“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” — Deepak Chopra
Anxiety shows up in a lot of different ways and can have a severe impact on daily life. The sensations and thoughts experienced during an anxiety attack can be indescribable, and the helplessness of friends and loved ones asking 1001 questions does little to help. Therefore, you may ask yourself what tools are available and helpful to me when my anxiety kicks in?
Fortunately, you have access to a lot of options. The trick is to find the tools that work best for YOU. The first option to consider is finding a therapist with whom you feel comfortable exploring your anxiety and its roots. Although as you may know, therapy is an investment and can be expensive so in the meantime here are some free tools that may help you.
Have you ever heard of Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present in order to reach a deeper sense of awareness of your mind and body. Essentially, mindfulness is a pause button on the remote control of life. It can be applied whenever you want, although a daily practice is recommended. So what does it look like you may ask? Well, think about a time when you consciously “zoned out”. You were so focused on the moment that time froze. Perhaps it was enjoying a cup of tea while observing your surrounding, practicing yoga, or reading a good book. The trick to mindfulness is to bring awareness to a certain task. For example, do you remember reading a paragraph without paying attention? Did you remember the material? What happened when you paid attention while reading it? Easier, right? Well, my friend congratulations, you were mindfully reading!
Now that you have a better understanding of the definition of mindfulness, what about its connection to anxiety? Utilizing mindfulness whilst experiencing anxiety can help you reduce the symptoms.
Here are a few techniques you can try:
1. Breathing Technique, 4×4: Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds while deflating your stomach instead of inflating it. You will have to focus as your stomach will naturally try to inflate. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds while inflating your stomach. Again, you will have to pay attention as your body will naturally try to do the opposite. Hold your breath for 4 seconds and repeat for 5 minutes. You can increase the time if you like, as long as you focus on reversing your breathing flow. Try putting one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart during the exercise as it may help you with the reverse breathing. Notice how you are feeling before, during, and after the exercise.
2. Counting Colors: A great technique that I was taught is to count the different shades of the same color around you. Take blue for instance. Can you see all the different blues around you counting the sky, cars, clothes, etc? If you loose count, choose a different color or start again with the same one.
3. Take Notes: If you can, have a notebook with you and record thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and other symptoms that you are experiencing. Try to describe them as best as you can. Try to identify when and how they appeared. Record similar information during a situation where you feel calm and relaxed. Try to compare both situations and whenever you experience discomfort, go back and read the passages when you felt at peace. It may help you notice when and how your anxiety starts and how to bring you back into a sense of peace and relaxation in the present.
4. Mindful Eating: This exercise may be difficult as it requires concentration and visualization. Try to do as much as you can. The goal of the exercise is to trace the origin of the food you are eating while chewing. For example, let say that you are eating an apple. Close your eyes and visualize an apple tree in an orchard. Concentrate on the apple on the tree receiving nutrients from the earth and from the sun. Think about all the energy it took for the fruit to grow and all the energy you are receiving while eating it. Focus on the taste. Is it sweet? Sour? Focus on the texture. Is it hard, soft, chewy? Can you go back to when the apple was just a flower on the tree? Or even when the tree was just a sprout? You can perform this exercise with anything around you with time and practice. It can help you to slow down and discover elements within food or the environment around you that you would have never thought of.
When dealing with anxiety, there are a lot of pieces to consider. Hence, it is primordial for you to accept what you are experiencing and to be non-judgmental. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety. The first step towards healing is acceptance. Also, tell your friends and loved ones what YOU need. They may not fully understand what you are going through and it may be life changing for you to explain what you are feeling and what they can do to help. Honest communication is a strong ally.
Also, remember that you are not alone on this journey. Anxiety is experienced by most and we all handle it differently. Think about what you need to feel safe. Think about what you need to feel better. Don’t forget to write it down to help you remember when you need it most. It can be as simple as a picture, a word of affirmation, or a mindfulness exercise. If you have any questions or if you would like to know more about how mindfulness can help you, feel free to contact us. Remember, we are here to help. You are not alone.