How to Understand and Manage Your Anxiety in Uncertain Times | Guest Post by Andy Boyson

The world demands a lot from us, often greater than which we are able to cope with. During these times it is important to realize this to be a completely normal experience, one that we will all share in from time to time. Unfortunately, all too often society fails to teach us the old adage it’s okay not to be okay.

Not understanding our feelings, allows them to manifest as damaging, self-destructive symptoms. We feel isolated and alone in our emotions, distant from friends and family. We experience many events during our life. Some prove difficult to manage, leaving us with a sense of uncertainty that impacts upon our otherwise normal day to day activities.

Identifying what makes you feel anxious can be tricky and isn’t always clear. There are many ways to address your issues and learn to fundamentally understand how your brain works. Everyone is unique but not alone.

Anti-anxiety medication (beta-blockers)

Anti-anxiety medication in some cases has proved incredibly beneficial to sufferers. The type of medication depends entirely on the severity of your symptoms. They are also by no means a cure, in fact, many questions have been raised regarding its long term effectiveness. They can be particularly useful however, for treating situational anxiety on a short term basis. As they can reliably relieve symptoms such as tremors and fainting during high-pressure situations such as public speaking.

There are many forms of anti-anxiety medication available in the UK and it can be difficult to understand what they all do. Therefore, you may find it helpful to talk to your GP or visit informed websites like the Independent Pharmacy in regards to the most suitable course of action.

Like any anxiety treatment, medication may or may not work for you. It is up to the individual to find what suits their specific needs.

Relaxation techniques

When we are stressed we enter an involuntary state of fight or flight. Becoming aware of dangers around us, and hypervigilant to our surroundings. The ability to relax is not something that always comes naturally, instead, we may have to train ourselves. Performing relaxation techniques are an effective strategy for controlling anxiety:

Muscle relaxation exercises help in reminding the body to return to a relaxed state. Reducing physical tension throughout the body erodes the overall feeling of being stressed, calming your entire physical presence. By focusing on a particular body part at a time you also block out other worries from your immediate attention. Although don’t worry if your mind wanders – that’s okay and will happen from time to time – simply return to the exercise.

Visualization is also a fantastic way to relax the mind and train you to identify specific thoughts. The visualization techniques ask you to create a tranquil surrounding when you close your eyes, perhaps asking you to place thoughts (relevant or not) on passing leaves. Soon you may find your thoughts contributing to a beautiful picture or autumn forest rather than a haze of uncertainty.

Finally, practicing breathing techniques worked in my case. The primary benefit of mindful breathing is to slow the world down, accepting not everything has to be a race. By focusing on each breath you may find yourself beginning to calm down and move away from the fight or flight mentality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It can be particularly difficult to open up to friends and family, as the idea merely piles on the pressure. It isn’t necessarily their fault – and in that lies the reason they feel so unapproachable – it can be hard to articulate your feelings without implicating loved ones into your emotions.

For many, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was the way to go. With CBT you are encouraged to blend together a variety of anxiety management strategies under the guidance of a counselor or therapist. Each experience is tailored to the individual after an assessment of your needs.

In the sessions, you will be encouraged to challenge your thought processes and unlike many other talking treatments it focuses on the here and now issues on your mind. A key aspect of the therapy breaks down these issues through thought challenges. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Will this matter in five years’ time? And what would I say to a friend in this situation? These will all be questions you begin to ask yourself.

There is no shame in getting some help when it’s needed and there will almost always be support near you with a local wellbeing scheme. All too often the world can feel like it is closing in on you, CBT centers emotions and teaches you to approach issues logically.

Diet and exercise

Physical activity is helpful for maintaining a healthy mind. You may find exercise improves your mood and establishing routine aids in better concentration.

To enjoy real mental benefits, it is best to build up slowly and find what works for you. The gym is not for everyone and there are many other ways to work out. Take home workouts for example, which are particularly beneficial for those who find social situations challenging. Remember to build your confidence up slowly and make consistent improvements in your own time.

Moderating caffeine and alcohol in your diet can also be helpful. Caffeine, for example, is a stimulant that increases brain activity that contributes to anxiety. Additionally, our body processes alcohol days after drinking and can simulate symptoms of depression, increasing the intensity of emotions we are already feeling. Now, by no means am I saying that you should cut caffeine and alcohol out completely. But it is instead important to evaluate whether excessive amounts are having a negative mental effect.

 It is never too late to make positive changes in your life. No one thing will work for everyone. It is about finding what best works for you as an individual, we are all differently wired. It often becomes a combination of techniques that become the key to conquering your anxiety. Be it medication and breathing techniques, CBT and Exercise, or anything in between.

Andy Boysan (BPharm) is the co-founder and superintendent pharmacist of The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies. For more healthcare and treatment advice, visit their website.