How to rewire an anxious brain – the 4 steps to relieve anxiety

Stacey Solomon admits she used to get anxiety over her weight

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About eight million Brits describe themselves as having anxiety. While mental health is being spoken about more and more in recent years and there are infinite resources to help with anxiety, depression and other conditions, it’s still difficult to overcome these difficulties. Anxiety plagues one in five women and one in eight men consistently and the rest of us get anxious every now and then. Express.co.uk chatted to mindfulness teacher and author, Christopher Dines to find out how to rewire an anxious brain.

Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to stress, such as a big test, a job interview, a hard day at work, or relationship problems.

We all get anxious from time to time, and anxiety is the body’s way of forcing you to stay alert, be vigilant and stay on task.

However, an anxiety disorder is different – it involves intense and excessive anxiety and symptoms that are totally debilitating and persistent.

Whether you are someone who is prone to anxiety every now and then or you have an anxiety disorder, you could say you have an ‘anxious brain’.

Luckily for you, you may be able to unlearn this response in your brain and live a relatively anxiety-free life.

Meditation

Meditation is one way of managing anxiety because it can help you to make sense of triggering situations and how anxiety works.

According to Headspace, Anxiety is a cognitive state connected to an inability to regulate emotions.

A consistent meditation practice can reprogram neural pathways in the brain and improve our ability to regulate emotions and therefore soothe anxiety.

Meditation forces us to see, sit with and let go of anxious thoughts while practising body awareness.

Christopher advised: “Practise mindfulness meditation every morning for at least twenty minutes (before using social media apps).”

Breathe

Most of us are shallow breathers, which means we inhale through the mouth, hold in the breath and take in less air.

Over time, this can keep our bodies in a stressed state and impact both our mental and physical health.

Not breathing deeply enough or being able to control your breath is a symptom of anxiety as well as a cause of anxiety.

Christopher said: “Regularly taking long deep breaths throughout the day will provide instant relief.”

You could also download an app like Headspace for guided breathing exercises.

Walk and talk

We all know that exercise is good for our mental and physical health, and you’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’

One way to significantly improve anxiety symptoms is to walk and talk at the same time.

Whether you ring up a friend and walk alone or meet up with someone you trust and go for a stroll, Christopher said “walking and talking things through with a friend or colleague will help to calm the mind and body.”

Be present

Being present isn’t as easy as it sounds and most of us tend to constantly worry about the past or the future.

When you’re feeling anxious, worrying about how to stop feeling anxious will make the problem worse.

Christopher recommends being “fully present and feeling your emotions” at times like this.

The mindfulness coach said: “Rather than attempting to suppress anxiety, this will gradually rewire your brain.”

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