Ten ways to unwind
Anxiety disorders affect approximately 6 million people in the UK1. We uncover the best techniques to unwind and relax, including aromatherapy, mindfulness and a great night's sleep.
1. Practice aromatherapy for deep relaxation
Aromatic medicine was founded in ancient civilisation. The Egyptians infamously embalmed their royalty with frankincense and myrrh, and the first physician, Hippocrates, developed physiotherapy and fragrance infusions in ancient Greece2. Healing techniques using botanical and essential oils have evolved over thousands of years. Perfumery is now associated with luxury, relaxation and wellbeing.
Lavender oil is said to reduce nervous tension, anxiety and stress, and induce sleep when dabbed on a pillow at night3. Research has shown that lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system and stabilise mood. When comparing massages with and without lavender oil, those who were pampered with the oil felt less anxious and more positive4.
2. Observe mindfulness to achieve wellbeing
Mindfulness saturates the brain with sensations from your immediate surroundings, freeing you from future worries and banishing past concerns. Improving mental wellbeing can be as simple as slowing down to take in the world; noticing smells,
sounds, tastes and textures will bring you into the present, and provide a heightened experience of life in every waking moment.
Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years. First recorded in Hinduism in 1500BC, it focused on contemplativeness as a discipline, designed to unite the individual with their surroundings, and the core of existence5. Mindfulness can be formal - setting time aside for yoga meditation and tai-chi - or casual, as you observe your thoughts and movements.
3. Sleep well for long-term health
Lack of sleep can be related to mental distress and anxiety, leaving the sufferer angry, stressed, and exhausted. Studies have shown that those who have less than four hours sleep a night feel less optimistic and are less inclined to
If you are struggling with insomnia, find it hard to sleep or keep waking up throughout the night, the National Sleep Foundation recommends meditation, routine and ensuring you have a peaceful sleeping space7. So, dim the lights, switch off electronic devices and practice this breathing exercise to doze into a peaceful and undisturbed sleep.
4. Define a suitable workspace for creative clarity
While some of us may associate an untidy desk space with unending to-do inventories, stress and chaos, there is evidence to show being in a disorderly environment prompts a release from conventionality8. "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?" Einstein once said, and experts now think that clutter can prompt problem-solving brain activity and efficiency9. Ultimately, it's what makes you feel comfortable. If mess prompts anxiety or panic, invest in desk tidies, drawers and filing systems. But if worrying about tidiness piles on the pressure, just let it all hang out.
5. Visualise calmness for a positive outlook
If you feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, take a moment to close your eyes and think of a calm place. A calm thought can be anything that makes you feel happy - a walk in the woods, a giant tub of chocolate ice cream, a fond memory, or thinking of a special person. The pleasurable images will soothe your mind and body, inducing a relaxed state.
6. Indulge in treats for happiness
When life is tough, complex and challenging, it can be difficult to keep anxieties and worries at bay. So, tackle one problem at a time and give yourself an appropriately gentle, relaxing and healthy reward. For example, if you're anxious about flying, take your favourite book to read on the plane and read it one chapter at a time. Or, if you're dreading a meeting at work, plan a nutritious meal for straight afterwards and fill your body with feel-good foods such as salmon, beans, lentils, walnuts and pomegranate.
7. Get moving for good feelings
It's well known that a good amount of exercise can reduce illness, but it can also reduce the risk of depression by up to 30%10. Raising your heart rate and breaking a sweat is easily achieved, so it's a case of finding what exercise will make you feel upbeat. Grab a hula-hoop, head down to the local pool or go for a long walk along a coastal path - raising your heart rate for 150 minutes a week (or, just over 20 minutes a day) will fend off the blue moods.
8. Eat well to stay easy-going
There are a number of over the counter medicines to help combat the stresses and strains of everyday life problems, such as heightened production of adrenaline and quickened breathing. Instead of reaching for the solutions in a bottle, similarly small dietary improvements can influence and boost moods. According to research, a lack of selenium in the diet can cause depression, irritability and anxiety11 - Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of this mineral, and nibbling on just three nuts per day can give you the recommended daily amount, and a positive outlook.
9. Talk it out and find a new perspective
Anxiety can stem from feelings of fear and dread that can build up in your mind. One way to combat fearful feelings is to share your anxieties with people you know such as a partner or close friend. If the anxiety itself is related to speaking, reach out to your GP for assistance.
10. Be fair to yourself and move forward
Striving to lead a 'perfect life', feeling fearful about the future, having a crisis of confidence and managing a bad day can leave even the most optimistic person feeling tired, worried and underwhelmed. We're only human, and we all make mistakes - employing some inner kindness when things don't go your way will help to side-step anxiety. If you're having a bad day, take a moment to breathe, brush off the bad vibes and think about the bigger picture.