It is Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 this week and this year the theme is Anxiety. The aim of Mental Health Awareness week is to open up conversation with others about important topics and support one another by sharing experiences and tools. Anxiety is an emotion that we have all felt, it's completely normal. Some people may get anxious about exams, finances, everyday life or big life changes, it is different for everyone. For others, anxiety can be so overwhelming that it develops into something which feels uncontrollable and unmanageable.
Not only can anxiety be prompted by different things for different people, it can feel different for everyone. It can have physical symptoms of an increased heart rate, breathlessness, headaches or feeling sick to name a few. It may also affect your emotions and behaviours perhaps making you tearful, irritable, struggling to relax, disrupting your sleep. During a time in my life where I was experiencing anxiety it felt like I was out of control of my thoughts and emotions and I found it hard to distinguish different feelings in my stomach such as hunger, excitement, stress or sadness. That was part of my experience and that may be completely different to how you or people you know have experienced it.
At Phase we want to open up conversations about anxiety with young people and provide the space for them to explore their thoughts and feelings as well as equipping them with tools and strategies to help manage their stresses, anxieties and worries.
Here are 5 ideas to help you manage anxiety:
Try taking some time to be mindful and focus on your breath. Taking control of your breath calms down your nervous system which ultimately calms down some of the physiological symptoms of anxiety such as heart rate. Some people find mindfulness hard, and it isn't for everyone but you can find some breathing techniques might help.
In a world of online connections, there is something very powerful about human connection. By connecting with people we feel less alone and part of a community. If we share our thoughts and feelings with the right people it can feel less heavy on our shoulders and more manageable. If you are feeling anxious I encourage you to connect with somebody whether that is grabbing coffee with a friend, having a kick about with someone, or giving someone a call.
Being active is great for our mental health! It can take our mind off of stresses or anxious thoughts and allows us to be present with our bodies. Exercise also releases feel-good endorphins into our system and it can be a good opportunity to connect with the world around us and nature. For some people running 10k is a great activity and for others it could be some yoga, simple stretches or going for a walk.
Some people find journaling a helpful technique to help organise their thoughts and make them feel more manageable. It can be useful to ‘brain dump’ onto some paper, a notebook or onto the notes on your phone. There are no rules when it comes to journaling, it's your space to express your thoughts on feelings through words, diary entries, doodles, mind maps or whatever feels right for you. Something to try could be noting down 3 things that you are grateful for each day to help you tune into the positives of day-to-day life.
Look after yourself
In times when we feel especially anxious, sleep and diet are often pushed to the side and aren't a priority. For many people getting rest when our brains feel full and our bodies feel heavy can be really challenging but looking after ourselves is core to our wellbeing. Increased physical wellbeing can boost our motivation, concentration and our capacity to make positive choices. By caring for our bodies and physical health through diet, sleep and exercise, our mental health can benefit.
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