Research shows that there has been a huge increase in the number of people reporting that they have experienced stress and anxiety in the UK over recent years, and that’s without taking into account the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people’s mental health and stress levels at various times.
During any given week, around one in six of the population are estimated to be experiencing issues surrounding stress and anxiety.
The latter can cause both physical and mental symptoms, including feeling worried or restless, having issues with sleeping or finding it difficult to concentrate, as well as potentially feeling dizzy or having heart palpitations.
Whilst for some people, anxiety supplements could be a good option, it isn’t always the right route for everyone. Given that so many people experience stress and anxiety at some point, we’ve explored some of our favourite alternative relaxation remedies that might be useful.
Develop healthy sleep habits
Sleep is so important to every area of life and wellbeing, and it’s known that sleep problems can make stress levels increase which can be very challenging to deal with.
Someone saying “make sure you’re getting enough sleep” doesn’t exactly help if you’re struggling to get the required number of ‘Zzzzz’s’ because of anxiety, as it often feels like the more you try to sleep, the less you actually do, which feeds the negative cycle you find yourself in.
Taking the pressure off a bit by focusing on developing healthy sleep habits or routines rather than the number of hours of sleep that you’re getting can be helpful. This could include:
- Trying to go to bed at the same time every night
- Making your bedroom a relaxing space that is peaceful, free from light disruption and comfortable, including the temperature
- Having a set pre-bedtime routine, which could include something like taking a warm bath, or reading a book for half an hour and shouldn’t involve using devices like phones, tablets or laptops for at least 30 minutes before you try to sleep
Mediation might seem like a bit of a cliché, but research shows that practicing mindfulness can have a positive impact on anxiety and if you’re new to it, there are plenty of apps or exercises which can help you get started.
A really popular app is Headspace, with a limited free version or a paid one with additional features, available on both Android and Apple devices. There are also lots of YouTube videos on meditation and mindfulness, which you can use to help guide your first sessions.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Most people’s first thought when they’re feeling anxious isn’t to pick up a stick of celery, but research does show links between the nutrition that you’re putting into your body and anxiety. That doesn’t mean that everything you eat needs to be super-healthy but having a balanced diet that contains plenty of vegetables, fruit and other healthy choices can make a real difference for some people in how they feel.
Avoiding lots of sugary foods and drinks can also be important if you’re trying to combat stress, as research shows that high levels of sugar in the diet can be linked to anxiety and other emotional disorders.
Drinking lots of coffee or other high-caffeine drinks is also known to have a negative impact on some anxiety sufferers, although somewhere around 3-4 cups a day is considered moderate. If you do have a high caffeine intake normally and sometimes experience anxiety, it could be worth trying to cut down for a while to see if it helps.
Studies have shown that adults who regularly engage in physical activity experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and exercise is also known to help relieve stress.
While cardio workouts of 30 minutes are great, even small changes to a more active lifestyle can make a real difference to how we feel. A regular brisk walk and some fresh air can be good for the mind, body and soul, so even if you’re not a gym-goer, a runner or keen on workouts as such, there are still steps you can take (quite literally) that might have a positive impact on your stress levels.
Practicing breathing techniques
Anyone who has ever had a panic attack will know how scary and stressful it can be, when something that we usually take for granted and barely notice becomes a real concern.
Practicing breathing techniques at times when you’re not feeling stressed can help you to stay calmer in general and also give you a routine to follow that can help if you do start to struggle to catch your breath when feeling overly anxious.
Things to try can include:
- Making your exhale longer than usual. People who are feeling anxious often try to take deep breaths to draw in as much oxygen as possible, but this can actually make us feel worse and even cause hyperventilation. However, pushing all of the air out of your lungs slowly and then letting the inhale afterward come naturally, rather than forcing it, can be a more calming approach. Try this for between 2-5 minutes.
- You can then try equal breathing for a few minutes, where you inhale for a count of four, then exhale for the same amount of time.
Research shows that drinking enough water (around 6-8 glasses a day) can mean that you have a lower risk of anxiety than those people who don’t drink enough of it. For those who don’t like the taste of water, adding a slice of lemon or lime can help make it more palatable, or fruit teas can be a good option. Drinking squash/cordial could also be a good choice, especially if it has no added sugar.
Try CBD products
Studies and scientific research into cannabidiol (CBD) and wellbeing are in their early stages, but many users report that taking CBD regularly can have a positive impact on your mood and general wellbeing. One of CBD’s many potential benefits is to aid relaxation and support a healthy sleep/wake cycle, which can be a key part of managing your stress levels.
There are many different ways to take CBD, including CBD oil that can be added to food or drink, or taken in drops or a spray into the mouth. Other options include the handy and discreet CBD gummies, CBD edibles, a CBD bath bomb or applying it topically, such as with a CBD face cream or muscle rub.