Being anxious is a completely normal response to stressful events. Given the upheaval, uncertainty and devastation that the coronavirus pandemic has brought about, it is especially important that we are aware of, and try to reduce, our anxiety at this time.

In 2019, Momentum First Founder and Principal Coach Brigitte Johnson became a Mental Health First Aid Trainer. In addition to her coaching practice, Brigitte also trains people to become mental health first aiders. Basically anyone who wants the skills, knowledge and confidence to be able to assist someone who might be suffering from mental ill health, most commonly anxiety and depression.

Brigitte has put together her top five proven ways to reduce anxiety:

  1. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): tense and hold one muscle group at a time as hard as you can for a few seconds and then release it, noticing the tension leave your body, taking a few deep breaths as you do so. As you work around your body, you’ll feel all the tension melt away. To help, you could tune into one of the many guided Progressive Muscle Relaxation clips on YouTube such as this one with a psychologist from John Hopkins School of Medicine
  2. Mindfulness: okay, we know you’re probably sick of hearing the word ‘mindfulness’, but a lot of anxiety is caused by thinking about events that haven’t happened yet and may not happen and mindfulness can help with that. Here’s one fun family-friendly way to do it: take a colouring-in book and start colouring in together. Just simply bringing your attention to what you are experiencing in that given moment and in particular, non-judgementally observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations. As soon as you observe your mind being critical of your thoughts, just ask yourself, “What would kindness do?”. Another mindful activity you can do as a household is an online yoga session. There are millions of options to choose from; the key is to look for an instructor who fits your unique style. To give you a head start, with over 6 million subscribers, Adriene Mishler of YogawithAdriene.com provides high quality yoga at no cost on a mission to get the tools of yoga into schools and homes around the world.
  3. Strengthen your Circle of Support: Think of the people in your life who bring you joy, and then narrow it down to a few of your most supportive ‘go-to’ people, with whom you feel listened to and understood. Create time to reach out to one another over the coming week and really check in and listen carefully to one another. Use different methods of catching up – FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, text, WhatsApp, HouseParty – and find your sweet spot.
  4. Noise-cancelling headphones: You can’t go past them. Sometimes you just want to do the opposite of connect and completely escape others for a while. That can be hard to do when you’re all under the one roof. Choose a set, and then let them envelope your senses and transport you from the here and now to a story, a beautiful piece of music, or a lesson. Anything but the news!
  5. Feel-good food: One of my all-time favourite ways to reduce anxiety is through the gut! 80% of our entire immune system is contained in our gut, which makes more decisions in one day than the rest of our body makes in a lifetime. Incredible. The top 10 proven anxiety-reducing foods are: eggs, oily fish (like salmon), green leafy veggies, blueberries, yoghurt, Brazil nuts, dark chocolate, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and turmeric.

For more tips and information on anxiety, visit Beyond Blue and Mental Health First Aid Australia, or check our What’s On page for Momentum First presentations and online courses.

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