True story: A few years ago, while I was still climbing the corporate ladder, I said yes to a management job that I should never have taken on. Constant pressure, a lack of support, 16-hour days and daily deadlines - combined with my own impossibly high standards (“I’m going to do this better than anyone’s ever done this before!”) – led to a predictable outcome. I burned out, melted down, call it what you like. I was signed off work, lost the job and discovered to my cost that you can never take your mental health for granted.
One of the earliest warning signs - which I foolishly ignored – was increased anxiety. Nothing I did was ever good enough, I was on edge and would either sleep too much or not at all. It wasn’t until I started meditating regularly, (The Headspace app is incredible), got into herb growing and learned to get out of my own head that I got better.
So if you ever find yourself feeling anxious, worrying about things you cannot control, or dwelling on the past, please don’t ignore it. Herbs, whether growing them or using them in my nature walks and teas, were a real help to me - find what works for you.
Here’s our top tips for helping to feel more grounded, stop overthinking and take your mental focus off worrying.
MINDFUL TEA MAKING This is a brilliant tip I got from Sally Morningstar about making a cup of tea, mindfully. It’s a mini meditation really and although it might sound a bit “woo woo” bear with me: as you fill the kettle, imagine the water coming from a stream, flowing from a river or ice melting from a glacier. If you’re having herbal tea pick the leaves from your plant or think of the tea growing in the soil, being nourished in nature, and growing into a strong plant bathed in sunshine. Watch the colour change as you add the tea to the cup, and as you add milk think of the cows grazing in fields. If you take sweetener, think of honeybees rummaging in flowers for pollen, creating the honey in hives. Try it – it works!
BATHING BEAUTY A warm herbal bath can help set you up for a good night’s sleep by encouraging your brain to start winding down for bed. The switch between the warm, aromatic bath and the cooler bedroom temperature triggers your body’s natural sleep rythmn. You want to leave about an hour before Bath or shower, adding herbs – fresh or in essential oils – to the water will boost the effect. Don’t add wake-me-up citrus or mints. It’s relaxation you are after so think lavender, clary sage, ylang ylang. Rose and jasmine are more expensive but a tiny drop goes a long way.
NOTICING NATURE Remember those ‘I Spy’ books from your childhood? They were full of pictures of things you had to spot on your travels. Well next time you go for a walk, avoid your brain going into familiar thinking patterns by looking out for particular plants, herbs or wild flowers. Notice what’s in bloom, what’s in bud; look for different colours. Keep your brain noticing things and you won’t have space for negative thought patterns. And the exercise is great for helping you relax.
LOVELY LAVENDER Lavender has been trialled for its anxiety-relieving properties by researchers. Add a few drops of oil to baths or showers (see above), add a teaspoon of lavender flowers to black tea for a calming cuppa or add into a diffuser.
BREATHE It might seem counterintuitive when you feel anxious but resisting the urge to breathe quickly and instead breathing deeply and slowly will immediately calm you. When you’re feeling stressed, you tend to breathe shallowly, from your chest instead of your stomach. Breathe in through your nose until you feel your tummy swell. Pull your belly in as you exhale. It should be slower process than normal. Using clary sage or bergamot in an essential oil diffuser help calm your mind as you focus on your breath.
I hope you’ve found this helpful. What tips do you have for managing anxiety? Let us know in the comments