Learning to cope with stress and anxiety

November 3rd, 2022 Posted In: Therapies, Wellbeing

Jane from Country Practice shares advice on learning to cope with forms of stress and how you can help yourself.

You are not alone

Studies have shown that at one time or another, third of us suffer some form of stress or anxiety.  I have heard it said that some form of mild stress/anxiety helps get things done and keeps us on our toes – but I beg to differ. All stress and anxiety is physically and emotionally exhausting and when the body and our feelings are attacked by stress, we do not function well.

You are not alone feeling anxious or being stressed.  That does not diminish you.  By accepting this, you create the thought process that if you are not alone, help in one form or another is available and to seek it.

Learning the triggers and reaching out

Types of stress and anxiety branch out, literally like the branches of a tree, taking into consideration no end of factors. This blog is not meant to be a research piece, merely a glance at some of the triggers and outcomes.

The main thing to remember is that if you feel you are suffering with stress or anxiety, please get help.

We have this inbuilt default that if we are less than perfect, we are failures.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your ‘fight or flight’ reflex is also inbuilt – primal even.  Think of this as a warning that things are not quite how they should be and recognise the signals. You will be better equipped to either seek help in the early stages of your symptoms from a health professional, or use techniques and strategies for yourself to avoid full blown attacks.

Nobody’s experience is the same

How we experience symptoms is different from person to person.  The thing everyone has in common though is that it can range from worrying to terrifying, depending upon the severity of the attack.

Some general feelings indicating onset of stress/anxiety are:

  • Nervous
  • Full of panic
  • On edge, scared or shaky
  • Feelings of lack of control
  • Feeling that you might faint/pass out
  • Weak
  • Breathless
  • Chest constricted as if you can’t breathe
  • Hyperaware
  • General fatigue
  • Detached
  • Cold or hot
  • ‘Empty’

You might suffer from:

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Pumping heart
  • Palpitations
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia
  • Hyperventilation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Overactive imagination regarding ‘what if’s’
  • Dry mouth
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Loss of memory or slow recall
  • Fidgety
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Obsessions and compulsions

Accepting that you suffer with stress/anxiety is the first step towards self-help

Acceptance is the front runner of every coping strategy.  Accept that it’s alright to feel the way that you do, that some strategies will work for you and others will not, that your strategies may not work every time.  Most of all accept that stress and anxiety are part of who you are and that is alright too.  Stress and/or anxiety does not define you, it is part of you.

Talking to either someone you trust to listen, or a professional, is an important coping mechanism.  Getting out of your own head can help bring perspective.  Mind, the Samaritans and other help lines are open for anyone to call if they feel the need. The links will take you to these two charities that are there to help you, please use them.

Is diet important?

Yes, it really is.  The following are the general ‘rules’ for helping to avoid stress and anxiety relative to food intake:

  • Eat regularly throughout the day
  • Avoid refined high sugar foods and drinks and eat more wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables and pulses
  • Protein should be included in every meal
  • Choose a wide variety of food
  • Omega 3 fatty acids should be in your diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink water and if you feel you cannot do that because you don’t enjoy it, keep up your fluid intake (some fruit is good for this too)

Take time out for yourself

This could mean anything that you enjoy doing that gives you satisfaction or pleasure.  I enjoy cooking and gardening and have a broad interest in reading.  Winter is my worst time, so I find a project to occupy my thoughts when I’m not busy.

I had planned to learn to crochet this winter, but to be honest, I don’t think that at the moment I am in the right frame of mind to do so.  As my garden is such a joy to me, I’ve decided to take time to plan what I want to do based on the very hot summer we had this year and how it ruined the grass.  The RHS have so much information in books and on the internet that I have decided to put pencil to paper and plan to create a garden that gives year-round colour via plants, shrubs and flowers, getting rid of some areas of lawn.

That’s me, but what about you?

What would be a sustainable ‘something’ for you?

Avoiding stress/anxiety triggers

Not getting enough quality sleep can be a trigger.  Breathing exercises and using mindfulness to wind down in the evening can help this, as can hypnotherapy which we offer at Country Practice. Click here for more information.

Learn coping skills

Breathing in to the count of 7 and out to the count of 11 can help bring calm.  You can also try a mindfulness technique where you say in your head everything that you are doing in that moment.  For instance, now I am putting a tea bag into a cup, now the water has boiled and I am pouring it onto the tea bag…

Whatever you are doing, use the present and ‘I am’ to reduce things down to the moment and to yourself. ‘I am going to sleep now’ can help, but if poor sleep has been your pattern for a while, you will possibly need a little help, and for this I return to hypnotherapy, breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques.

Because you are feeling anxious or stressed, with thoughts whirring and scattering in so many directions, you can feel physically ill or as if you are going crazy.  This doesn’t make those feelings factual.  A trick here is to be still, look around and find factual things around you and count them off on your fingers.  For example, picture, chair, cushion, yellow scarf…keep going with factual things in your vicinity until you have calmed down.

Imagination is powerful

Your imagination is a powerful force, but it is not necessarily factual.  So, once again seek help, talk, don’t feel as if nobody wants to hear or help you, because there is an army of people who do.  Sadly, you may have to pay for this help as the NHS has become ill-equipped to offer many counselling/therapy services, but are you not worth spending money on yourself?

Many services consider your family/income/responsibilities, so please don’t be embarrassed to speak out and ask the question – “if I cannot afford full price, can you advise me of any concessionary fees available”.

Be patient whilst you heal

Lastly (for now), give yourself time to repair.  Be patient with yourself because it takes time to become anxious/stressed and it will take time to return to a place where you feel physically and emotionally how you want to.

Younger people are more clued up about getting help, older people may feel embarrassed that they need to seek help at their age.  Stress and anxiety build up over time, there is no age or intelligence barrier. They creep in, catching us unaware.  They are poisonous, destructive and learning how to cope can lead to feeling in control, balanced and happy.

Please do call the team at Country Practice on 01795 533666 if you are interested in hypnotherapy or any of the other treatments we offer, more details here.   They too can help as you work towards gaining control.

That is all for now dear reader, until next time.

Organisations that can help

  • Every Mind Matters Support – NHS
  • British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • Anxietycare.org.uk
  • Nomorepanic.co.uk
  • Mind
  • Samaritans
  • Triumph Over Phobia