Birmingham mental health influencer shares unlocking anxiety tips

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Olivia CallaghanImage source, @selfloveliv
Image caption,
Liv uses her Instagram account to share her journey with bipolar disorder

A mental health influencer who has gained thousands of followers on Instagram has shared tips on dealing with anxiety as Covid restrictions end.

Olivia Callaghan, known as 'Self Love Liv', documents her journey with bipolar disorder on the platform.

Liv, from Birmingham, said while she has faced her own battles throughout the pandemic she wants to help others.

The 28-year-old says she thinks small steps are key to help people with lockdown anxiety.

When the pandemic first hit Liv lost her grandmother and said she "almost forgot it [Covid] was happening", while dealing with her grief.

But she said, like for many, she found the third lockdown in the winter the hardest.

"The weather was rubbish, we couldn't go for walks, it was so cold, we really struggled," she said.

Liv, who is two years sober, set up her account "purely as a mental health diary", saying she "never imagined getting it to what it is today", with over 132,000 followers.

"I opened up a lot in the third lockdown about how I was feeling [on Instagram], I was really struggling, thinking 'what do I do?' People were on their own, confused by the rules, can I bubble? Can I not? I didn't really know who to turn to, my boyfriend works long hours, most days I'm on my own. During the day, you get so lonely and just crave that contact."

Image source, @selfloveliv
Image caption,
The 28-year-old says she found the third lockdown the hardest

Despite that craving for company, it brings with it heightened anxiety.

She spoke to BBC News about the best small steps she uses to help now people can be social and in bigger numbers.

And breathe...

"Breathe, simple right? Something we do every day without thinking of it, but breathing deep and counting your breaths is proven to help deal with anxiety."

She says the best way to calm anxiety with breathing is to "take a moment to find a quiet corner, be it in your house, garden, office, and just take five breaths in, and eight out.

"I'm not a doctor, but I find this incredibly helpful when I'm feeling anxious or overwhelmed."

Take it slow

While some of us feel comfortable rushing back to the dance floors of clubs, others would rather the familiarity of the sofa, but as Liv says: "You don't have to jump straight into going on a four-day bender if that is just not your thing right now, so start slowly."

She said: "Invite a couple of friends round to your house or garden, go for a meal in a restaurant, go for a walk in your local park, do little things to build up your confidence, start small and work your way up!"

Do what you love

The last year or so has been incredibly difficult for so many, with people dealing with grief, stress, financial difficulties, job losses and isolation caused by the pandemic.

Image source, Instagram
Image caption,
Liv's honesty has won her an army of followers

"We can all get caught up in the big things, big worries, and we need to start focusing on what makes us happy in the moment," Liv says.

"Do you like dogs? Go to a local shelter and meet a few!

"Or writing? Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal - super helpful if you deal with anxiety or any form of mental health issues or maybe light some candles?"

One study of patients with anxiety found only around one in 10 worries ever turn out to be real problems.

Open up

Finally and possibly most important of all: "Feeling overwhelmed? Talk to someone," says Liv.

"Be it a friend, a family member, a colleague, a loved one, speak openly about how you're feeling and let them know your concerns.

"A problem shared is a problem halved, and I'm sure they'll be able to help with your worries or concerns.

"Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so don't ever be afraid to talk to someone.

"Remember, it's absolutely OK not to be OK and it's good to ask for help, there is no shame in that."

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