combat anxiety
Health

Tips to help combat anxiety

Anxiety seems to be affecting more and more people these days, and with parents juggling more roles and tasks than most – it’s no wonder we are in the firing line. However there are some simple things you can do to help combat anxiety levels, and even maintain lower levels on a day-to-day basis.

Exercise

Exercise not only improves mood, it may help people maintain reduced anxiety in the face of stressful or emotional events. While many studies have shown a link between exercise and better mood, it was not known “whether these positive effects endure when we’re faced with everyday stressors once we leave the gym,” said study researcher J. Carson Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

In their study, participants engaged in either a 30-minute period of rest, or 30 minutes of cycling on two days. A survey designed to measure anxiety levels was given before and after the activity. Participants then viewed a series of pleasant pictures of babies, families and puppies; unpleasant images, such as depictions of violence; and neutral images including plates, cups and furniture. Afterward, their anxiety levels were measured a final time.

Participants’ surveys, completed shortly after their 30 minutes of exercise or quiet rest, showed that these conditions were equally effective at reducing anxiety levels. However, after viewing the images, the anxiety levels of those who had rested rose back to their initial levels, while those who had exercised maintained their reduced anxiety levels, the researchers said.

“We found that exercise helps to buffer the effects of emotional exposure. If you exercise, you’ll not only reduce your anxiety, but you’ll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events,” Smith said.

Control your thoughts

You control your thoughts not the other way around. Always remember it is you who can decide which thoughts to pursue and which to reject. Never feel a slave to your own thoughts, even if at times they seem powerful. But be patien, don’t expect a silent mind after the first few attempts. We have been thinking all our lives; to change a habit of a lifetime requires persistence and perseverance. Meditation, like any worthwhile activity requires dedicated and focused intensity.

Know what works for you

When you’re feeling stressed or low, you already know things that work for you. You know that if you can go for a walk on a beach, read a favourite poem, stroke a cat, bake a loaf of bread, you will be restored to emotional health.

So write these things down, keep them in a file, keep adding to them and you will have written your own self-help book.

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.