If constant worries and negative thoughts are getting you down, you're not alone. Surveys show that a third of the UK population will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. If you're constantly worried, here are six ways to re-claim your brain.
See also: Could you have an anxiety disorder
See also: How to cope with anxiety
1. Limit your exposure to bad news
Thanks to social media on our phones, most of us are constantly plugged into the news. While there's no denying that there are terrible things happening in the world, some parts of the media know that generating fear – with alarmist headlines – gets more clicks and makes more money.
A constant barrage of bad news can lead to a sense of impending doom that will only add to your anxiety. Make the decision to limit your exposure to the news (that might mean not looking at Facebook on your phone or not watching the evening news on TV/reading the paper). At the same time, make the effort to read positive stories online and share positive news on your social media.
2. Avoid negative people
It isn't just bad news stories that can bring you down – exposure to negative people can have a similar effect. It's not selfish to limit the time you spend with people who drain your energy – it's necessary to protect your mental wellbeing.
If you can't cut ties completely, look for ways to lessen the impact of energy drainers. Don't go for lunch with co-workers who constantly moan and politely change the subject each time someone starts being negative. If necessary, find an excuse to leave the room.
If it's a family member who is bringing you down, could you arrange an activity to occupy their attention when you meet, so there's less opportunity for conversation, or take someone along with you.
3. Change how you talk to yourself
Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy. It might feel that there's no escape from the negative thoughts circling in your head, but there are things you can do. The first step is to become aware of your inner monologue. Listen carefully to the things you tell yourself – whether that's criticising your body or berating yourself as a failure. When you hear negative self-talk, stop and replace it with a positive statement. It takes continual effort - but it can make a big difference.
4. Love yourself and heal the hurt
You're not perfect – but whatever your faults, you are worthy of love. If someone in your life (now or in the past) hasn't given you the love you need, that doesn't mean you can't give it to yourself.
When you're feeling low or catch yourself thinking something negative, put your hand on your heart and say "I love you" five times in a row - and mean it. If you can't feel love for yourself at first, turn your attention to the emotion you are feeling – and then send love to the person who feels angry, defeated, lonely, or abandoned.
If someone in your life didn't give you the love you need, write down what you wanted them to say – and then repeat the phrases to yourself. Your subconscious mind doesn't differentiate between who is saying the words – it just hears the message.
If a parent was critical, say "I know you're doing your best, and I am proud of you." If someone in your life didn't listen to your feelings, say "Your feelings matter and you deserve to be heard."
5. Make a list
Writing it down is good advice if you're feeling overwhelmed by worries or the busyness of life. Make a list of things you need to do and then tick them off as you do them.
If there are things bothering you, write them down and then list the things you can do about each one. If you can't do anything about it, there's no point worrying. And if there are things you can do, do them – it will help you to feel more in control.
6. Talk about it
Study after study has proven the therapeutic power of talking. If you can't talk to those closest to you, consider going for counselling, call a free helpline number, or join an online support forum.
Getting things off your chest can make you feel better – and sometimes saying things out loud can help you work through a situation. Whatever the problem, keeping things bottled up never helped anyone.