I came across a news article today with the heading "are you one of the 74% of brits at breaking point?" and I felt compelled to write my first blog! This is a subject very close to my heart as after working as a complementary therapist and registered mental health nurse I have come across many people suffering from anxiety, myself included. But why are there so many people suffering ? what exactly is anxiety?
On a basic level, anxiety is a reaction to stress and stress is your body's response to mental or emotional pressure. Various hormones and chemicals are released that prepare you for physical action- a flight or fight reaction that can lead to unpleasant physical symptoms. These symptoms may include but are not limited to; insomnia, irritability/emotional disturbance, feeling overwhelmed, constantly worrying, inability to concentrate. The following signs may indicate that you are everwhelemed and stressed;
- Chronic tiresdeness
- Weight or mood changes
- persistent cravings for very sweet or salty foods
- mental fog or confusion
- frequent illnesses such as colds/bacteria infections
Once we acknowledge that we are suffering from stress and anxiety we are then in a positive position to be able to implement change. So how do we change? What are the first steps we need to take?
Firstly, it should not be underestimated how medication can help if your situation warrants this. There is certainly a place for conventional medicine and complementary therapies seek to do just that, complement. Once you have taken the first step and sought medical treatment (if needed), you may then feel in a position to be able to take some positive steps to work towards peace in your life.
Using Massage to relieve stress & anxiety
When you experience anxiety, your body produces a lot of the stress hormone cortisol. Massage helps lowers cortisol levels and when done right, reduces muscle tension caused by anxiety. Aromatherapy is soothing and helps calm nervous tension. Aromatherapy oils can be added to a massage oil to create a calming and soothing blend that can be even more beneficial when combined with a relaxing massage.
In 1996 the Touch Research Institute did a study with 26 adults. For the study half the adults were given chair massages two times a week for 15 minutes and the control group sat in a massage chair but didn’t receive a massage 2 times a week for 15 minutes.
Before and after the 5 week period their anxiety and depression levels were measured. They were also given saliva tests for cortisol. Then they were given math problems to solve. At the end of the study the people who received massage had lower anxiety and depression levels. Their cortisol levels were lower and they had increased speed and accuracy on the math problems.
In addition to massage therapy and psychological therapy, there are a number of other steps you can take to overcome anxiety when you feel it taking over.
Take time out/move
It's impossible to think clearly when you're overcome with fear or anxiety. The first thing to do is take time out so you can physically calm down.
Distract yourself from the worry for 15 minutes by going for a walk, taking deep breathes and breathing in fresh air. If you are not able to go for a walk then make a cup of tea or have a bath.
Breathe through panic/meditate
If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it.
Stay where you are and simply feel the panic without trying to distract yourself.
Place the palm of your hand on your stomach and breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on your breathe.
The goal is to help the mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away
Avoiding fears only makes them scarier.
Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade.
If you panic one day getting into a lift, for example, it's best to get back into a lift the next day.
Look at the evidence
It sometimes helps to challenge fearful thoughts.
For example, if you're scared of getting trapped in a lift and suffocating, ask yourself if you have ever heard of this happening to someone.
Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who had a similar fear.
Do not try to be perfect
Life is full of stresses, yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect.
Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it's important to remember that life is messy.
Visualise a happy place
Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm.
It could be a picture of you walking on a beautiful beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood.
Let the positive feelings soothe you until you feel more relaxed.
Sharing fears takes away a lot of their scariness.
If you cannot talk to a partner, friend or family member, call a helpline such as Samaritans (116 123, open 24 hours a day).
If your fears are not going away, you can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service without seeing your GP.
Or you can get a referral from your GP if you prefer
Lots of people turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with anxiety, but this will only make matters worse.
Simple, everyday things like a good night's sleep, a wholesome meal and a walk are often the best cures for anxiety.
Finally, give yourself a treat. When you have made that call you have been dreading, for example, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a massage, a country walk, a meal out, a book, or whatever little gift makes you happy 😊