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Laura Shipp, associate well-being coach

With lockdown 3.0 still dominating our lives and the continued onslaught of negative news stories, our new associate well-being coach, Laura Shipp, felt it timely for her first-ever CheekyLittleCareers blog post to focus on essential tips for easing anxiety. 

In a nutshell, anxiety is a feeling of unease or apprehension about something that hasn’t happened and often never will. Common physical signs of anxiety include a raised heart rate, increased sweatiness or loss of appetite.

But did you know anxiety can also lower our immunity? There is a long and complex explanation for this, but essentially if we worry for prolonged periods of time our body never gets the signal needed for it to return to normal functioning. This in turn can weaken our immune system. Therefore, it’s essential for us to equip ourselves with a variety of tools and techniques that can help us better relieve anxiety.

I’ve set out my top three below:

Blowing away your worries

Imagine a balloon – it can be any size or colour. Take a nice deep breath from your diaphragm and start to blow that balloon up. Blow into the balloon any worries or concerns you’re currently experiencing. Keep blowing until all those negative thoughts are in the balloon. When the balloon is full then either let go of it or imagine sticking a needle in it. Then just notice as it floats away or makes a large bang as it takes those worries with it. Add comedic sounds effects as it whizzes out of your life.

This technique works on several levels, including getting us to breathe more deeply. This is beneficial because with anxiety our breathing is often more shallow, exasperating feelings by arousing our sympathetic nervous system (the part of our autonomic nervous system that gets us ready to respond).

The balloon exercise is also great for visualisation – imagine the incredible feeling as you watch your troubles float away during a cold winter’s day. Give it a go!

Flower power

Dr Edward Bach pioneered flower essences in the 1930’s by creating vibrational imprints of 38 different blooms that support temporary feelings and emotions. Flowers are boiled in spring water and exposed to the sun. The water is then filtered with a small amount of brandy added as a preservative. The vibrational (energy) of the flower remains in the essence. Luckily, we don’t need to go through this process ourselves to reap the benefits. All 38 remedies can be bought online.

Two of my favourite ones are aspen and red chestnut. The former supports us in trusting the unknown, whilst the latter leaves us feeling more positive and enables us to let go. Cherry plum, mimulus, and rock rose are also beneficial in easing anxiety. Experiment with them to find the right unique blend. Otherwise, shop bought rescue remedy is an easy choice with five essences already blended to support with feelings of overwhelm. Just put a couple of drops under your tongue when needed up to four times a day.

Bergamot essential oil is used to promote confidence and calm whilst relieving stress and tension. Put it in a diffuser and let it permeate throughout your home. You could even go further and treat yourself to a home spa experience by relaxing in an Epsom salt bath before bedtime. Epsom salt baths relax and often silence a busy mind due to its rich magnesium content, a mineral known for its relaxing properties. A little nibble of dark chocolate in the bath adds even more magnesium.

Nourish your mind

Most of us now fully appreciate junk and processed foods, as well stimulants, are no good for our mental well-being. So, I won’t preach to the converted. I hear a sigh of relief. However, living through a third lockdown has resulted in many of us getting tired and bored of trying to conjure up three nutritious meals a day. It may even spark anxiety trying to think of creative recipe ideas. I’m certainly conscious I still have a glut of turkey curry in my freezer.

The good news is some carbohydrates are once again our friends – good quality wholegrains and red skin potatoes mind you. Good fats (salmon, seeds, and avocados to name a few) can also be beneficial. I eat red meat, but no more than twice a week – always organic and preferably from a local butcher. This ensures we’re obtaining an adequate supply of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and omegas to positively support our mood. Ideally, we should aim to eat all colours of the rainbow to ensure we’re getting our vitamin C fix.

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins I suggest people take in supplement form, particularly during the dark winter months. It can also be found in oily fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms.

I could talk about amino acids and the role they play in the production of serotonin (the happy hormone), but I don’t want to get too geeky. Instead, I’ll finish with some ideas on how to boost serotonin: go running or walking, do some gardening, meditate, or get on  bike.

Sometimes even just smiling, even when we don’t feel like it, gives us the boost we need.