Feeling anxious isn’t a good feeling, and most of us will do anything to avoid it. Unfortunately, anxiety is undoubtedly a part of the day to day human existence and all of us are forced to deal with it at one time or another. Every single day, our bodies pick up on a wide variety of signals and triggers throughout the day. Most of them, we don’t even notice, but over time they build up and can have a profound impact on your mental health, increasing anxiety substantially.
According to the WHO, worldwide anxiety and depression increased by 25% because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At work, anxiety and depression can manifest as not just stress but fear. This has been multiplied by pandemic-induced situations over which we have little to no control. Ever-present anxiety can lead to burnout, depression disorders, and panic attacks. By understanding what’s causing your fear can help you come up with potential solutions and discern what influence you may have to effect change
What is anxiety?
Though experiencing occasional anxiety is a part of the human experience, intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear are signs of an anxiety disorder and should not be ignored. Often, people who struggle with anxiety disorders will experience sudden, intense, and unmanageable feelings of fear or even terror.
Stress buildup, trauma, consistent stress, other mental health disorders, drugs, and alcohol can all trigger feelings of anxiety. The result is an inability to live a ‘normal’ life as the fight or flight response which is usually only triggered by severe threats is consistently triggered by ‘normal’ experiences.
Here’s how to manage anxiety…
Perhaps most bizarrely, everything we do on a daily basis has an impact on our anxiety levels. When you think of what might be causing you to feel anxious, you likely don’t consider relatively simple things like how you sit. But as it turns out, relatively minor parts of your day might just be causing you unnecessary anxiety.
Start by fixing your posture
We know that the mind can influence the body, but it turns out that it’s also true that the body can influence the mind. According to manual therapist and movement coach Aaron Alexander, if you’re in one position for the duration of the day, “it becomes your personality”. It literally affects your mood and even impacts your attitude over time.
According to a 2017 study, 86% of college students had “an easier time accessing uplifting memories in an upright position“. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the opposite was also true. In the slumped position, it is much easier to access depressive memories.
When your shoulders are slumped, it is a physical example of depression. The body is physically pulled downwards towards the ground. If that’s how you live your day-to-day life, it sends incredibly negative messages to your brain. Alexander explains that this is an example of ‘postural feedback’.
So what should you do?
Alexander advises that you visualize how you want your body to feel. And pay attention to how your body is currently feeling. Pay attention to the stiffness and discomfort present within muscles and focus on how you want them to feel instead. Once you have defined how you want your body to feel, you’ll be able to reverse the negative pattern and, ultimately, get closer to your goal.
Listen to a crackling fire to reduce anxiety
No, you didn’t misread that, you should listen to the sounds of a crackling fire. Most of us will automatically feel a sense of calm wash over us when we hear the sound of a crackling fire. We naturally associate the noise with feelings of warmth and, evolutionarily speaking, safety.
Historically, being near a warm, crackling fire has been an indicator to the autonomic nervous system that you’re safe because it keeps potentially dangerous predators away.
A 2014 study of 226 participants found that the sound of a crackling fire could even go as far as to induce relaxation and lower blood pressure. And you don’t have to rush out and find a fireplace to buy.
Alexander says that virtual fires work just as well. Even using YouTube or your TV in place of real fire can do the trick. The study in 2014 made use of virtual fires and clearly, the results were just as positive.
Make sure you look up
This too might sound bizarre, but rest assured, it’s a real thing. Much like a slumped posture can affect the mood, constantly looking down can have the same effect. If you think about it, the ocular system is just an extension of the central nervous system.
Looking down all the time can result in tunnel vision, which causes adrenaline levels to spike and the pupils to dilate. This, of course, is designed to allow for more light into the eye, so you can assess the threat. On the other hand, looking down can also trigger a feeling of overwhelming sleepiness.
But looking up is the exact opposite. It’s essentially a supercharger for the senses. Looking up and widening your focus kick starts the body. This triggers the brain and body to wake up and is known to be hugely beneficial for increasing creativity. So, looking up and looking around could also really help if you’re struggling with a slump in creativity.
Want to know more?
One person who’s dealt with their own anxieties is pop powerhouse Pink. In fact, she used to experience debilitating panic attacks. As a result, Pink is now using her voice to raise awareness about panic disorders.