If you've ever felt anxious, I'm sure you'll agree it's the pits.
From work to family, health and financial stressors - there's no shortage of things to worry about. And for people with anxiety, that list is never ending. I often go through periods of feeling overwhelmed, anxious and downright flat. This pattern is common for me, and within a few days I usually ‘come out the other side’, but that doesn't make it any less awful when you're in the thick of it.
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in ﬁve men – will experience anxiety at some stage. The Women's Health Survey 2018 found 66.9% of women said they felt nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day, and 46.1% had been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety.
Everyone's triggers are different but my recipe for disaster is lack of sleep, no exercise and not enough connection. Pretty much my life as a new Mum! Every now and again I feel like I can’t keep going, and it's often when I realise I haven’t been doing any of the things that I know make me feel better.
When I get my act together and apply 'the antidote' though, it works quickly, so I thought I'd share it. Here's how:
#1 Pull your skates on and go for a walk
The last thing you feel like doing when you're anxious or depressed is exercise. I get it - I'm far more inclined to reach for the remote and settle into a groove in the couch. But Harvard says exercise is as good for mild to moderate depression as medication in many cases - and in my study population of 1, I agree. It's a guaranteed mood booster, thanks to those feel-good endorphins. The details are a little fuzzy when it comes to the evidence, but we do know that both aerobic exercise and strength training are good, 'moderate' exercise is ideal (where you can just hold a conversation while doing it) and regular is best.
#2 Phone a friend and tell them how you're feeling
Connection tends to go out the window when I'm flat. I isolate myself, cocooning until the day I feel more up to catching up. It's counterintuitive though, because actually connecting with people is one of the best things I can do. And the science backs this up.
For 80 years, Harvard have run one of the longest studies into our health and happiness. Their most important finding has been that our relationships - and how happy we are in them - has a powerful influence on our health. Close relationships help prevent mental and physical decline - more so than money, fame, our social class, our IQ or even our genes. So pick up the phone or instigate a coffee, who knows - the person you reach out to could be feeling the same - and I promise you'll both feel better after a quick chat and a few LOLs.
#3 Put on a playlist and have an impromptu dance party
The evidence is unclear here, but there are a few small studies that have looked at the impact of music on stress as well as anxiety, and some show promising results. I can confirm however, that a quick my daughter loves nothing more than a quick dance and singalong - and it brightens my mood no end. I’m pretty sure the neighbours like it too, unless they don’t like Michael Jackson, in which case - I’m sorry.
#4 I book a babysitter and make a reservation
Following on from #2, I'm almost certain a date night with your significant other (or a good friend) is a surefire way to start feeling better. My theory is based on the fact that a glass of wine and a delicious meal fixes pretty much anything... and the journal of common sense agrees.
I wanted to share what works for me in case anyone else goes through periods of feeling the same. Remember you’re not alone, and make sure you reach out if you need some support. Your GP is a great place to start, or you can find support here:
BeyondBlue - 1300 22 4636
LifeLine - 13 11 14
About the author
Casey Beros is an Australian Health Journalist, content producer and media presenter with a passion for evidence based research and delivery.