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Got the lockdown blues? Here's some practical, proper advice on dealing with anxiety

The past 12 months have been pretty full on - it’s no surprise that many of us have been struggling.

That’s why Life Hacks has dedicated 12 new episodes to lockdown wellbeing, with practical advice on how to tackle everything from stress and sleep to managing money and how to cope with loneliness.

In a special episode, Dr. Radha, Katie Thistleton and Vick Hope tackle the subject of anxiety and how to deal with it, with Dr. Radha quick to point out how common it is. “It’s that feeling of worry, fear, unease,” she explains. “Basically feeling really on edge”.

Most of us have been there. And the reason it’s so distressing is because one of our basic human needs is to feel safe, reassured and comforted. Anxiety is the opposite of that. So when we feel threatened – whether that’s a real or perceived threat – this will trigger a fight or flight mechanism in our nervous system, which will manifest itself physically, with a shortness of breath, twitches and more.

Here’s Life Hacks’ guide on how to cope when anxiety rears its head.

  • You can also go to BBC Headroom to find a mental health toolkit, containing great shows, mixes and motivational tips

1. Understand anxiety

The more you know about what anxiety is and what its mechanisms are, the better you’ll be equipped to deal with it.

Knowledge helps you feel more reassured about what’s going on in your body

“Knowledge does help you feel more reassured and safer about what’s going on in your body,” explains Dr. Radha. This also means knowing that it can seemingly spring up out of nowhere.

“Sometimes we think we have to know what is causing us the anxiety and if there isn’t a clear reason we get even more worried,” she says. “But actually that feeling of anxiety can come out of nowhere sometimes, [but] that is just as valid and just as important for you to tell someone about as if there was a clear reason.”

2. Work out what you’re in control of...

Seeing as anxiety comes from a place of not feeling in control, it’s good to work out what you can control, so you can be proactive when it comes to reducing the things you’re worrying about.

“You’re also in control of strategies that help you feel better when you’re feeling anxious, even if you can’t change the thing that’s making you feel anxious,” says Dr. Radha.

This means making time for exercise, meditation, mindfulness, saying no to people, having boundaries as well as doing your best to have a balanced day so you don’t get overwhelmed and getting a good night’s sleep.

3. ...And accept what you’re not in control of

Recognise when thoughts about things you can't control come into your head.

Worry is futile, it doesn’t help us and actually drains us of energy

“Literally say to yourself ‘I’m thinking this, I can’t control that, I can’t change it, but what I can do right now is get up and do something that’s going to help me feel better’,” says Dr Rahda.

“When we realise that worry is futile, it doesn’t actually help us and it actually drains us of energy, that’s really helpful. It does take practice, but the more you do it, the better you become at realising when you need to let go of worries.”

4. Exercise, even if it's small steps

Panic attacks, which are a common side effect of anxiety, come about when our bodies are so overwhelmed by anxiety that they go into overdrive, explains Dr. Radha.

“If you can use your body to get pent up energy out of your system that will really help with anxiety,” she says. “That’s why things like running, exercise, dancing can help with anxiety.”

5. Try to eat something

It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but not only will eating something replace the lost glucose in your body from all that expelled nervous energy, it’ll bring you back down to earth too.

“When we eat we often associate that with feeling comforted and feeling safe,” says Dr. Radha, which will help with that feeling of losing control.