Mental health issues have become more prevalent in our recent times, and yet there is still a stigma surrounding the validity of mental health issues as well as its prevalence. “Maybe you’re just stressed”, or “it’s just all in your own head”, are some of the sentences that have been carelessly thrown about when we hear about our peers suffering. We live in a society swollen with data, yet starved for wisdom. “We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct” ; to the reality that despite our personal struggles, we are not beyond repair.
These are some general tips on how you could manage anxiety:
(Disclaimer: It may not work for every situation, but these are some suggestions that can be considered to keep your worries in check.)
One of the pieces of advice given by Youtuber Thomas Sanders is to take a moment to step back and breathe. Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Then breathe out for 8 seconds. This tip may sound silly, but breathing in and out steadily helps your body to physically calm down and you’ll feel more relaxed.
Sanders interacts with four aspects of personality – logic, anxiety, morality, and creativity on his YouTube series. In one of his episodes, he addressed how anxiety affects him – but he further explains how anxiety has also helped him in some ways. This two-part series was enlightening as it was done in a way that was light-hearted, and yet serious about the reality of living with anxiety.
- Listen to music.
Where words fail, music speaks. It was confirmed in a study in 2011 that music releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your brain. It also found that dopamine was up to 9% higher when volunteers listened to music that they enjoyed. It may be obvious to us, but it is strong evidence for the link between music and wellbeing .
Create your own playlist based on your personal preferences: whether it be instrumentals or songs of empowerment. Spotify is great for this, as it recommends music based on the songs your playlist includes.
A piece of music close to my heart it Sparrows by Jason Gray. The artist behind this song revealed how he had written it after reading how over half of the world’s population suffers from chronic anxiety. He wrote this song specifically for those of us who are caught in that cycle, reminding us how worrying does not give us extra time – it will close us in if we allow it to.
- Allow yourself to be creative.
Edvard Munch had admitted that it was through his art, that he was able to channel his nervous energy and deep feelings of anxiety into. Anxiety forms as part of creativity: the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within. Hobbies such as playing sports, writing, drawing, painting – these are examples of activities you can channel your focus and energy into. This does not necessarily add progress to the current work on your plate, but this can help to draw you out from the midst of your panic. Another option would be keeping a diary or bullet journaling , for by recording down what you feel, it may be easier to distinguish what the potential triggers of your anxiety are as well as being able to keep track of your personal progress of your mental health.
- Talk about it.
It can take a lot out of us to share about what we really feel, but talking to someone you trust about what’s making you anxious can be a relief. The fact that someone is listening and showing that they care about you can in itself be helpful. Consider going out for a meal with a friend – you may not feel like socializing, but going out in small groups can help as it allows for a momentary change in your environment as well as an opportunity to be around a company of people that you love. Often times we may feel vulnerable in speaking up. But remember this: you are not weak for allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
If talking to a friend may not sound like the most comfortable idea to you, organisations such as Befrienders do provide emotional support. Befrienders is an established worldwide organisation that provides hotlines open 24/7 and who remain confidential about the information or distress you’re sharing. If you’re concerned about the idea of calling or its reliability, this recent article on The Vulcan Post is a good read on the step-by-step process of what happens when you call the hotline (https://vulcanpost.com/599984/called-befrienders-malaysia-what-happened/)
- The power of mindset.
“Easy to say, but hard to do”. Firstly we need to understand and accept that we are not in control over everything. When your mind is racing, and the white noise is getting louder – in the midst of it: close your eyes and take a deep breath. Put your stress into perspective. Are you overthinking things; are you really in a situation that is not salvageable? AnxietyBC suggested creating a MAP (“My Anxiety Plan”) . Some of the categories of MAP includes jotting down the physical effects of anxiety, as well as ways to combat it.
The next point is that you always give it your best shot – it’s not about the grade or the result, but rather whether you learned from what you did and that you put in an effort. The effort, again, on some days may not necessarily always be 100%. We should not beat ourselves up for it. There are days we can only run on 50% but that is okay. Just because we may not achieve what we anticipated for, this one feat does not necessarily hinder us from succeeding for the rest of our lives moving forward.
6. Take a time-out; pray or meditate.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength”. In a way, praying or meditation is an extension of talking to someone or actualizing a positive mindset out loud. No, there’s no magic over the words we use or the verses we pray with – but there is power in proclaiming over your doubts. Soaking them in, saying them out loud, may help to replace the other thoughts that are cluttered in our minds – which stands as the first step of defense against any fear or worry you may have.
7. Reward yourself.
When it comes to mental health or life in general, we should understand that every little step is an achievement. Whether you’ve made a call that you’ve been dreading, or if you’ve completed a third of your pending coursework, reinforce your success by treating yourself to a massage, a walk, a meal, a book, a movie, or any little gift that makes you happy.
As Christopher Robin from “Winnie The Pooh” said: ‘Promise me you’ll always remember – you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’
 Rachael Dove, “Anxiety: the epidemic sweeping through Generation Y”, 20 April 2015, The Telegraph, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/anxiety-the-epidemic-sweeping-through-generation-y/>
 Mind: for better mental health, “Anxiety and panic attacks” <https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/self-care-for-anxiety/#.WjE9Bnecb-Y>
 AnxietyBC, “Creating a MAP” <https://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/creating-a-map>