If you find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed, sometimes it’s so hard to know what to do to help yourself. You can feel confused and unsure as to what might even help.
I’ll outline some daily things I do that are super simple to do yourself and will boost how you feel.
1. Be aware of what you expose yourself to – this one might seem obvious, but essentially, if I watch horror films then I find myself getting jumpy when I’m walking down an alley at night by myself. If I watch the news then I get pretty depressed about the state of the world. So I keep loosely in touch with the news via social media, but I limit my intake of it.
Try to ensure that what you are exposed to is in balance. So you don’t have to cut yourself off from stuff if you don’t want to, but make sure you also expose yourself to good things happening in the world and uplifting stories or plenty of gifs and animal videos that make you laugh to counterbalance it.
You quite literally become more like whatever you consume – what you read, what you watch, who you talk to, etc. So you can control how you think and feel by being more aware of what you are putting into your mind in the first place.
2. Acknowledge how you feel – so often we keep ourselves busy and away from what is going on inside. If you try to ignore how you feel then the feelings usually get ‘louder’ rather than going away. Take time to be in touch with yourself and just notice what is going on in your body. You might not know how to describe or name what you are feeling, but just notice it and acknowledge what is there without trying to change it.
You might notice feeling tension in certain parts of your body, shallow breathing, or feeling a heaviness in your chest. It doesn’t matter what is there for you, but just acknowledge what it is. Feelings move and change so just because you feel something now doesn’t mean you’ll feel like that forever. You can feel sad without being a sad person. Feelings are feelings and don’t have to own you.
3. Move your body – I definitely don’t manage this one every day but I do like doing yoga and running and I feel so much better in myself once I’ve done them. Sometimes I don’t enjoy the running, but I always enjoy the feeling once I’ve done it. If you have health issues or you can’t leave the house then do some star jumps or walk up and down the stairs a couple of times or go for a walk. Do what you enjoy because otherwise you won’t want to do it! Exercise gives you a boost of endorphins and quite literally makes you feel good for a while afterwards.
4. Eat a rainbow – eating well nourishes your body. We all know that already. If you are what you eat, then be a rainbow (and I don’t mean skittles)! 🌈 Your gut bacteria talk to your brain and tell it what they’re craving so exposing your gut to as many different foods as possible increases their diversity and therefore your immune health. A mixture of fruit and veg should mean that you cover all the main vitamins that support good health.
5. Get enough sleep – so much happens within your body while you sleep. It repairs itself and processes everything that we’ve experienced during the day. Aim to be in bed for 7 hours a night if you can, but don’t stress about it if you wake up or don’t sleep for the whole time. Going to sleep at the same time and waking up every day can make a massive difference to your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep. This can be a hard one to be consistent with, but it does make a big difference to how you feel and how much energy you have for coping with whatever comes your way.
6. Reach out to others and ask for help when you need it – we aren’t designed to be hermits and benefit from interacting with others. When you are struggling, tell someone even if it feels terrifying. You don’t have to tell everyone, but tell someone that you trust. I always phone someone when I’m upset or stressed about something, and usually I feel much better just from offloading to them on the phone. It can’t always fix things, but a problem shared definitely helps, so it’s worth a go! Helping you makes other people feel good, so let them help you! You probably won’t be the burden on them that you tell yourself you will.
7. Be kind to yourself – I say this a lot. We usually expect far too much of ourselves and beat ourselves up so readily. Try to treat yourself more like you would a friend – we are usually much more patient, gentle, softly spoken, forgiving and encouraging towards others than we are to ourselves. It takes a bit of practise and getting used to, but being kinder to yourself and speaking to yourself with a softer voice can help you feel better. Maybe imagine someone you know who is lovely and who says encouraging things to you and try to speak to yourself a bit more like they do.
8. Take time for yourself – it isn’t selfish to look after yourself. You can’t run on empty, but maintaining energy and what you need to keep going involves filling up your reserves regularly rather than relying on weekends and holidays. Try to spend a little bit of time every day or regularly doing what you enjoy. It might be dancing, reading a book, seeing friends, doing some craft, baking, playing badminton or flower arranging. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you enjoy it and feel nourished and energised by it.
9. Listen to music – music can really regulate how you are feeling. If I’m feeling fractious or worried about something then I listen to relaxing music. I really like Snatam Kaur as it reminds me of lying on the floor in the dark at the end of a yoga session and listening to it so it calms me down really quickly. My kids hate it though so it isn’t to everyone’s taste. If I feel like I want to feel uplifted then I ask my home hub to play me ‘soundtrack music’ and it plays a variety of songs from films. Lots of them are uplifting sing-a-long style songs which always puts me in a better mood and can be fun to have on while I’m cooking. Again, it doesn’t really matter what you listen to as long as you notice how the music makes you feel and that it is matched to how you want to feel.
10. Breathe – one thing I didn’t notice about myself until my son pointed it out is how much I sigh! But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve noticed that when I feel annoyed about something or stressed then I naturally sigh. It’s funny now I know I do it as it makes me smile sometimes when I catch myself. But sighing is a really good way to regulate your nervous system. If you were in an enclosure with a hungry bear then you wouldn’t be sighing. Sighing is a quick way to relax and calm your body.
You might not want to sigh, but checking in with your body a few times a day and checking how you are breathing can be really helpful. You don’t have to change your breathing, but just make sure that it isn’t super fast or shallow.
11. Laugh – try to approach life in a relaxed way and laugh at both yourself and the world. Laughing calms your nervous system down really quickly. And who doesn’t enjoy laughing? Whether it is comedy on TV or fun memes online, it doesn’t matter what tickles you, but just make sure you laugh often!
12. Get outside – even 10 minutes of being in nature can have a really calming affect on your body. A quick walk outside or being in your garden can be great. Even when I don’t go outside I spend time looking at my house plants (I’m a bit obsessed with house plants) and it brings me a bit of joy. If you can’t go outside then open a window or look out of a window.
There are no rules to any of this so it isn’t about doing things you think you “should” that you don’t really want to do. It’s more about finding things that re-energise you and bring ease, calm and joy. Most of these things I’ve mentioned can seem really trivial in themselves, but it is lots of small meaningful things done regularly that really do make such a difference to how you feel.