Author of Generation Panic, Agi Heale, shares her top tips for managing the feelings of anxiety that creep up on all of us from time to time...
Hooray! It’s nearly ‘freedom day’ when we will all be, well, free supposedly. We can do what we want, chuck our masks in the bin and just act like nothing ever happened, right?
But if you find yourself clinging onto the effects of the last 18 months as tightly as you’re now gripping the mask you once hated wearing then we get it, we really do. Much as we want to move past the car crash that was 2020 (and much of 2021 so far), we can’t (and shouldn’t) expect to be able to just throw it all away like nothing ever happened. Even for those people who ‘actually quite enjoyed’ lockdown (eye roll), there are likely to be longer lasting effects on our mental health, well-being and resilience than we’d like.
Being pragmatic types here at Discoco, we’re not here to dwell on the fact that the proportion of individuals showing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic and that, on average, women reported higher levels of anxiety and loneliness during this time than men. But it’s worth a reminder isn’t it? Because this stuff doesn’t just go away and if we forget how to deal with those feelings of rising panic when ‘real life’ resumes, we are missing an opportunity to salvage a bit of useful self-development from all that we’ve been through.
When we heard about Agi Heale’s new book, Generation Panic, the title alone struck more than a few chords with us. So, we were thrilled when she agreed to share her top ‘go-to’ tips for managing anxiety with us. We hope you find them as useful as we do. Sign up to our newsletter if you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy of Agi’s book (more details about this in Sunday’s edition).
Agi’s top 5 tips for managing anxiety:
1. Energy Flick
For me, when I start to feel anxious, it is as though a current of electricity runs through my body and I almost feel “whizzy”. My shoulders tighten, everything clenches up and it can feel all-consuming. In that very moment, I need to “get rid” of that nervous energy. So give this a try… stand up tall and flick out your hands to your side. As you do so, imagine that the nervous energy is flicking out of your fingertips and dripping away from you. Next, run your hands down your arms, creating friction, to get rid of the energy through your fingertips. Finally, jiggle your whole body – shaking the anxiety out of your system. Then, move on to the next tip of breathing…
We forget that our breath is (unsurprisingly!!) with us at any given moment. We can get so caught up in a moment that we forget to breathe or we breathe very high up in our chest, all tight and sprung up. There is tons of research around deep belly breathing and it’s benefits. So, in a stressful and anxious moment, remember to take a few deep, proper breaths. Start by breathing in for a count of 3, holding for 3 and then breathing out for 3. If you are dealing with a challenging situation or you suddenly feel stressed, this is a perfect time to take a few deep breaths. Breathe, calm yourself, reset and then go back in again to try and deal with the situation when you are more composed and calmer. As you get better at breathing, try to increase the 3-3-3 to 4-4-4, right the way up to 7-7-7 (7 in, 7 hold, 7 out). Breathing is the most powerful tool to get your heart rate to slow and to calm your body down. You just need to remember to do it, so pop a sticky note up somewhere you will see it.
3. Take Each Moment as It Comes
I find I can get really overwhelmed by the overall to do list – there are appointments I need to remember weeks from now, dinners in the diary and work pitches to be completed. It can spiral quite quickly into panic and make it impossible to complete very simple tasks. The obsession with the future and worrying about all that is upcoming can completely ruin the moment. Try and bring it back to this moment. How can you make just the next 5 minutes happier? Question: what would happen if I just enjoyed this right now (yes even if it feels pretty horrendous)? Or perhaps ask yourself, what do I need to get through the next hour? By bringing it back to these simple questions, and into this very moment, you can stop the overwhelm and make it a little happier.
It is critical that you take care of yourself on a daily level. Simple things, like trying to get enough sleep, and consuming things that work for your body not against it, can have a profound impact on your anxiety. If you have had a poor night sleep reaching for caffeine and sugary things to get through the day, will often only backfire later. Think about putting yourself first. Imagine you have a little genie on your shoulder who is looking out for you. They will tell you the best daily habits and routine that will genuinely make you feel good from the inside out. At the moment, many people are finding that the lines between work and home life are blurred. When your desk is 2 metres away from your dinner table and then another 3 metres from your bed, it is hard to have clear boundaries or a routine that is easy to keep. By defining things like screen time, hours that you work in the day or when you eat dinner as a family will make a huge difference. All of these ideas might not seem like much, but everything truly does add up, so changing that coffee to a decaf and stepping away from your emails after 7pm can have a huge effect. Remember the plane instructions that in an emergency, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others? This is no different in real life. Prioritise yourself and find a routine that works for you so that you are in the best position to help others.
5. Support Network
The biggest thing I have learnt from writing Generation Panic is that everyone experiences anxiety on some level. Yes, to repeat, every single person you come across (regardless of how well put together they are) will be fighting or has fought some battle that you might well not see. So… start with opening up and leaning on your support network. Do not feel alone, as I guarantee that others close to you will be able to relate in some way. So right now, I want you to message one person, so that you know that you have people you can rely on and are not alone.
You can tackle your anxiety by trying out these five easy and simple tips, so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming and debilitating. Good luck, you’ve got this!
If you want to find out more about Generation Panic, which is jam-packed with over 100 tools and techniques just like these to combat anxiety, check out www.generationpanic.com – it is available for order on Amazon, Book Depository, Kindle, Audible etc. Likewise, it would be great to hear from you and find out what you do that helps when you are feeling anxious, so do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
Do connect with Agi on social media:
IG – @agiheale / @generation panic