The world events of the last few years have been enough for a full lifetime.
Managing anxiety and stress is a battle for many, myself included. When it feels like the world is on fire, it's hard not to get panicked.
So I thought I'd try to help, by listing the things I've learned to do over the years to manage my stress and anxiety. They're small things, nothing crazy. But when everything gets stressful they're what I turn to to keep myself sane.
I'm no expert, of course - managing my stress and anxiety continues to be a life-long journey. But hopefully, at least one of these can help you too.
(Oh, and none of these are affiliate links btw – this is intended to be helpful rather than for profit)
After hearing a wonderful talk by Dr David Hamilton, I now try to maintain a regular gratitude practice. Every night before bed, I list 5-10 things that I'm grateful for - this has improved my sleep immensely!
I'm not advocating being an out of touch hermit. But we are not physically or mentally designed to take the weight of the world on our shoulders. Watching news can negatively impact our mental and physical health. I find reading news to be a much less stressful, but still an informative way of consuming information. In particular, I like to read my news on my phone, where the images are often much smaller and much less hard-hitting than on a full screen or broadsheet newspaper. I also only read the news a couple of times a week. Stressing ourselves out in an effort to be informed, benefits no one.
Give an unexpected gift, give to charity, give a genuine compliment, make someone smile, help the local community, pick up litter, plant a tree… Of course, these are only small things, but I think kindness has a ripple effect.
This might sound obvious, but when I'm stressed, I often forget the simple yet powerful benefit of a bit of nature. I haven't yet managed a wild swim (though it's on my goals list), but I do like a bit of barefoot walking. Or even just getting out with the dog in some trees. Nature has a supremely grounding effect on me.
It's so easy to 'doom scroll' rather than putting the phone away and taking time out. So I use the Freedom app, not only when I'm trying to concentrate on work but when I'm trying to switch off and relax.
One of the best gifts I've ever been given, in terms of my enjoyment of them, has been my noise-cancelling headphones. The right piece of music can genuinely turn my day around. I regularly use brain.fm a lot. It has fantastic tracks for both concentrating on work and chilling out.
I LOVE Mrs Hinch's idea of making a list of 'Ta-Daa's' rather than a list of to-dos. I regularly finish my workday by creating a list of what I've accomplished rather than what's still left to do. And that list isn't just work-stuff; it could be as simple as – I put my feet up and read a book for five minutes… My self-care tasks go on my ta-daa list too.
Getting enough sleep is not something I'm good at AT ALL. I love being awake and doing things; to me, sleep seems like the ultimate exercise in boredom.
But since reading the book Why We Sleep, I've tried to prioritise sleep more. I use Dr Jeffrey Thompson's Delta sleep system music to help me sleep, also Neals Yard Night-Time roller. My absolute favourite thing for sleep is my Lumie light. The sunset feature is excellent for winding down to sleep, and the wake-up feature is perfect for dark and cold mornings.
Crochet has been an excellent mindfulness practice for me. I'm not one for sitting still very often, and I have never really got on very well with meditation. But slowly and surely looping and hooking to create something? That's the kind of meditative practice I can get on board with. I taught myself crochet on this YouTube channel. Maybe there's a craft you could do that might be meditative for you too?
I loved reading as a kid but totally and utterly ruined my love of it by taking literature as a final year subject at school. It went from enjoyable to being a chore. However, I've recently rediscovered my love of reading by seeking out books for complete escapism in the last few years. I LOVED Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Magic, adventure, great characters, beautifully written – perfect!
Hopefully, something on this list will help you in your journey. We are truly living in unprecedented times.