by the Mental Health Foundation, is ‘anxiety’.

Anxiety is a common emotion that we’ve likely all experienced at some point in our lives,

but sometimes it can get out of control and affect our mental health.

1. Focus on your breathing

When you’re having anxious thoughts try focusing on your breathing, it can help you control the thoughts.

4-7-8 breathing technique

Close your mouth and quietly breath in through your nose, counting to four in your head. Hold your breath and count to seven. Breathe out through your mouth, making a whoosh sound while counting to eight. Repeat three more times for a total of four breath cycles.

Some people find relaxation exercises work too, while others find mindfulness useful.


2. Get Moving

Exercise is a good way of dealing with anxiety.

Remember, activity doesn’t have to be vigorous; try some gentle stretches, yoga, or seated exercises. Or just go for a walk. Going for a run, swimming, or taking part in a fitness class can give you something else to think about, so takes your mind of the anxious thoughts.


3. Keep a Diary / Journal your thoughts

It’s important that we don’t try to ignore our worries. Taking the time to keep a record of what’s happening in our life and how it’s affecting us can help us understand what is triggering your feelings of anxiety.

Sometimes it helps to give yourself a certain time of day to be your ‘worry time’. It could be half an hour to sit with your worries and write them down in your diary.

When that’s out of the way, you can move on with the rest of your day.

This can help you take control and stop anxiety getting in the way of what you want to do.


4. Challenge your thoughts

Anxiety can lead us to think about things over and over again in our brain. This is called ‘rumination’ and it’s not helpful.

When you catch yourself ruminating try to write down the thought and to challenge it.

Is what you’re worrying about likely to happen? Are you being realistic? Have you had similar thoughts which have not turned into reality? This can make it easier to challenge the thoughts and stop them from spiralling.


5. Get support for money worries

A common cause of anxiety is money.

If you’re worried about not being able to pay bills, are struggling to repay debt, or aren’t sure if you can cover your family’s living costs, seek help.

Make sure you are claiming all the government supports that you’re entitled to. You can also speak to an organisation such as Citizens Advice or Step Change.


6. Spent time in nature

We know that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health.

It can help us feel calmer and less stressed.

This can be as simple going for a walk in the park.


7. Connect with people and tell them how you feel

Anxiety can feel very lonely. Connecting with other people can help a lot.

Spend time with friends or meet other people through activities such as volunteering, sport or social clubs.

If you’re able to talk to people about how you feel, it can help to reduce your anxiety.

Sometimes saying what’s worrying you out loud can take away its power over you.


8. Try to get some quality sleep or rest

Resting and having a good night’s sleep is hard when your head is full of worries but there are some things that can help.

If anxious thoughts keep you awake, write them down in your diary. If sleep is still not coming, get up and have a drink (nothing with caffeine!) and wait until you’re feeling more tired before going back to bed.

Keeping a note in your diary of your sleep patterns, what time you went to bed, what you ate, how often you woke up etc can help you work out a routine that will help you get better quality sleep.


9. Try to eat a healthy diet

For many of us, feeling anxious might cause us to reach for sugary snacks, junk food or alcohol.

It’s important that we don’t turn to unhealthy foods or drinks as a way to cope as they will do more damage in the longer term.

Similarly, we should avoid smoking or taking recreational drugs.


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