Tips for dealing with anxiety

Never before have we had to face such uncertainty and make such drastic changes to our everyday lives. This is of course restricting for us in terms of movement and connection to others, and is also creating a great deal of uncertainty and perhaps fear or panic in our minds. This is, of course, so understandable.  


Our nervous system is designed to keep us safe and is always monitoring the environment for consistency and calm.  Whenever this changes, it is programmed to respond with the release of stress hormones into our bodies together with a range of catastrophic thoughts. It tends to keep us ruminating on ‘what if’ questions, which only serve to fuel the sense of uncertainty and fear. If this is happening for you, then please remember that your nervous system has NO IDEA what is actually going on and is just running off an old ancient programme. Fortunately, there is much we can do to calm and even override its effects. Almost everything we worry about in life NEVER COMES TRUE and this is certainly the case in this situation. We always have the option to choose peace – but sometimes we have to do this manually and with concentrated effort. Below, Charmain is sharing a few simple tips you might like to consider if you're feeling overly anxious at this time. Please try these techniques. You may find that one works better than the other for you. 




1. Slow down your breathing.    Slowing down the breath takes us into the ventral part of the nervous system, which is basically the part that brings us back to peace and calm. Sit quietly and comfortably. Breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 6-9 seconds with a slow and controlled out breath. Repeat this as many times as you can, preferably for between 20 and 40 minutes as an applied exercise, and also remember to do this as you go about your day. 


2. Meditate.   Meditation forces us to disengage from the thoughts that are creating the fear and therefore breaks the fear and panic patterns. A simple and powerful introductory meditation practice involves sitting comfortably and breathing as above in a continuous pattern. In this practice you are training the mind to focus on a counting pattern so that on the end of every out breath you count in order from 1 to 10. For example: breath in, breath out say ‘one’ in your mind, breath in, breath out say ‘two’ in your mind …. And so on until you reach number 10 – and then your start again at number one. You can continue in this pattern for up to 20, and even for as long as 40 minutes. 



3. Stop and intercept ruminating and worrying thoughts as a daily practice.  Now this does take some doing, but there is really little help in thinking about potential disasters that are not going to happen. Your mind will try to convince you that they will, because that is its job – but remember IT HAS NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON – so don’t let it convince you otherwise. When you find yourself worrying, intercept the thought with one of the following statements:  “this thought means nothing”, “the future does not exist”, “there is no evidence for this”. You will know you are worrying because you will feel anxious. This is your cue to intercept the associated thought.


4. An alternative way to deal with anxiety is to allow yourself time to feel the emotion.  

Find a quiet space and give yourself a time limit to do this. Notice where you actually feel the anxiety in your body and then focus your attention on it, using your mind's eye. Keep an open mind and notice whatever images or sensations come up for you as you contemplate the feeling.  See if you can ‘be with’ the anxiety rather than ‘be’ the anxiety. Giving our emotions applied attention can sometimes really help the emotion to dissipate.



5. If you are feeling panicky then the quickest way to combat the feelings is to restrict your oxygen intake. 

Taking a deep breath when panicking only serves to increase the symptoms. The first thing to do is hold your breath for up to 10 seconds, then breathe out a long controlled breath.  Breathe in for around 4 seconds and then take another long out breath. Repeat until symptoms settle.

Anxiety = too much oxygen and so it is important to restrict this. If you have a paper bag please follow these instructions with the paper bag sealed around your nose and mouth. This will help to maximise the amount of carbon dioxide in your system and reduce oxygen and anxiety. 



6. Focus on the positive.   These are unsettling times, but we truly do not understand where everything will land. Take each day as it comes, and continue to tune into all the beautiful stories of solidarity, strength in community and the potential for great and positive change in our world. Thoughts are extremely powerful in the making of form, so wherever you can, spend time thinking about a beautiful happy world. If you are isolated at home, use this as an opportunity to do all the things you haven’t had time for.  Plant, learn an instrument, a language, bake bread, play music, expect the best. We all deserve it. 

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