Do you ever find yourself longing for a simple life, with no stress and being able to just enjoy the good things in life without all the pressures and demands we feel are put on us?
I meet a lot of people in my work and social circles and a very high percentage of them suffer, to some degree with symptoms of stress, anxiety and often depression too.
So here are my top 7 ways to help reduce Anxiety:
This is most definitely not about sitting silently on top of a mountain for 8 hours a day! Research shows you only need 10-15 minutes of meditation per day to get the health benefits, which include reducing stress hormone levels, increasing serotonin, and strengthening your ability to let go of thoughts that don’t serve you.
My personal favourite meditation is Mindvalley’s 6-phase meditation.
I love journaling! It was a thought to get started as I kept thinking “what am I going to write about?” but the great thing about it is no-one will read it, so your handwriting, spelling, and grammar doesn’t have to be perfect. The main point is that writing out your thoughts and feelings can help you process emotions in a healthy way, significantly reducing anxiety.
The best way is set a fixed amount of time, each day, to write out how you feel about difficult things that are going on. It can be very helpful to do before bed if you suffer from insomnia (the kind where anxious thoughts keep you up at night), and can even help you perform better at work-related tasks that you find are causing you anxiety.
3. Get Enough Sleep
This is a really important one, especially if you are prone to anxiety.
When you sleep, your brain uses the time to sort out your thoughts and eliminating clutter thus reducing anxiety.
There is a close relationship between anxiety and sleep, with both affecting each other: Lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. The good news is there are lots of things you can try to do to help, including not drinking caffeine after lunch, not drinking alcohol for 3-4 hours before bed, turning off technology an hour before bed (the screen’s blue light stimulates the brain, not relaxes it) meditation, journaling and massage to name a few.
As children we laugh a lot, maybe hundreds of times a day, but as adults we allow our fun side to be over ruled by our serious grown up side, and it is not as healthy for us.
Laughing is an effective way of reducing anxiety and boosting mood. It relaxes your body, boosts your immune system and triggers the release of endorphins.
Laughter can really help to stop anxiety, and similar emotions; you can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. I often tell my children that if they are feeling really angry, instead of reacting, take themselves away and sing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” it is really hard to stay angry while singing that!
Laughter is the best medicine, is a very interesting article, on the Helpguide.org website which explores this further.
5. Designated ‘Worry Time’
I know I am writing about how to ease your anxiety, and you may wonder why I am telling you to worry about things, but bear with me on this one!
If you’re really worrying about a specific problem, designate a focused time for it. Have a set time every day, to think about that specific problem. You can write about it in your journal as a separate entry, or use post it notes to brain dump all your concerns around that issue, or just sit quietly and think it through, try out what works best for you. The idea is for you to problem solve the worst case scenarios, so you are not worrying so much about it.
Now the key is for the rest of the day, if you catch yourself beginning to worry and obsess, try and stop yourself by acknowledging the thought and then putting that thought to one side, as you will be addressing it at your worry time.
Don’t expect to get the hang of this method immediately, it will take some practice, but persevere with it and you will find it makes a difference.
6. Practice a 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Developed by sleep expert Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing technique involves three steps, breathing in for the count of 4, holding your breath for the count of 7, and breathing out for the count of 8.
This technique works because people who are stressed or anxious are under-breathing, or taking short and shallow breaths. Deep breathing slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and increases your oxygen intake, all of which has a calming effect.
I really like this technique, and often use it when I am feeling overwhelmed, angry or upset. It feels like you are stopping time and then resetting the clock.
Start practicing ‘4-7-8’ method with these steps:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Many people are enjoying the benefits of massage, but most still think of it as a pampering treatment and not as an essential part of your health & wellbeing.
Massage therapy can be effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, by helping you to sleep better and feel more balanced.
Whether you have a back neck & shoulder massage or a full body massage, aromatherapy, Swedish or Deep Tissue massage, the benefits are all the same.
My clients always leave less tense and sore than when they arrived, and often report to feeling “amazing”, “very chilled out” or even “like a cloud!” They feel they have more movement and flexibility in the area that was causing them discomfort, which gives them the satisfaction of some instant relief and many report a better nights sleep after a massage.
Taking that time for yourself is very important, we often are the last ones we look after and it is important to remember that your state of mind and body and spirit are all connected and you need to look after all aspects of you.
Time to Care For Yourself?
When you are stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your heart rate & breathing increases, and your adrenal & sweat glands go into overdrive.
While these are normal reactions for your body to have for short periods of time, remaining in this state for too long places enormous strain on your mind & body. It can have damaging effects on your immune system and lead you to stress related illness.
So how do you come out of this state and calm your body? When we are looking after ourselves and have a good self care or stress management routine, we allow our bodies to relax and unwind, which slows our heart rate, decreased blood pressure & promotes energy storage, among other things.
Life has so much pressures and expectations of us these days that it is harder and harder to naturally relax enough for our bodies to get into the relaxed state. This is where our self-care routine is critical to our mental, physical and emotion well-being.
Massage therapy is a relaxing massage treatment where we focus on a specific problem, like neck & shoulder pain or general maintenance to help with and keep on top of stress.
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