As the world moves into the early stages of reopening, people have been reaching out to me saying they feel more anxious than ever asking for wellness support. This stress can have long term health effects on our body and organs. This is understandable and I encourage everyone to be gentle with their emotions as we all balance the anxiety, unknown, and excitement. I hope you enjoy and try these practices that I share and use with my clients. They are accessible to all ages and free!
9 Practices to Help Calm Anxiety:
Also known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or belly breathing. This allows for full oxygen exchange in the body and stimulates the vagus nerve to reverse the fight or flight response. Place one hand below your ribs on your belly, one hand on your chest. Inhale through your nostrils as the belly expands and exhale while pursing your lips letting the belly fall towards the spine. Feel this movement up and down, sitting tall and expanding lungs.
Tip: Box Breathing such as 4-4-6 breath count. Breathe in for 4 breaths, hold for 4 breaths, and exhale for 6 breaths. Kids love this! Imagine they are tracing a shape such as a square or a star and count each side. Repeat several times, check-in with your body.
2. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY:
Even standing up and relaxing your shoulders helps! So many options: run, jog, walk, jump, or DANCE it out! This gives your anxiety a healthy way to RELEASE energy! Research shows that it has been known to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep. Even five minutes a day can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Tip: Mix it up, try something new like biking or swimming.
3. GO OUTSIDE:
Maybe you need a change of scenery since you have been inside on zoom calls all day or homeschooling the kids. This time outside allows you to breathe in an open space. Adding fresh air daily adds more oxygen intake which increases serotonin, the “happy hormone.” Being outside helps you feel a deeper sense of connection to yourself, others and the earth. Tip: Try “earthing.” This is walking barefoot while outside, taking in all the fresh air and the earth’s electrons from the ground into the body.
Your favorite song can instantly have uplifting or calming effects on the body. It activates our entire brain to improve the way we think and feel. Sound helps facilitate deep body relaxation when we feel tense, thus releasing tension in muscles. Even using a Tibetan singing bowl and following your attention until the sound ends while focusing on your breath has had amazing results in calming the nervous system and stress response.
One of the ways that journaling can help relieve stress is by working through your anxious feelings. Some of the roots of your anxiety can be minimized through a little focused examination. This can help you shift your thoughts from anxious to empowered and action-oriented. By journaling, you can help gain control of the emotions that you are experiencing. It helps you clear your mind and even the act of writing helps to release the energy you are holding in your body.
Tip: to get started, write one thing you are grateful for that day.
As one part of anxiety is racing thoughts, meditation can help you quiet your thoughts as you try to center and focus on your breath. It is also a time to work towards acceptance, allowing what is happening in your body at that moment to just “be.” It allows the brain to develop new pathways besides the old worry patterns the next time something stressful rises up. It isn’t about changing or fixing our challenging thoughts, but about becoming more intimate and aware of these thought patterns. With consistent practice and awareness, you can learn to relate and allow unpleasant experiences and still feel okay.
Tip: Begin with one minute and focus on counting your in-and-out breath.
Yoga is the connection of the breath, mind, and body. It can help you feel more grounded as it promotes deep breathing. Certain poses for anxiety can help bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain which is calming, helping to reduce stress. Developing a regular practice can help when you have “triggers” in the future. This is a practice for all ages, all abilities.
This increases the endorphins released by your brain, enhancing the intake of oxygen, stimulating organs, and circulation in the body. When you feel stressed, your body feels tight. Laughing helps aid in immediate muscle relaxation. Tip: Turn on a funny show, recall a funny story or meme, call a friend for a joke break.
This practice of becoming present in the moment without any judgment has been proven to help reduce anxiety and increase your focus. One of the practices to immediately use is putting your awareness on your five senses. Find a quiet space. Ask yourself:
What do I hear? What do I see? What do I touch? What do I taste? What do I smell?
Tip: Try this with the entire family anytime!
Eat well, get plenty of sleep, reduce screen time before bed, drink plenty of water, and reduce caffeine, alcohol intake to reduce your risk of high anxiety.
For more mindfulness and information please visit ATX Yoga Girl and follow her on Instagram @ATXYogaGirl
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