As we’re heading towards one of the most stressful periods of the calendar year it is good to be reminded of ways to stave off feelings of overwhelm and anxiety . Holidays can be stressful when surrounded by close family and partners. So what can we do to keep a healthy perspective and prevent ourselves from ending up feeling stressed and anxious this festive season? These are my top tips directly from my London hypnotherapy practice.
1. Get quality sleep!
It is amazing how often we can feel down in the dumps when in actual fact we have simply neglected some basic self care rules. Sleep is a biggie and if you are feeling anxious or unseasonably down ask yourself how much sleep you’ve really had recently. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, sleep may be your number one remedy. The repair that takes place when we have a good 7-9 hours of shuteye benefits us both physically and mentally and enables us to see life in a more positive hue. If you are having trouble sleeping try a sleep app such as Calm to help you nod off.
2. Eat&drink well
Sticking to a nutritious diet with plenty of fresh fruit & veg will help, as well as adding useful supplements, such as a good pro-biotic, B12 and magnesium. Try Victoria Health for more information about supplements. We consist of 70% water so drinking 8-10 glasses per day can help shift brain fog and a sluggish digestion, making it easier for the gut bacteria to do its job well. In addition, introducing a few alcohol free days per week can be a helpful step to ensure you maintain a strong mindset and keep temptations at bay.
The benefits of exercising regularly is a no brainer. Engaging in some form of physical activity most days or at least 3-4 times per week can have a huge impact on how we feel, how we view life and not to mention the physical and psychological benefits of identifying as fit. Mental health is hugely affected by exercise so if you are feeling anxious or low, instead of engaging in circular rumination, try going for a run instead.
Start small and make a commitment to yourself that you think is achievable rather than too ambitious. There are loads of good apps and youtube videos making exercising accessible for all and its free. Check out The Body Coach ‘7 days of sweat challenge’ on YouTube if you need some motivation to get going.
In order to feel that life is going your way you need to be operating from a part of your brain which enables you to make good decisions, to feel content, be patient, happy and wise. This is your intellectual mind. We can only access this part when we feel safe and calm. Relaxation is a wonderfully effective way of getting there, sending a clear message to the central nervous system that you are not under threat and that all is well. This in turn helps release happy hormones such as serotonin, endorphins and dopamine which will motivate you and get on better with everyone around you.
When you are feeling stressed and anxious you’ll instead have a hotline straight to your survival brain (aka fight/flight/freeze) where you start fearing the worst, perpetuate negative thinking and feeling helpless. No new thinking can come from here which is why we feel so stuck. When we rush around doing life 180mph 24/7 we are not allowing the natural rhythm of ebb and flow to take place. We all need to recharge our batteries, to regroup and to relax in order to empty our internal stress bucket. It’s not selfish to rest, it is as important as taking action.
There are many ways to practice relaxation and calm – you can use guided relaxations, meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness or find a qualified hypnotherapist who can guide you into a deep state of relaxation.
5. Focus on the good
We live in a problem focused world and as a general rule we tend to concentrate on tackling our obstacles. This is unfortunate as our mind is constructed in such a way that what we focus on expands. The more you think about what isn’t working in your life, the more problematic and negative your life will appear. That is just how it works. So for something to change you have to do something different – otherwise you’ll get the same results.
When we start to notice the good in life, even down to the smallest act of random kindness, we reprogram our brain to start expecting more good. If you do this daily, for a month, you will notice a big shift in the quality of your thinking.
6. Talk to uplifting people
Have you ever met up with friends and felt elated afterwards? Light, happy, supported and connected? Of course you have and isn’t it a lovely feeling? On the flip side you also know what it’s like to feel drained and empty after meeting negative, judgemental and critical souls, right? So be mindful of who is in your circle. Find your tribe. By surrounding yourself with people with whom you have positive and meaningful interactions, you’ll start generating happy hormones that are vital to lift you up when you feel down. A simple conversation with the right person has the power to change how you view life. Interactions are powerful.
7. Support YOU
Our inner dialogue determines how we feel and behave. Instead of getting hung up on your foibles, focus on what you like about yourself instead. Remember good times, great achievements and qualities that you are proud of. Ponder what your best friend would consider to be your strongest point. Celebrate being you.
We are human beings and we all make mistakes, it’s part of life. So beating ourselves up for not being perfect or even good enough keeps us stuck in a negative mindset that produces stress and anxiety. Instead, try and accept where you are right now and be grateful for the lessons you’ve picked up along the way, the friends you’ve made, the everyday blessings of children, pets, health and having a roof over your head. It can help to write this down in a gratitude journal. When we do this daily we literally change our mind.
So to summarise..
None of the above tips are based on rocket science yet most of us don’t stick to these basic, tried and tested rules. Instead we carry on running on empty until negative effects start to take hold and we wonder what the heck happened.
So the next time you feel anxious or depressed ask yourself what area of your life you have been neglecting, once you’ve identified what it is then get back on track. By knowing the tools that work you have a roadmap of what to aim for. It’s just like DIY. When building an IKEA shelf (I’m Swedish, ok) you have to follow the instructions carefully and do exactly what it says. When you do, you’ll have a perfectly constructed shelf that will last you for many years and be able to withstand pressure and weight. As human beings we are no different.
Wishing you all a fabulous week.