By Aisha Hussein

Are you familiar with that excessive and intense worry that you can’t just shake off? Do you have a persistent fear that has a chance of paralysing you in certain situations?

These may be signs of anxiety disorder.

Of course, it is completely normal to be anxious in certain stressful scenarios but when such anxiety interferes with your daily life then that may be cause for concern.

However, most of us Nigerians, don’t want to ever think that we may need the help of mental health professionals or even ‘worse’, medication. 

As much as these two solutions are recommended, there are other ways that you can manage anxiety. Aisha Hussein, one of our mental health volunteers shares some tips that have worked for her. Ready to learn?

Exercise: A 10-minute walk can do the trick just as well as a 45-minute workout; either can make you feel better for a few hours, like aspirin for a headache. More so, if you exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week, you’re less likely to feel anxious in the first place. I do HIIT (high intensity exercises) because it takes less time, I can do it in my bedroom and I do not have to do it so often. I hear it burns a lot more calories than walking and 48 hours after you continue to burn calories. Skipping and dancing are simple examples that you can try out.

Outdoors: Even a plant in the room or pictures of nature can make you feel less anxious, angry, or stressed but it’s better if you get out there and feel the breeze on your face. You’ll give your mood a boost, and it can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones, which all go up when you’re anxious. I like to take walks in the evening or just sit outside (or at a park) and watch people move around.

Gardening: Get out there and get your hands in the dirt! Gardening makes your brain release mood-boosting chemicals that can help calm your anxiety. Plus, you’ll get some exercise and spend time outdoors, both of which are good for you. If you don’t have your own dirt patch, use a flower pot. I have a flower pot behind my house that I use. Some people plant their vegetables and seasoning like thyme and basil etc. Though planting is not my favourite, other people seem to really enjoy it.

Meditation: Meditation helps you focus on your breath and keep your mind free of thoughts. When a concern sneaks in, you try to dismiss it quickly and clear your head. This is easier for me because I can do it right in my room and creating time for it is much easier. I actually have gotten the hang of bubble bath. I used to think of it as a white people’s thing until I tried it. I use synthetic rose petals but candles around, and switch off the light as well as scented bath bombs then I just close my eyes and meditate. It is so relaxing.

Yoga: This is a form of meditation. You put your body into certain positions that can strengthen and stretch your muscles and other tissues. At the same time, you try to keep your breath calm. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and make you less anxious. I do yoga as a form of exercise, by now you must know I like things that I can do in the comfort of my home because I can create time for it and be consistent with it. I just use my yoga mats and there are lots of yoga apps you can download.

Aromatherapy: Smells like lavender, chamomile, and rosewater may help calm you. They come from concentrated oils you can breathe in or rub on your skin. Scientists think they send chemical messages to parts of your brain that affect mood and emotion. I like nice scents so this works for me. I use scented candles and usually have essential oils that I use in carrier oils. Sometimes, I put them in a burner and put a candle under and the smell is soothing.

Massage: I love massages, especially with nice smelling oils. Rubbing and squeezing parts of your body with hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even the feet help. PS: I don’t like using the feet unless it’s a child walking on my back. Anyway, it can help with sore muscles and ease anxiety and stress. I like the ambiance for a massage to be nice, cosy and serene.

Sleep: It recharges your brain and boosts your mood and focus, and you’re less likely to be anxious if you get enough of it. Get 7 to 8 hours every day. To get better sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time so have a routine. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, and don’t watch TV or use the computer right before bed or even your phone. I try to put mine down an hour before bed but it is not always so easy. 

Prioritise: Figure out what you have to do right away and what can wait. A to-do list can help you break up large projects into smaller tasks and keep you focused on what to do next. Ask for help when you need it. This is hard for me because I like things done my way to the T. I like structure, I like things to be kept at their place but I am learning to delegate so I do not over-stress myself and I try to let go of things that aren’t that important.

Ultimately, using a routine everyday gives me time to wind down. It works for me and my kids work with it. It helps keep everyone happy.