According to new research from the Mental Health Foundation’s Living With Anxiety report, one in five of us will feel anxious nearly all or most of the time, and this number has doubled over the past few years.
Anxiety is clearly a growing problem and many sufferers may be lacking the support and skills to take action and combat it. There are however a few surprising ways in which anxiety and stress-related symptoms can be reduced in a few simple steps.
Surround yourself with a familiar scent
A familiar smell will stimulate synapses in the brain, which triggers the release of hormones that are responsible for our bodily functions.
According to perfume expert, Roja Dove, as soon as we discover a scent we love, it will automatically produce “positive feel-good associations” whenever we smell it. This can help to relive any anxiety and makes us feel calm and relaxed.
Roja adds that smells from childhood, such as your mum’s perfume or the smell of freshly cut grass are particularly good for relieving stress.
Often stress and anxiety can overwhelm us to the extent that we become fixated with what may be causing these feelings. This can prevent us from making time for the things we enjoy and activities that may actually help to make us feel better.
Furthermore, engaging in a relaxing activity such as drawing, painting or reading provides a means of distraction which can help the mind come up with a creative solution to feelings of anxiety.
Neil Shah, director of the Stress Management Society explains:
“We have two definite sides of the brain, one is responsible for analytically processing information and the other side is for creativity.
“Stress often engages the analytical side of our brain so doing something creative can take us into the other side.”
Have a healthy dinner
It is thought that some foods can exacerbate symptoms of stress and anxiety (i.e. insomnia, dizziness and shortness of breath) so making an effort to eat a healthy meal could greatly reduce your uncomfortable feelings.
Avoid high GI foods, such as white bread and potatoes as these will make you feel edgy – sending your blood glucose levels soaring before an inevitable crash. Caffeine may also make symptoms worse, so try to limit how much coffee you have during the day.
Sticking to foods that are low GI such as wholemeal pasta and rice, seeds, fruits and vegetables will keep your blood glucose levels steady, whilst foods rich in omega 3 and magnesium will provide an important mental boost – helping to enhance our ability to control anxiety.
Practicing mindfulness, particularly at the start of the day, can help us to forget any worries about the future – a common element of anxiety. The best way to become mindful is to sit in an upright position, consciously relaxing your muscles and focusing on the sensation of air going in through your nose and into your lungs. Mindfulness aims to slow down your pace and helps you to become absorbed in the present moment.
Complementary therapy and alternative medicine
There are a great many complementary therapies and alternative treatments specifically designed to help relieve stress and anxiety, whilst promoting relaxation, mindfulness and inner peace. These can be used alongside conventional medical treatment or as an alternative means of stress-relief, and they can also provide additional benefits to aches and pains, and any other areas of physical tension that may be exacerbating anxiety symptoms.
To find out about the range of treatments available, please see our therapy topics page.
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