Tips for combating anxiety around loneliness and exclusion
People who suffer from high levels of anxiety can find that they are susceptible to feelings of social exclusion, loneliness and inadequacy. Our screen-focused lives don't make things any easier, with regular face-to-face contact harder to come by nowadays.
It doesn't need to be this way, though. We asked Luke Hughes, a life coach and personal trainer, to recommend four lifestyle and fitness changes that promote engagement with others, all of which can have a great impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
Exercise in the company of others
"This has a two-fold effect for sufferers of anxiety. Firstly, exercise in general causes the body to produce serotonin, which is a hormone directly responsible for happiness and feelings of positivity. In many cases, anxiety disorders occur directly as a result of serotonin imbalances. This means that exercise can have an immediate positive impact on an anxiety sufferer’s mental health.
"Secondly, maintaining a regular gym routine or attending group classes offer avenues to connect socially with likeminded people. This directly combats the social exclusion many individuals feel during evenings spent alone, for example.
"Certain fitness pursuits are also renowned for their tight knit communities. CrossFit in particular is a fantastic option for someone looking to join a supportive and exuberant community, while also looking to improve their fitness along with their personal sense of wellbeing."
Practice yoga with a trained yogi
"While this is also a form of exercise, yoga deserves a mention in its own right. This is because classes are often group-oriented, and the exercise is inclusive for all abilities. Yoga studios are often ultra-welcoming spaces, which is great news for anyone lacking in self-confidence or suffering from persistent anxiety.
"Yoga also has the added benefit of being a physical exercise that teaches breathing exercises as part of its discipline. Breathing exercises can help hugely with people who suffer panic attacks and can therefore help prevent the most severe symptoms related to anxiety."
Avoid late nights
"The detrimental effect that lack of sleep can have on an individual’s mental health are well-documented. However, what’s less-frequently discussed is the routine surrounding sleep. Often, late nights can compound one’s feeling of loneliness, particularly if an individual is spending several evenings alone in a familiar setting.
"Going to sleep at an earlier hour provides structure, as well as shortening the time you are consciously thinking about not spending time with others, and your current social situation - whatever that might be."
Tap into mindfulness apps
"In recent years there has been a proliferation in mindfulness apps, which are portable and can be employed anywhere to take users through techniques like breathing exercises.
"Such tools are great for anyone feeling nervous about social situations: simply plug in headphones and take a couple of minutes alone on the app in order to prevent anxiety attacks and symptoms like shortness of breath.
"The users of apps like Headspace and Pacifica also exist online on forums and Facebook groups, providing helpful and supportive communities for anyone struggling with loneliness and social exclusion."
Disclaimer: If you are struggling with anxiety and think you need help, don't suffer alone. Book in to see your GP and they will help you find support.
What do you use to help silence thoughts of social isolation? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section or via @YayEveryDay_