Dr Radha Modgil's five top tips for easing stress and anxiety
Take a moment for yourself with these five quick and easy steps
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week falls at a particularly difficult time for many of us. We are living through a global health crisis, with many of us living separately from families, partners, or friends.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common, and being stressed, anxious or overwhelmed are also perfectly normal things to be feeling. But for times when you’re feeling particularly low, there are practical ways of helping ease these negative emotions.
We teamed up with NHS GP and broadcaster Dr Radha Modgil, who has given us her five top practical coping strategies for when you need them the most.
Take a deep breath
"One really useful technique for relaxation is to practice some deep breathing exercises. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold for three seconds. Now take a deep breath out for three seconds – notice when you’re doing that that the hand on your belly is moving up and down. Normally, we don’t breathe deeply, we shallow breathe, so we only feel the hand on the chest doing up and down. Belly breathing can be helpful because it signals to the brain that all is well and can really help us bring a sense of calm in those moments of anxiety or stress."
Go somewhere familiar - in your head
"Visualisation is a fantastic way of putting your imagination to good use. I want you to close your eyes and imagine you’re going to your happiest place – the place you’ve been in the past where you’ve found peace and relaxation. It might be a beach, it might be a forest, it might be your best friend’s house. Imagine in your mind’s eye what you are seeing. Are you seeing the waves, the sand? Can you hear seagulls or waves crashing? What can you smell; can you smell the saltwater? What can you feel beneath you; can you feel grains of sand? If you use all your senses you can really help reset your emotional state. Your brain associates those sounds and what you’re seeing and feeling with that previous emotional state when you were relaxed. It will help you calm down in those moments where it’s needed."
"This is a very useful technique for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. It will bring you back to the present moment. There are a couple of ways of doing it: feel your feet on the ground. Be aware of the space on the soles of your feet making contact, and be extra aware of it. Or, hold a wall or a surface. Certain smells – your morning coffee, an essential oil or perfume, anything that will help to bring you back to the present moment."
Make a list of the positives
"Often, we think we’re being grateful when we’re happy but it’s actually the other way around. Gratitude is a really helpful tool for cultivating a good feeling within ourselves. A great practice to get into every night before bed is writing down three things you’re grateful for from your day. They don’t have to be big. In fact, the smaller the better because it shows how much you can appreciate the simple things. It might be that you had food to eat, that the sun was shining, or that you managed to finish a project. Try it for a few days and see if it makes a difference in trying to boost your mood if you’re having a tough day."
Focus on where you're holding tension
"We often forget that our minds and bodies are really closely connected. But when we feel stressed, we often hold it in a particular tension pattern or posture. A really good thing to do when that happens is a technique called progressive muscular relaxation. You want to lie down somewhere quiet and comfortable for between ten and twenty minutes. Scan your body from your toes all the way up your body. As you go, clench and unclench your muscles for 10-15 seconds, slowly going through each muscle group. After 10 to 20 minutes you will feel the tension dropping out of your body."
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