Anxiety – Some practical tips

pexels-photo-313690.jpegFollowing on from my previous posts regarding anxiety, what it is; and also the effective use of mindfulness, I’ve culminated the two into some helpful hints and tips. These can be adapted for most situations.

pexels-photo-690598.jpegStress, anxiety, anger, etc. are all caused by chemical reactions which are triggered by thoughts. The thoughts encourage our body to react in a certain way which should help us out. This highly developed and efficient reaction ensures that faced with clear and present danger, such as imminent attack from a crocodile, snake, bear, Ninja warrior, etc. we are able to fight it…or run like hell! Commonly known as fight or flight!

Now, when we had to chase, catch, kill and drag our own food back to base, this was a really useful reaction. It even helped us when the Vikings invaded or a German rifle was pointed in our face. It continues to help those faced with life threatening situations every day, which is why we need to keep this reaction going.

So, now we’ve established that we’re all brilliant and our bodies are the very living example of perfection, we can start to think about exactly when we need the fight or flight reaction. And when we don’t.

Think about your situation…

Do we need to fight it?

Do we need to run like hell from it?

If you’ve answered “yes” to either of the above questions, keep reading the first part of this blog until you say “no”

So, we don’t need to exercise this amazing brain / body reaction in normal everyday life do we?

Let’s try something new. Here are some tips for helping you through your stress…

Try to keep a mood diary for one week so that you can begin to notice times when you are feeling stressed, there are also free apps you can use. Use smiley faces to track your mood at certain times of the day. Make a note of what was happening and why you felt the way you did. At the end of the week, review the diary.

Once you have begun to notice your anxiety and understand when it occurs, you need to make friends with it. Have a little chat. Your anxiety is your inner Ninja. It protects you and keeps you alive. This is brilliant. But your inner Ninja is a little over worked. He or she is starting to think that they have to be with you all the time. Please tell your inner Ninja that they don’t. They have to rest so that they can be ready when Viking attack strikes. Say to your Ninja…

You are my Ninja and I’m really happy because my body is working perfectly but you need to rest so that I can concentrate on what I need to do and you can be ready for when you are needed. I’m going to do some breathing exercises which will help us both to calm down”

Practice some simple mindfulness techniques – mindfulness is the practice of focusing your mind on one thing in the present with no thought for future or past. The great thing about mindfulness is that recent studies have shown it to be as, if not more, effective than drugs and some other therapies in treating depression and anxiety. But that’s not all. Those really clever scientists have even shown that by practising mindfulness, us amazing humans can CHANGE the makeup of our brains! 

elephant-africa-okavango-delta-animal-86413.jpegElephants Can Help!!

Sit comfortably on a chair with your feet on the floor, close your eyes. Concentrate on your breath and breathe in through your nose for a slow count of 3…one, elephant, two, elephant, three elephant

Hold your breath for a slow count of 3

Breath out for a slow count of 3

Do this 3 times

As you breathe in, visualise clean fresh energy entering your body, filling up your lungs with healthy air. As you breathe out, visualise the anxious, worried, dirty air leaving your body.

If your mind wonders whilst you are breathing, say hello to the thought and bring your awareness back to your breathing. Notice how the breath continues in and out, try and feel in your body where your breath goes and take notice.

soap-bubble-colorful-ball-soapy-water.jpgOnce you have done this, if you still have worrying thoughts in your head, imagine them as bubbles in front of you. Each bubble has a thought in it. Look at the bubble, imagine the thought as a word inside the bubble and then imagine it continuing its journey up into the air.

Another helpful mindfulness technique is to choose an object, a pen or phone anything nearby. Study the object with curiosity. Look at its shape, how does it feel to hold? How does the object feel against your skin?

You can practice these techniques every time you feel anxious or worried, it may take a little time but it will help.

There’s no need to let worry and anxiety get in the way of your life and what you need to achieve. Take charge today! Give your Ninja a rest and free your mind!

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Robins and Trees – a Soulful Journey

IMG_0291This afternoon, my husband asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. Of course! any excuse to enjoy the lovely winter sunshine. And I got so much more from it than I had imagined.

The sun glistened through the ramrod straight trees and sprinkled its golden glitter on the streams and ponds. Dogs frolicked through the muddy puddles and parents laughed with their children as they shared an experience. A corridor of trees enticed us and gently swayed and creaked as we obliged. The forest thanked us by revealing a beautiful sight. A solitary blue-green Douglas Fur (pictured above) standing tall and proud like a peacock. It was as if the tree knew we were watching it in awe and we loved it.

IMG_0287A soft stream tinkled over shale and small rocks and we hopped across it like children.

IMG_5408 (002)I clambered atop a giant chair and bruised my rear sitting on the unforgiving iron seat, but we still laughed as children watched me, waiting for their turn.

As we walked hand in hand, talking about nothing in particular, smiling and greeting those who knew the secret too, I felt I was in a place where all was good with the World.

As the end of our walk drew near, the sun was low in the sky and the moon was already visible as if to say, “thank you but you have to go now so that you can appreciate what you have seen”.

I turned to respond to a sweet tweeting and was distracted by squirrels running up and down the trees, collecting the treasures from picnic tables long since abandoned. Tweet, tweet, it was insistent and then, there he was, puffed up and full of attitude, staring back me.

IMG_0294“Don’t forget me” he seemed to say, and he waited patiently whilst I fumbled with my phone to catch his image.

IMG_5407 (002)Today, I truly fed my soul.

 

Mindfulness – What is it?

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One of my best friends (I only have two, I’m an INFJ personality type remember!) asked me recently to do a turn at one of her charity events which she has based around wellbeing to raise money for her village hall and surrounding playing fields.

“Can you do some of your Mindfulness stuff and guide visitors through a meditation? Oh and by the way, just tell them what mindfulness actually is!”

It occurred to me that, although this word gets a lot of attention, people don’t really understand what it is. So here you go…a little bit of info.

The mindfulness movement has gained popularity in the last couple of years as a popular self help tool and one which can be of use to many people, especially young adults who’s brains are like little sponges and are quicker to adapt.

That doesn’t mean us over 16’s shouldn’t bother though, it just might take us a bit longer to get into it, but believe me, it’s well worth the effort.

Mindfulness has roots in some ancient Eastern meditation traditions – don’t worry! it doesn’t require us to train for years in a monastery and take a vow of silence. Mindfulness is indeed easily adapted into modern living, hence it’s popularity.

So, what is it? I found this the easiest definition courtesy of Gina Beigel, MA, LMFT who designed and developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teens program which I have studied and use often in my role as a school counsellor.

“Mindfulness is noticing your thoughts feelings and physical sensations in the present moment”

So, basically it’s about taking a moment to just, well, be in the moment. Often mindfulness practice for beginners can include mindful eating or mindfully taking a shower. this would include using all 5 of your senses to undertake these tasks. These practices work well because they take everyday occurrences that we tend to move through on autopilot and encourage us to experience them as a whole.

So why bother? I already know how to eat and how to shower!

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This is the bit that fascinates me (I know! I’m a geek!). Recent research featured on the BeMindful website tells us that mindfulness practice has shown itself to be as effective if not more so than standard treatments such as anti-depressants. Great news for our amazing grey matter which once again seems to outdo even the cleverest medical innovations! And its free! And there are no side effects!

Actually, there are side effects which include, better ability to sleep, increased sense of well being, reduction in stress or anxiety levels.

It seems that slowing down our thinking and concentrating on a a visual cue, a sound or our breathing; is a bit like when we exercise our muscles at the gym and the more we do it, the fitter we get. Now that sounds like my kind of exercise!

So why not give it a try, next time you are having a shower, try this…

  1. What can you see?
  2. What can you hear?
  3. What can you smell?
  4. What can you taste?
  5. What can you touch?

Try it with other everyday activities like walking the dog or eating your lunch. See it as special time with your most important companion…your Brain!