It’s okay to not feel okay – tips on how to feel less anxious
This week is mental health awareness week. It’s about checking in with yourself, taking care your mental wellbeing, and having honest conversations, and working out what we can do to help each other. So we thought it’d be valuable to give you guys some first-hand advice on dealing with your mental health, with simple, everyday tips that can make a world of difference.
Often it can feel like everyone around us is happy, content and calm all the time – and while it definitely feels good to be happy – it can really suck for those of us who don’t feel that way.
Firstly, it’s 100% normal not to be happy all the time – we all have ups and down in life and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with feeling down from time to time when something goes wrong, the unexpected happens, or for no particular reason whatsoever.
But, this can turn into a bigger problem when it starts happening all the time, and starts to feel never ending. While happiness is never guaranteed as a “default” state of life, there are definitely things you can do to reduce your anxiety levels, depressive feelings, and just feel happier and more relaxed about life in general.
Here are some practical steps to you can take to reduce stress and anxiety in your daily life. A lot of these pointers are from an article by Charlie Hoehn, but I can personally vouch for every one of these suggestions.
For a deep dive on how to reduce anxiety watch or listen to this episode of the Wholesome Half Hour.
1. Get moving every day
There’s no denying that physical activity has heaps of positive effects on the body – one of the most important being that it helps the mind function properly too. Exercise is the obvious answer to this, but for 99% of people, the idea of going down to the gym and running on a treadmill for an hour is rather unappealing. Exercise is a word that’s loaded with loads of negative connotations for a lot of us – body image, self-discipline, superiority and so on.
One way to get around this is by changing the way you look at “activity” as a…well, activity.
Instead of thinking about it as “exercise” – just find something that gets you moving for half an hour everyday. One of the easiest way to do this is outdoor sports. Make a thing out of grabbing a frisbee and running around with your mates everyday. Other fun options that don’t involve a gym include: joining a social sports team; going to a dance class, becoming a part of a club; playing backyard cricket; biking to school; going for a bush walk; or yoga.
Incorporating physical activity or play into my daily routine has made a massive difference to my overall mood, positivity and happiness levels. Go out get some sunshine and enjoy yourself.
2. Unplug from news and switch to positivity
The constant bombardment from mainstream news about gossip, scandal, drama, crime, corruption and terrorism is a surefire way to make you feel blue. We’re always encouraged to take action, do something – but in reality this job is a collective one, and sometimes the best thing we can do for others (and the world at large) is to take care of ourselves.
Carrying the world on your shoulders will make you feel less at peace and can slowly chip away at your happiness, positivity and overall wellbeing. Say goodbye to conflict driven news and substitute it for content that centres around fun and positivity. Once you feel like you’re in a strong place mentally, you can begin to engage with the world problems with a bit more direction, hope and positivity. Trust me, if something is important enough that you need to know about it – there’s plenty of constantly connected people around you that will let you know
3. Sleep & naps
This is a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain is probably not going to function properly, and (you guessed it) this can lead to you ultimately not feeling yourself, and not being able to react calmly when things don’t go as planned.
Almost every anxious person I know (myself included) is either in denial about how much sleep they get, or looking past their very inconsistent sleep schedule. Try to get to bed around the same time every night – there are plenty of apps that will remind you to do this, or features like Apple’s built-in ‘downtime’.
If you’re skeptical, just commit to doing it for one week and then see how you feel at the end of that week compared to the previous one.
Also, considering taking a 20 minute power nap in the afternoon. It’s a really good way to take sometime out of your day to relax, whilst simultaneously looking after yourself, clearing your mind, and allowing for greater mental clarity and performance throughout the remainder of the day. I’d highly recommend putting your phone into silent or do not disturb mode whilst doing this, and set an alarm so that 20 minutes is actually 20 minutes.
4. Bye bye caffeine
Stimulants like caffeine, aspartame (the artificial sweetener in most sugar free drinks/chewing gum) and refined sugar essentially recreate the physical sensations of anxiety.
This means that they can make you feel anxious in themselves, or further exacerbate the physical symptoms of anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious – eliminating or reducing the amount of stimulants you consume will likely make a big difference.
It’s one of the fastest and simplest changes you can make and often has significant results. Even if you don’t eliminate these entirely, cutting back significantly and/or simply not consuming them when you’re feeling particularly anxious can be super beneficial and make sure your anxiety levels don’t cross the line from manageable to crippling.
5. Micronutrient Deficiencies
If you’re feeling consistently and unusually fatigued, and sleeping well and cutting down on stimulants hasn’t helped, you may have a micronutrient deficiency. For many people, minor deficiencies of things like Vitamin B-12, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Iron can cause huge disruptions in energy levels and can contribute towards anxiety. If you feel like this may be the case for you, it’s definitely worth having a chat to your GP about it and getting your levels tested.
It’s important to keep in mind that tips are not solutions, nor answers to serious mental illness, struggles or disorders. They’re more just productive ways to reduce some of the symptoms, making ups and downs a bit easier; make dealing with anxiety managable; or simply just to add some joy to your day-to-day life.
Click here for information on where to get professional help.