Months of lockdown and the continuing waves of a worldwide pandemic have resulted in heightened anxiety and fear of returning to the world we used to know. From back-to-work woes to the uncertainty of what is to come, many of us are facing overwhelming feelings of stress, upset and worry. In an effort to calm the mind and restore routine, Doctor Saliha Afridi has shared advice on how to manage anxiety and ease back into society.
Bottom-up approach to mental health: When the mind is feeling like its spinning in circles, go in through the body. Spas use a bottom up approach to calming the mind. They use aromatherapy, teas, soothing music, lighting, decluttered environment, essential oils to send signals to the mind that everything is ok. The fastest way to get your mind to feel in control and to feel better is to get your body to feel in control and to feel better.
Exercise: Time and time again, research has shown that exercise is good for releasing negative and anxious emotions and increasing positive emotions. Some research suggests that exercise is as effective in eliminating anxiety and depression as medication. 30 mins a day of exercise at 75% of your maximum heart rate will help you feel more in control and also release happy chemicals in your brain.
Guard your sleep: Stop drinking caffeine beyond 10am, wear blue-light-blocking glasses/or have shields for your screens, have chamomile tea every night to wind down the mind, and take MagVita supplements which reduce stress and tension in the body. Anything less than seven hours is considered sleep deprivation and you are 40% less able to regulate your emotions when you are sleep deprived.
Guard your diet: 90% of our happy chemical serotonin is produced in our gut and up to 80% of your immunity is in the lining of your gut! When they say ‘you are what you eat’, this is accurate in the sense that you will definitely feel that way; if you eat junk, your mind will feel just as hollow, if you eat foods that are deep fried, then you will certainly feel that way in your mind as well.
Switch off the news: No human is meant to consume as much content or news the way we have been for the last decade. News media play on our fight or flight response because that is what gets the attention from consumers of news. Instead, look at it once a day for one hour if you really must, and limit it to one channel. If you are feeling particularly out of control, then turn it off completely.
Routine: Anxiety is uncertainty plus powerlessness, and routine is the antidote to uncertainty and powerlessness. Do not wait for motivation. Set a realistic schedule and follow it whether you feel like it or not. You will feel more in control and more empowered when you do this.
Look back: Make a courage jar of all the times you have did things you were afraid of or all the times you stepped up even when you didn’t think you could. It takes usually six weeks for a human being to adapt to a new change, so give yourself time to adjust to the new way of doing things.
Highlight the positive: When there is so much bad news everywhere, we can get locked up in a negative mindset and it can be difficult to manage anxiety. While allowing for the difficult feelings to surface, feeling them and releasing them, make sure to highlight the positive aspects of your life. If you can’t figure out what to be grateful for then start with the biggest or smallest thing/person around you and imagine that it wasn’t there tomorrow; that always helps to see how much we take for granted.
Doctor Saliha Afridi, PsyD (US) is a Clinical Psychologist and the Managing Director at The Lighthouse Center For Wellbeing, Dubai.
Main image: Photographed by Luca Meneghel | For MOJEH 68
- Words by Doctor Saliha Afridi