Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week for 2023, and this year, the theme is anxiety. We all suffer from it at some point, with varying degrees of severity – and learning how to manage anxiety is something I feel very passionate about.
I recently met the lovely Hannah from The Whole-Istic Coach. Hannah specialises in helping people to make friends with their anxiety from a whole person perspective – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. She is so knowledgeable and passionate about what she does, that I thought she would be the perfect person to write a guest blog on how to manage your anxiety and here it is!
Thanks so much Hannah, for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights on this hugely important subject.
1) Start with your body
Our body is our unique physical foundation and the importance of looking after your body cannot be overestimated when it comes to optimising your emotional health.
- Sleep – prioritise good sleep hygiene as much as you can. It will do wonders! Many people have never heard of sleep hygiene – there’s loads of info at www.thesleepcharity.org.uk
- Eat well – unstable blood sugars are linked to increased anxiety. Get a good portion of protein in your meals along with some good quality carbs and of course, lots of fruit and veg. Supplement with recommended vitamins too – low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased anxiety and depression.
- Movement – exercise is brilliant for our mood. Walking, yoga and even just stretching exercises are great.
- Minimise caffeine intake – caffeine has been linked with increased anxiety, and of course avoid it in the evening if it interferes with your sleep.
2) Learn to love proscrastination
As an anxiety coach, understanding that procrastination is often a direct result of feeling anxious has been a game changer for me! I have spent many years beating myself up, believing that I was lazy, because I was such a terrible procrastinator. But it turns out, rather than being indolent, I didn’t revise for my A-Levels much because I was anxious about the result. I put off paying a credit card bill because I was worried about how much it would be. I didn’t see the Dr about something that could’ve been serious in case it actually was
(thankfully it wasn’t).
You see, the purpose of anxiety is to keep us alive and safe, so if our mind & body detect a potential threat, it would prefer it if we just avoided it and procrastination is the ideal way of doing that for most everyday things that cause us anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t care that procrastinating usually results in bigger problems down the line, because it’s achieving it’s (misguided) goal by making you avoid something that is scary in the here and now.
So, next time you’re procrastinating over something, gift yourself some compassion, and have a feel into what you’re procrastinating about and why. Maybe you have a big piece of work to complete. Maybe you have a bit of imposter syndrome going on. Understand that your body is trying to help you. Then, have a word with that feeling and move forward. But if you need more than just a word with yourself, see below for some anxiety reducing practices!
3) Diaphragmatic breathing
Oh, how I love this wonderful tool we have called breath!! Most people have heard the phrase ‘take a deep breath’ when someone is feeling stressed or anxious. Take a deep breath in now. I guarantee most people reading this have just sucked loads of air in and their chest is full and big. But think of it like this – if someone jumped out from behind the door and shouted “BOO!” to you, what type of breath would you take? That big, deep chest breath is a scared/surprised/threatened breath. Not one that will reduce anxiety at all.
To activate the calming part of our nervous system, try this breathwork:
- Take a slow gentle breath in, so your belly expands rather than just your chest
- Pause for a moment
- Do a long, slow, gentle breathing out and extend that breath out as long as you comfortably can.
- Pause for a moment before repeating the cycle for a few minutes
Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel natural at first. Most of us are used to breathing high up in the chest because we are under stress for a lot of the time. Do this breathwork when you’re not feeling anxious so it is easier to do it when you are feeling anxious. First thing in the morning is a great way to start your day, and it’s a brilliant tool to use last thing at night if you struggle to get to sleep. Do this before you meet new clients. When you have a pitch to deliver, or have a seemingly overwhelming task to complete. The result? A sense of calm and groundedness.
Our subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t most of the time, which is why visualisation is such a great relaxation tool. Find a space where you feel safe enough to shut your eyes. Doing some slow, long, gentle breaths out can help you sink into this exercise.
See yourself in a place where you feel calm and immerse yourself in that scenario. What can you see, hear, feel, smell, even taste? You might want to stay still, or walk through your scene. You might have stressful/anxiety inducing things pop up while you’re doing this – you can just send them away in the visualisation (when I do this I always am by a river and I put the stressful thoughts on a passing boat and I watch them float off). Your visualisation might be around feeling cool, calm and collected in an area you feel anxious, or you can use this technique to inspire confidence or a way of experiencing how you feel when you have achieved something. Keep practising your visualisation as much as you can. It can take a bit of time to get used to taking yourself into it fully.
5) Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journaling is a great tool for refocusing our threat sensitive brains onto wonderful things that are happening in the world. It’s so simple. Every evening you write down 3 things you were grateful for that day. It’s a lovely activity to do with children too – my daughter and I often do our three favourite things of the day as part of our bedtime routine. It helps us to recognise positive things that have touched us that day, and writing it down means that if we go through a challenging period in the future where it feels everything is bleak, we have written proof that it is not always like that.
6) Harness your feminine energy for optimal time management and productivity.
Feminine energy? Sounds a bit woowoo… But hear me out. Culturally, success in business
has been driven in a very masculine way. It’s competitive, goal driven, measured by fast results – an outside-in approach. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that (and actually, all humans need a mix of masculine and feminine energy to function fully), as a female business owner, sometimes we have to learn to be successful and productive in a different way to the masculine way that we might assume is necessary.
Feminine energy, on the other hand, works more from an inside-out perspective. It is intuitive, creative and flowing in nature. We often need more space and time for our thoughts and ideas to form and take shape than with masculine energy. So if you think a task will take you 30 minutes, give yourself an hour to allow your feminine energy the time and space it needs to nurture whatever it is you are doing. If you end up with spare time, you can recharge with a cup of tea and start your next task early!
Being disconnected (either consciously or subconsciously) from our natural set point is in itself stressful. But so is constantly feeling like we need to be more productive. Or that we should do something in a way that doesn’t align with who we are. Embracing the energy that is right for you is a great way to reduce anxiety because everything will just feel like it’s working better. Of course, in different situations we need to work from our masculine self more than the feminine. That’s totally fine – it’s often necessary to have balance between
the two (and it isn’t gender specific either). Just don’t be afraid to embrace a feminine way of working. You are an utter goddess after all!
7) Dealing with overwhelm
Sometimes there is just so much to do..! And when that happens, anxiety can step in and actually make it harder to get it all done (cheers anxiety!) When this happens, break everything down into smaller chunks. Even your To Do list. Break each thing down into smaller components to trick your brain into seeing and feeling achievement every time you have completed something. This approach also works if you have a specific thing you’re anxious about. For example, if you’re nervous about public speaking, you might start by practising presenting alone, before presenting to ever increasing sized groups before you speak to a big crowd.
8) Be Wonder Woman
Whether or not you feel like Wonder Woman, stand like you are! Put your hands on your hips, feet hip width apart, head high and stand like Wonder Woman for 2 minutes. It is known to increase hormones responsible for confidence, and decreases the ones responsible for anxiety. You can boost the effect by reciting a confidence boosting mantra too!
These are just a few of my top tips for managing anxiety when you run a business. Remember, anxiety is trying to help you – but you have everything you need within you to overcome, and even use it to your advantage!
Loads of love,
Hannah, The Whole-Istic Coach
Thanks again so much to Hannah for these super-helpful tips on how to manage your anxiety. For more, be sure to follow her, and to make sure you don’t miss anything from Tabono, you can sign up to my newsletter here.