Anxiety is very different to feeling nervous. It’s like having a fear of spiders, but the spiders are in your face every single day.
Over the past seven years, I have been trying countless strategies to lower my severe anxiety levels. As much as I wanted it to go away, I’ve learned that it will never be ‘cured’ but it can be managed. If you’re someone who is struggling to lower your anxiety levels, then using strategies that are proactive may be the answer you’re looking for. Here’s some techniques that I have found incredibly useful:
1. Getting Eight Hours of Sleep Every Night
According to UC Berkeley researchers, a lack of sleep is associated with the stimulation of brain regions that play a role in triggering excessive worry. If I have days when I am sleep deprived, my emotions are everywhere, and I don’t feel very much like myself. Getting eight hours and going to bed at the same time every night has been crucial in helping me to get my anxiety under control.
2. Taking Regular Self-Care Days
The continuous rise in cortisol levels from stress, which is caused by the exhaustive list of long-term stressors we have in today’s world, is no good for anyone, says Jillian Levy. Get into the habit of having a day at home every now and then to do NOTHING. I usually treat myself to a nice face mask, bubble bath and watch films all day. For me this is the best way of reenergizing; it lowers my anxiety by giving my brain a break from the 20 things which are always on my mind.
3. Using My Anxiety as a Challenge
If you can’t beat anxiety, join it! Proving to yourself that you can successfully do the thing that is terrifying you the most will lower your anxiety the next time you do it. Get one up on it and prove who’s boss. Fear of heights? Climb a small height and work your way up from there!
4. Reducing Time on Social Media
Social media leads to comparison anxiety, says Lucy Sheridan, which will only increase your existing levels of anxiety. I now give myself time slots every day when I can be completely social media-free. Not only does it reduce my anxiety, but it also gives me more free time to do other things like reading books.
5. Lowering Sugar Intake
According to Ali Miller, Author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, there is a direct connection between the food we eat and levels of anxiety. When I eat too much refined sugar (more than the daily recommendation of 25g) I feel completely out of balance. If I do this for days, I notice that my anxiety levels skyrocket. Changing small eating habits, such as swapping refined
sugary snacks for vegetables, fruit and plain rice cakes has been crucial, as has eating wholegrain instead of refined grains.
6. Mindfulness Meditation
Breathe, breathe, breathe! I use an app called Calm, usually on the train to University. I always find the continuous workload and commute stressful, but learning to accept how I feel, staying in the present and breathing properly has been one of the most useful techniques for keeping me on top of everything. It does take practice though, so be patient with it!
7. Creating a Mental Health Blog
Social media can have its benefits when used in the correct way. At the end of last year, I created an Instagram account (@alisha.selflove) which led me to discover a whole mental health community. It’s a private account and a safe place for me to vent, talk to other young people who experience anxiety and learn new anxiety-reducing techniques. It’s 24-hour support, and has made me realise that I am not alone! Why not try making one? Just by sharing your experience, you will not only be helping yourself, but also others who might be suffering the same way you are.
Note: While these techniques help me, it is important to seek professional help if your anxiety continues to worsen or become debilitating. Therapy has been a large part in my recovery and has also given me a huge insight into who I am as a person.