I have previously written about stress but today I am dedicating this blog to a more specific kind of stress – anxiety. Whether you suffer from OCD, phobias, an overactive brain, panic attacks or destructive mental chatter I want you to know there are many things you can do to help manage, clear and realign these unhappy behaviours. Self-healing does exist if you want, believe and trust you can feel better AND if you commit to taking positive action. If you take medication please always consult your Doctor before making any changes.
Feeling uncertain is natural but responding with over-stimulated anxiety is not. Below I have outlined 8 tips which if slowly implemented over a month will absolutely help to ease and reframe the situations that bring on anxiety. You can come back to your natural state where you can calmly stop, consider and make a decision you feel confident about. Life is always uncertain but this is no reason to become fearful. Read and implement the following tips and feel better.
3 QUICK GO-TO TIPS
1. Stop. Take five slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
2. Expand your vision – make sure you can see what is below, above and either side of your focal point
3. Get out of your head and into your body, become a silent witness to your thoughts as if watching a passerby. No judgement
10 LONG-TERM TIPS TO COMMIT TO EVERY DAY
If you truly want to dissolve your fear and recover the happy, calm and confident you, commit to following these tips. Get out your diary and schedule in time each day to learn and practise each tip, so that in a month’s time you have them down!
1) Neck and upper-body stretches.
When you are tense in these areas, the brain takes it as an indication that you’re about to go into some kind of battle and floods the body with stress chemicals such as adrenaline. Increasing the blood flow, and thus relaxation around these tissues, helps reset the nervous system back into cruise-control by flooding the body with relaxation chemicals and endorphins.
MOVEMENT: Sitting or standing nice and tall: turn your head from side to side 10x, tip your head from side to side (ear to shoulder, keeping your shoulders still) 10x. A detailed description and images of other key stretches can be found here.
2) Six gentle hip rolls – lying down
Gently rotating the lower spine helps to free up any tight lower back muscles which may be attempting to hold everything together in an anxious scared fashion. Freeing up the middle and lower back, and around the hips, helps calm the nervous system by massing into the kidneys (our organ that holds fear) and the adrenals (where our stress hormones are produced). Twisting also helps relax and calm digestive system or our “second brain”. Remember the gut has more neurons than the brain, so is often expressing fear, stress and anxiety. You can stay in the twist for 5-10 slow calm breaths then slowly drag the legs back to centre using your abdominals.
MOVEMENT: Lying on your back, legs bent, feet and legs together: exhale, take the legs over to one side, stay here for 3 rounds of calm breathing, then on an exhale gently drag your legs back to centre using your abs. Repeat to the other side. You want to do around 3 to each side.
3) The Moving Cat Stretch
Flexion, or forward-bending, is very calming on the nervous system – closing off and resting the areas of the body such as the hips, lower back, neck and throat that signal us to be on high alert. The sphinx/last part of the movement connects you into your centre line helping you feel strong, aligned and clear.
MOVEMENT: On all fours, hands under solders, knees under hips. Curl your spine into an angry cat shape – so you should be looking at your pubic bone and your pubic bone should be looking at you. Keep this shape as you move your butt back to sit on your heels. Keep your hands planted in the same spot. Place your palms and forearms on the floor parallel to each other, roll your shoulders back and lift your chest – sphinx position. Travel the sphinx forward until your head is in-line with your hands then gently press up lengthening the arms to the beginning position. Get all the details here.
Food and drinks that stimulate or suppress your mood. These may feel good in the moment but long-term they will hinder true anxiety healing:
Sugar, caffeine, gluten grains and alcohol.
5) Fill up on:
Foods and liquids that help to calm and support your nervous system. These food and drink choices will be rich in good quality fats, proteins and B vitamins:
Organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, grass-fed meats, wild fish, small amounts of gluten-free grains (quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat), coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, lard, ghee, herbal teas, freshly pressed/made vegetable juices and smoothies, water. Here is a basic list of the most nourishing healing foods.
All of the breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes on my site are perfectly suited to supporting this healing.
6) Five gentle belly breaths
Notice how you are breathing – is it shallow and stifled? Try the following exercises once an hour while you’re sitting at work, on the train, in traffic…wherever suits! Of course you can also do this lying down. Breathing in through the nose and deep into the belly sends a calm message to the brain and body tissues allowing them to shift the chemistry and nervous system into a calm mode. Breathing out through the mouth helps to detox and expel the metabolic waste and negative or fearful emotions you may be swallowing down. Treat breathing like a calm internal massage for all of your tissues – your bones, muscles and organs. Read more here on swapping stress modes. And read more here on breathing.
INSTRUCTIONS: Breathe in through the nose allowing the belly to fill, breathe out through the mouth allowing the belly to soften back towards the spine. On the inhale visualise filling your whole body with fresh, clean air and on the exhale sigh out old stale air and any emotions that are no longer serving you.
7) Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is an activity of attention. Normally you sit in a comfortable, quiet place, close your eyes and purposely focus your attention on your breath and on the present moment – accepting all that arises without judgement. This is incredibly calming and invites space and perspective which helps reorganise and reframe any negative or fearful thoughts or behaviours you may be experiencing.
INSTRUCTIONS: Sitting there you want to bring awareness to the now, notice what’s going on – attend your life. Inevitably when left to itself the mind races through all kinds of thoughts, this is totally normal. When you find your mind wandering just return to your breath and to being the “watcher” of those thoughts – attending is more important than what you are paying attention to. Uncomfortable emotions can arise such as fear, anger, resentment, guilt and shame but you can find the courage to watch them take their course instead of being skipped past or buried. Trust that in doing so they will dissolve and be replaced with new patterns that are better aligned with your true self: with continued practice you will quiet the mind and slip into the space between thoughts, the space where you can reclaim your life. Read more here.
8) DAILY AFFIRMATION:
Try to come up with an affirmation you can repeat to yourself at any moment you may feel your anxiety creeping in – or even make it part of your morning ritual. Have it be something that resonates with you and exudes a sense of calm and inner strength. Below is one from Gabby Bernstein that I particularly like:
‘Today I witness my ego in action. I patiently look upon my false perceptions with loving lenses. I no longer believe in this fear. I am no longer attached to this fear. Though it may seem real in the moment, all I have to do is witness it without judgement to be reminded it is not true” – Gabrielle Bernstein
- Emotional Freedom Technique / EFT / Tapping
I cannot promote this therapy enough – you can use it to work on all manner of ailments but I find it is particularly incredible when dealing with anxiety as it is so quick acting.
“EFT, otherwise known as Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a type of Meridian Tapping that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. It utilizes the body’s energy meridian points by stimulating them with your fingertips – literally tapping into your body’s own energy and healing power”
EFT very much aligns with my own belief that you cannot separate the mind and the body. When you are anxious your whole body feels the fear – your chest tightens, eyes widen, and so on. If you don’t acknowledge this fear and instead choose to shove it down and ignore it you will create an energy imbalance in the body that will eventually make its presence known, be it through ill physical or mental health. Tapping helps to restore and balance the body’s energy that has been disrupted by past traumas, negative emotions and physical symptoms.
I was first introduced to tapping about 10 years ago when I was studying for my Pilates exams and becoming anxious about balancing the workload and fearing I was going to fail everything. After two sessions my anxiety and fears had dramatically reduced. Because the technique is so easy to learn I was able to practise the tapping whenever I felt anything creeping back and as a result have not experienced such intense fear around this issue since. If you are interested in clearing anxiety patterns without having to pull apart and psychoanalyse your life then I really encourage you to watch this video and learn more about how it works.
- Neurological Linguistic Programming (NLP)
- Cranial Osteopathy
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”