There are plenty of events each day that can make you anxious. Most days everything gets handled well. Work, getting the kids off to school, buying the groceries, figuring out what to make for dinner, walking the dog, answering emails and paying the bills, usually go off without a hitch. Then there are those days when you are thrown for a loop. The car gets a flat tire when you’re on the way to yoga. Your aging parent has an emergency doctor visit and you must take them. You didn’t sleep well last night and your partner was grouchy this morning. Your inbox carried some unpleasant news from your employer and bad news from an old friend. Now your anxious symptoms start to appear. Tension in your belly, an ache in your head, racing thoughts, feelings of overwhelm, faster heartbeats and your mood starts to slide into the basement. All is not lost! Choose one or more of these strategies to get back on track and feeling calm again.
1. Get A Whiff of Something Different
Different aromas can change your mood and energy. When you need to calm down try a lavender essential oil. It is easy to fill a small spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and add several drops of lavender essential oil. Spray it in the room you are in and let the gentle aroma calm you. I carry a small spray bottle with me all the time and use it in the car and my office to shift my energy and the energy of my environment. Lavender and lemongrass is a great combination too. Not a fan of lavender? Try peppermint for a quick pick me up. There is a combination spray called Panic Button that Aura Cacia makes that works too. Experiment with what turns your anxiety meter down.
2. Take 5 to Get Your Mojo Back
Find a quiet place you can be by yourself for 5 minutes. Get comfortably seated and sit up straight. Put both hands on your chest so that you can feel your heart beat. Close your eyes and allow your breath to deepen. Let your belly relax so that your breathing can become even fuller. Now imagine that each breath is coming in through your hands and into your heart and lungs. Exhale slowly and evenly. Let your shoulders and legs relax. I like to set the timer on my watch or phone for 5 minutes so I can totally sink into this exercise and relax without having to watch the clock. When the timer goes off slowly open your eyes and return to your day.
3. Gaze with a New Eye
This is an easy mindfulness exercise that can shift your thinking and your mood. Take a walk outside for 5 minutes. As you walk, notice the environment around you – the trees, the plants, the buildings, the sky, the sun, etc. Begin this fun little game. Use this sentence as you walk: “I have never noticed that _______ before.” Notice something you have never seen before. Perhaps you see a flower in the neighbor’s yard with a pretty yellow bloom. Keep noticing details of the area you are walking in that you have never observed before using this sentence. Continue doing this for 5 or more minutes. When you are done see how you feel. Being present to what is around us takes our attention away from worry and rumination and lands us in the here and now.
4. Download the Junk
Grab your journal, your tablet, your computer or just a pad of paper. This little practice is about getting the repeating, ruminative thoughts out of you. Start writing. Just write whatever comes to mind. No one is going to read this. Perhaps you won’t even read it once you’re done. You can even start by writing, “I don’t know what to write.” Write your frustrations, worries, ruminations, wishes, longings, grocery list. Put down everything, don’t edit, don’t worry about spelling or punctuation. Try to keep going for 5 minutes or so. This helps you get out of the rumination worry loop and then you can move on. Hit delete or tear up the pages if you want.
5. Remove that Jittery Feeling
Have you noticed when you are anxious that there is sometimes a stuck uneven flow or even fluttery sensation in your breathing? Here is a quick way to stop that. In a seated position adjust your torso so that you are sitting as upright as possible. Put your hands on your belly one near the bottom of your rib cage and the other near your belly button. Notice your inhalation and then your exhalation. On your next inhale, hold your breath for a count of 5. Then exhale forcefully, pushing your breath all the way out. Pause at the end of your exhale for a count of 3 and then repeat this process. Short breath holding and forceful exhales interrupts the nervous pattern in your diaphragm. Repeat until you notice your breathing return to a more relaxed pattern. (Of course, if you get dizzy, wait a few breaths before resuming the exercise.)
6. Just Let It Go
By placing your head below your heart in this exercise, your brain takes a break and you get more grounded. Stand up and place your feet shoulder width apart with a slight in your knees. Now slowly bend over and let your head and arms hang down. Let your knees be slightly bent and your belly hang loosely. Now let your breathing deepen as you slowly and slightly bend and straighten your knees with each inhale and exhale. Allow your head to hang loosely. Stay here for 1 to 5 minutes. When you are ready to stand again, slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time letting your head come up last. Keep your knees slightly bent as you check in with yourself. How do you feel now?
Anxiety is a normal part of our human existence. It lets us know that there is something to pay attention to in our life. How we handle the experience of nervousness, tight breathing, racing thoughts and increased heart rate, can determine whether we get taken over by anxiety or we take control of our body, mind and emotions. Of course, very extreme times of anxiety that can include panic attacks might require more intervention. There is hope. You can master your amazing self and create a life of ease and more peacefulness.
If you would like to talk about your current anxious moments and how my body-mind-spirit counseling could help, send me an email or give me a call.