The Wardley Wellbeing Hub is the central area for the ACTNow campaign.
Techniques and lifestyle choices that can aid relaxation
People who suffer from anxiety find it very difficult to relax. There are techniques that can be learned that will aid relaxation. Practising mindfulness is a good starting point in helping people to relax.
According to the NHS, studies have found that mindfulness programmes, where participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks, can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood. In short, everybody can benefit physically, emotionally and mentally from learning mindfulness techniques. It can contribute to greater peace of mind, better sleep and more productivity at work as well as to feeling happier or to having better relationships with others.
The Free Mindfulness Project website has a large range of guided meditation exercises that are free to download. These range from 3 to 35 minutes in length, and most people, no matter how busy, could find time to fit some of these exercises into their day. For further information, see The Free Mindfulness Project website.
For more information on Mindfulness, see our Mindfulness fact sheet.
Avoiding stimulants and other substances
Using substances as a means to cope with anxiety can impact one’s ability to control anxiety naturally. When this occurs people lose their ability to cope with anxiety without the aid of substances such as drugs and alcohol.
It is work noting that stimulants come not only in the form of illegal drugs such as cocaine, they can also be a common part of our everyday diets.
One of the most common stimulants is caffeine. Although caffeine can help with feelings of alertness and sharpness, it can also affect sleep and can increase feelings of anxiety. It is also worth noting that the half life of caffeine is 4-6 hours, so being aware of when you drink your last cup of tea or coffee can be helpful. Whilst most people are aware that caffeine is often found in coffee it can also be found in a range of other products, including:-
- energy drinks
- some fizzy soft drinks.
NHS Choices’ recommended limit for caffeine is 400 mg per day for adults. They advise pregnant women to stick to 200 mg (approximately two mugs of coffee) per day. For further details on the amount of caffeine found in certain foods and drinks, see the NHS Choices website.
People may wish to consider how much caffeine they consume and cut back on certain items. Reducing overall intake can be an important step in decreasing symptoms of anxiety.
People who consume a lot of caffeine may experience withdrawal symptoms when they first cut back on their intake.
For further advice on having a balanced diet, see our Healthy eating fact sheet.
Someone may smoke as a means to reduce anxiety. Research has shown that cigarette cravings are likely to make people feel more irritable and anxious. According to the NHS, when people stop smoking:-
- their anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower
- their quality of life and positive mood improve
- dosage levels for some medicines used to treat mental health problems can be reduced.
For more information on stopping smoking, see the NHS Choices website.
Alcohol in small doses is considered to be a stimulant, although heavy consumption is considered to be a depressant. Having a few drinks may help someone to relax and feel more socially confident. However, people who use alcohol to mask anxiety problems will ultimately become more reliant on it in order to relax.
According to Drink Aware, alcohol can make an anxious person feel worse and drinking alcohol can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety. For further information on alcohol and anxiety, see the Drink Aware website.
People who are concerned that they are drinking too much can find further information, including an online alcohol test and tips for cutting down, at the Don’t Bottle it Up website.
People who are concerned about an addiction to alcohol can find further information on our Help with Alcoholism fact sheet. People can also call our Addiction Support Line on 0808 168 5132.
Drugs come in a variety of categories. Mind lists them as follows:-
- legal drugs- such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- illegal drugs – this means it is illegal to have them or supply them to other people. Most street drugs are illegal
- controlled drugs – these are drugs used in medicine, such as benzodiazepines. It is legal to take controlled drugs if a doctor has given you a prescription for them but is it illegal to have them if not.
People who have severe anxiety may be prescribed a benzodiazepine tranquilliser. Doctors will usually only prescribe them at a low dose for a short period, to help people through a crisis period, as they can cause unpleasant side effects and become addictive. The NHS recommends that people who have been taking benzodiazepines regularly for more than 4-6 weeks should talk to their doctor before stopping.
According to Mind, taking drugs can lead to long term metal health problems such as anxiety, depression or shizophrenia. For further information about how drugs can affect mental health, see the Mind website.
People who are concerned about an addiction to drugs can find further information on our Help with Drug Abuse fact sheet. People can also call our Addiction Support Line on 0808 168 5132.