One of the most common themes in this Q&A series has been how to soothe the mind and body and create a feeling of calm. We turn our attention today to self-care for anxiety. Anxiety is so prevalent that we can all relate to a sense of a jittery, reactive mind or the physical tension that creeps into our neck, shoulders and jaw by the end of the day. The modern world is jam packed full of stimulation and busyness that even our downtime often tends to involve more screen time and striving. We have lost the art of relaxation and worse, relaxation is often seen as lazy and luxurious. I want to challenge that notion and empower you with the tools to soften and soothe both your mind and body at any time throughout your day. Learn to do this and you will sleep better at night, wake feeling more refreshed and have greater willpower reserves to make life-giving choices more often.
To address an anxious mind and body, our self-care needs to focus on calming activities that promote the functioning of our parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest part of the nervous system. These are my go to tips for soothing anxiety:
- Time spent in Nature where you are noticing the beauty around you with all your senses. Just a few minutes will do.
- Taking a mindful walk, immersed in the sensation of moving and feeling a tall spine and open chest. A simple 5 minute walk around the block can be enough to boost your mood.
- Gentle and supported movement like swimming or restorative yoga poses like the sequence in this video
- Being with the breath and feeling the sensations of it – inhalation, pause, exhalation, pause. Aim to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. Try the guided breathing exercise in this short video
- Lie down with your legs up the wall or over the sofa for 5 minutes and use the mantra: ‘I give myself permission to rest’
- Earth your brow: either in childs pose on the floor (you’ll see this in the yoga sequence above) or if seated at a table, rest your head on your hands. If standing, make two gentle fists and press the base of your thumbs into your forehead. Feel how this allows your mind and body to relax.
- Use the mantra: ‘I soften into this moment’ whenever you feel tight or reactive and allow your breath, mind and body to release.
Dot these micromoments of calm throughout your day and let me know how you go! Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you peace and ease.
“I’m stressed!” The modern catch cry! We all know that feeling of time pressure, mental overwhelm, sleeplessness, tight jaw, adrenals in overdrive… The thing is, stress isn’t going to go away. The day where there is an absence of stress is the day we are pushing up daisies. In fact, even positive and much longed for events can also tax our minds and bodies… Getting married, scoring that promotion, falling pregnant and then hells bells, adjusting to the demands of them being on the outside! We have to get a handle on stress because its effects are cumulative, too much stress is plain dangerous for our health and it puts the kibosh on happiness.
So what’s the solution? Daily nourishment, valves that release that mounting pressure, and simple mood boosters. These things must be at our fingertips touch when we need it the most and most of all, quick! I call it my ‘self-care toolkit’ and it helps me manage my stress. Even better, it helps me be the kind of mother, partner, friend and practitioner that I aspire to be. Win win! There’s nothing selfish about that.
10 ways to stress less:
- Breathe – it is literally impossible to feel stressed at the same time as breathing well. We still may be aware of uncomfortable sensations, thoughts and feelings but we don’t feel stressed about them while breathing well. How do we breathe well? Simply stop, be still, and feel your breathing. Relax into the sensations of the inhalation filling you up, a tiny pause at the end of the breath in, the surrender of the exhalation and the pause at the end of your breath out. Become your breath for as long as it takes to feel more grounded.
- ‘Put and ring around it’ – identify what it is that’s stressing you and put a ring around it. It’s not everything, it is just this one defined thing. And if there are multiple stressors that does genuinely make you feel like it’s everything, put a ring around this time. It won’t be like this forever. This ‘chunking down’ tool helps you get a better handle on life’s challenges.
- Are you ‘hangry’? Quite often when we’re feeling headless, it’s because we haven’t fed ourselves appropriately. Have some life-giving snacks at your fingertips because we’re not just feeding our body, we’re also nourishing our mood and mental clarity. Make sure you are well hydrated too.
- Move – this is not just about exercise, this is plain movement. If you’re feeling stuck, low or scattered, move your body. It is a natural antidepressant and research shows it boosts creativity so you will be more resourceful in your approach to problem solving. Nothing fancy or elaborate is needed, just a quick walk around the block can do the trick.
- Reach out – take some time to think about who is on your ‘team’. Who are the people you turn to when you need a kind ear, a sounding board, a cheerleader, someone to yoga with, coffee mate, movie buddy, for your body MOT (my physio and hairdresser are definitely on my team). Write down the names of these people and know that there are different times when they each come to the fore. When you’re feeling wobbly, take a peek at your list and reach out to the appropriate person. Social connection feeds the soul so make sure you are investing in these relationships.
- Scent – don’t underestimate the power of scent. It is so quick and effortless. Spritz your favourite fragrance or light a scented candle and stand tall. Take a few deep breaths and relish that moment. For added potency you can pair scent with affirmations too – use a phrase that channels how you want to feel.
- “I have all the time I need”…. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Even if you don’t believe it! This mantra will help you relax and feel a greater sense of spaciousness in your day. It might even help you refine your priorities.
- Mood boosting music – identify your happy tracks and press play when you need a boost. A dose of classical can be medicinal if soothing is what you need.
- Nature’s beauty – drink it in and let it blow away the cobwebs. Nature is another potent antidepressant and helps us connect with what matters most in life. If you can’t get out in it, seek it out from where you are. Maybe it’s the moving cloudscape during your commute or a vase of cut flowers on your desk at work. Be open to the therapeutic power of Nature and self-care becomes so simple and accessible.
- What’s your WHY – so often stress leaves us feeling a bit discombobulated. Remind yourself of the purpose behind your actions and this galvanises us when the tough gets going.
So, self-care needn’t be elaborate, take much time, energy or expense. Turn to these strategies when you’re feeling under the pump and feel the tension dissipate. Better still, engage in them regularly and you’ll have stress rolling off your shoulders before it raises your blood pressure.
These are just a selection of self-care activities. Book in for your complimentary 15 min phone call about how we can create your own bespoke self-care toolkit. It’s time to reclaim your vitality!
For many years I’ve been asked about recording some of my guided meditations and relaxations. As part of week 5: Rest and Refresh, I have made one available for you.
It’s time to refresh! Take a few minutes out now to drop your day from your shoulders. You can even pop in some headphones and do it at your desk. It will be 2 minutes well spent. Find it by clicking here: Suzy Reading’s Guide to Breathing.
For more suggestions on how to replenish your mind and body, drop me a line on email@example.com
When you’re feeling STRESSED – try child’s pose
When you’re feeling SAD – try a handstand
When you’re feeling TIRED – try legs up the wall pose
When you’re feeling STUCK – try a twist
When you need a BOOST – try a gentle back bend
When you need to LET GO – lengthen your exhale
When you need to SLOW DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS – earth your brow… (more…)
I had an experience this week that totally knocked me off my centre and it served to remind me of just how important it is to have a toolkit of things that can help soothe and calm us.
While I have been writing recently a great deal about happiness strategies I think it is important to acknowledge that I am not saying that we should expect to find ourselves in a state of happiness all the time. There will be moments in our day, sometimes long stretches of time, where we are challenged by life and it is essential that we give ourselves permission to have what I call a ‘normal human reaction’ to life.
At times we will feel sad, angry, frustrated, lost, confused, anxious and all the other emotions that form the full gamut of expressions and this is ok. It is important to be real, to give ourselves time to feel and respond to what happens in our lives. While it is ok to have these feelings, we also need some strategies to help us soothe ourselves, to reconnect with our calm-abiding centre.
I’d like to share mine with you and hope that this might motivate you to articulate yours. If you are in a happy place right now then there is no better time to brainstorm because a positive mood enhances your creativity.
If you are not in a great place at the moment then it might help to sit down with a friend or have a session with a coach to help open your eyes to the calming and uplifting things that are available to you. (more…)