By Nordic Walking Watford at
Focusing on anxiety for this year, the aim is to increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent it from becoming a problem.
Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem.
Lots of things can lead to feelings of anxiety, including exam pressures, relationships, starting a new job (or losing one), or other big life events. We can also get anxious when it comes to things to do with money and not being able to meet our basic needs, like heating our homes or buying food.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems we can face. In a recent mental health survey we carried out around stress, anxiety and hopelessness over personal finances, a quarter of adults said they felt so anxious that it stopped them from doing the things they want to do some or all of the time. Six in ten adults feel this way, at least some of the time. On a positive note, anxiety can be made easier to manage.
Anxiety can affect us physically and mentally. If you are feeling anxious, you might notice your heart rate increasing, headaches, loss of appetite, breathlessness, or chest pain. (If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see a healthcare professional to rule out another physical cause). Anxiety might make you feel tense or nervous, find it hard to relax, feel tearful or have problems sleeping and concentrating. Friends or family might notice you are more irritable than usual, or more withdrawn. Or perhaps you seem fine on the outside but feel panicky inside.
Help is at hand. There are things that we can all do to protect our mental health and manage anxiety.
What works will be different from person to person. Things that might be helpful include being active, getting out in nature, practising breathing techniques, getting support to tackle money worries or eating well. Talking to a friend, or spending time with loved ones, is often a good first step.
When you’re having anxious thoughts try focusing on your breathing, concentrating on the feeling of your body as you breathe in and out. It can help you control your thought.
Close your mouth and quietly breathe in through your nose, counting to four in your head. Hold your breath and count to seven. Breathe out through your mouth, making a whoosh sound while counting to eight. Repeat three more times for a total of four breath cycles.
Some people find relaxation exercises work too, while others find mindfulness useful.
Exercise is a good way of dealing with anxiety – and Nordic Walking is perfect!
Remember, the activity doesn’t have to be vigorous; try some gentle stretches, yoga, or seated exercises. Or just go for a walk. Going for a run, swimming, or taking part in a fitness class can give you something else to think about. It needs a bit of concentration, so takes your mind off of anxious thoughts. Any amount of exercise will help.
Read more about how exercise can help improve our mental health.
It’s important that we don’t try to ignore our worries. Taking the time to keep a record of what’s happening in your life and how it’s affecting you can help you understand what is triggering your feelings of anxiety. Knowing this can help you better prepare for and manage situations that may cause anxiety.
Sometimes it helps to give yourself a certain time of day to be your ‘worry time’. It could be half an hour first thing in the morning to sit with your worries and write them down in your diary. When that’s out of the way, you can move on with the rest of your day. This can help you take control and stop anxiety from getting in the way of what you want to do.
Anxiety can lead us to think about things over and over again in our brains. This is called ‘rumination’ and it’s not helpful. When you catch yourself ruminating try to write down the thought and to challenge it. Is what you’re worrying about likely to happen? Are you being realistic? Have you had similar thoughts which have not turned into reality? This can make it easier to challenge your thoughts and stop them from overwhelming you.
A common cause of anxiety is money. If you’re worried about not being able to pay bills, are struggling to repay debt, or aren’t sure if you
can cover your family’s living costs, seek help. Make sure you are claiming all the government supports that you’re entitled to. You can also speak to an organisation such as Citizens Advice or StepChange.
We know that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health. It can help us feel calmer and less stressed. This can be as simple as tending some flowers in a window box or going for a walk in the woods. Any amount of time doing this is good for us, but to really get the benefit, try to spend a significant period of time – may be an hour or longer – when you can really connect with nature and immerse yourself. Find out more about the benefits of nature.
Anxiety can feel very lonely. Connecting with other people can help a lot. Spend time with friends or meet other people through activities such as volunteering, sport or social clubs, or peer support groups. If you’re able to talk to people about how you feel, it can help to reduce your anxiety. Sometimes saying what’s worrying you out loud can take away its power over you.
Resting and having a good night’s sleep is hard when your head is full of worries but there are some things that can help.
If anxious thoughts keep you awake, write them down in your diary. If sleep is still not coming, get up and have a drink (nothing with caffeine!) and wait until you’re feeling more tired before going back to bed.
Keeping a note in your diary of your sleep patterns, what time you went to bed, what you ate, how often you woke up etc can help you work out a routine that will help you get better quality sleep.
For many of us, feeling anxious might cause us to reach for sugary snacks, junk food or alcohol.
It’s important that we don’t turn to unhealthy foods or drinks as a way to cope as they will do more damage in the longer term. Similarly, we should avoid smoking or taking recreational drugs.
Eating healthy food regularly helps us to regulate our blood sugar and gives us the energy we need to live well. Remember caffeine in coffee, tea, and fizzy drinks can affect your mood and cause sleep problems so it’s best to have these in moderation and not too close to bedtime. Find out more about how your diet is linked to good mental health.
Well, Nordic Walking not only gets you active and exercising, but it also enables time in nature and facilitates connecting with others.
Physically Nordic Walking works 90% of the body’s muscles and improves cardiovascular health. It’s low impact, beneficial for joints, and helps to improve posture.
Because Nordic Walking is a group activity, there is an obvious social element to it and it enables a connection with others.
And being outdoors also brings mood and energy-boosting benefits which can help lower anxiety and improve mental well-being.
If your feelings of anxiety are not going away, are having a negative
impact on your life, or often prevent you from doing things you
need or want to do, seek support. Speak to your GP or healthcare
professional about support available in your area or contact a
• Mindfulness www.mentalhealth.org.uk/mindful
• Exercise www.mentalhealth.org.uk/physical-activity
• Cost of Living www.mentalhealth.org.uk/cost-of-living-support
• Nature www.mentalhealth.org.uk/nature
• Diet www.mentalhealth.org.uk/diet
• Helpline services www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-help
(information from www.mentalhealth.org.uk)
NORDIC WALKING WATFORD