Exercise Referral Instructor, Fran Andralojc, shares her top tips for managing stress and anxiety.

We understand that this is a time when stress and anxiety levels are likely to be at a peak. As someone who’s had their fair share of anxieties over the years, and dealing with current stress due to the situation we are all in, there are a few things I’ve found really helpful when dealing with these feelings, so below I share with you my ‘7 ways to combat stress & anxiety’.

 1. Schedule some worry time

By scheduling out a block of time during the day to focus on your stress and anxiety, it gives you time to focus on these, acknowledge, accept and work through them, without it impacting on the rest of your day. It’s a lot easier said than done but over time it can get easier and have a positive impact on your day.

Top tip: try to spend the last 5-10 minutes of your worry time thinking about or doing something positive. For example, you could schedule half an hour for the following:

  • 10 minutes understanding the cause of your feelings
  • 10 minutes going through it step by step
  • 10 minutes of a relaxation exercise or naming 10 things you’re grateful for

2. Understand the cause

Stress and anxiety can have many causes. I find understanding where the feelings are coming from is the first step to managing them. By understanding the feelings, it’s harder to ignore them, which means we have to acknowledge them and accept them. This can be difficult but it means we are taking that step forward and not ruminating on them. One thing I find really useful is writing things down such as:

  • What your stress and anxiety is about when you notice it
  • Identifying and writing down what’s triggered it
  • Recognising any feelings or sensations that come with it

3. Go through it step by step

One thing a lot of people do (and I am guilty of this too) is feel stressed or anxious about something, replay a certain scenario over and over again which causes you to continue with the negative feelings. The points below may help you to acknowledge and accept what’s causing these feelings for you – try asking yourself:

  • What is it that you’re feeling stressed, worried or anxious about?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How likely is that?
  • How would you cope?

By taking your worry through the ‘whole journey’ it can help us to see that there is always a way to cope and it encourages us to think about that rather than ruminating on the ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ element of it.

4. Practice calming exercises

Once you’ve identified what’s causing your stress and anxiety and been through the above steps, you might find it helpful to do something that will help calm your mind and make you feel more relaxed. Here are a few suggestions of how you could do this:

  • Sit in a quiet, comfortable spot and practice some slow, counted breaths
  • Practice any form of meditation, guided or self-led to help you to feel more relaxed
  • Take a moment to be mindful, being aware of what you can see, hear and smell
  • Play some soothing sounds and close your eyes, e.g. wave sounds, or rain

Have a look at our hub for a relaxation and breathing video from Charlotte and meditation from Kiran for some guided relaxation practices.

5. Do some gentle exercise

Exercise that keeps your heart at a lower steady state but still gets your blood pumping is a better way to reduce stress than doing a really intense workout. Gentle exercise such as going for a walk, doing some low intensity cardio or doing some stretching will help you relax.

Although you may feel like doing a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout or going for a hard and fast run to reduce your stress, the high intensity of this can actually cause more stress, meaning you are only increasing stress levels rather than decreasing them.

6. Stick to a routine

When experiencing heightened stress and anxiety levels, the last thing you may feel like doing is getting up and doing something productive. However, keeping a routine going can really help to give you a sense of achievement and take your mind off your anxious thoughts and feelings.

7. Practice positive thinking

Our minds can be fickle and negative thoughts can stick to us like Velcro, whereas positive thoughts seem to slip away like someone on a water slide. Practice makes perfect here and by focusing more on positive thoughts and feelings, they can start to stick more easily. You could try spending some time each day to name some of the following:

  • 3 positive things that have happened that day
  • 5 things you’re grateful for that day
  • Thinking of past experiences that have made you feel happy and remembering and sitting with those feelings for a few minutes
  • Listing everything you’re looking forward to doing in the future
  • Listing 3 reasons you’re proud of yourself or things you value about yourself
  • Asking friends or family members to write down 3 positive things about you and things they’re looking forward to and are grateful for. Have a read of these when you feel negative thoughts creeping in