Anxiety and stress can have a debilitating effect on your life and affect many aspects of it. In this short article I have outlined 5 simple tips to reduce anxiety and stress which although referred to as simple, can be very effective if practiced regularly.
Anxiety & Stress have many physiological affects on the body and one of them is to adversely affect your breathing. Whenever you encounter shortness of breath from an anxiety attack or feeling very tense it may seem crazy that your breathing is what you should focus on, but by doing just that you can take in the right amount of oxygen into the lungs and get the situation under control.
7/11 Breathing to help with Anxiety
This simple technique can train your mind and body to relax and help you counter the anxious thoughts before they develop into an anxiety attack.
- Breathe in while counting to 7
- Breathe out while counting to 11
Yes it’s that simple but so effective. You may start off counting fast to 7 but count at the exact same speed as you exhale for a count of 11. The exhale is always longer than the inhale and this simply relaxes you. As your breathing slows so will your speed of counting but the exhale will take longer if you count at the same speed.
One of the things we do when anxious is to shut down and “stay safe”. Its actually part of our human protection mechansim from our ancestral days – commonly known as “Fight or Flight”. In the modern day we have things that trigger our brain into believing we are under threat, when in fact it is not a serious threat at all. A side effect is the tendency to avoid anything that might seem in the slightest bit risky. When suffering from anxiety we often avoid simple things that we used to enjoy. That can be going to the gym, dancing, cycling, walking, swimming etc. I see this many times with clients who attend therapy for help with anxiety and exercise it is the one thing I encouarage them to do first before any other self-help.
When we exercise the body releases Endorphins – feel good chemicals that lift our mood after exercise and give us a natural “high”. Even simple exercise can do this and break that cycle of tension, fear and anxious thoughts. So get out tomorrow even for a simple 10 min walk and when out look at everything you see. Become like a person that had never been out in the world before. Take in the sights, sounds and atmosphere around you, become engrossed in the experience; whether it’s the sound of birdsong in the park, the smell and sound of the ocean, or whatever else you find enjoyable.
Do it every day and build up the distance so that your unconscious mind develops a routine and looks forward to that time.
We all need regular refreshing sleep, not just 8 hrs of sleep, but the type of deep relaxing sleep that allows our mind and body to re-juvenate itself for the next day.
Many of my clients who need help with anxiety or stress find it hard to sleep properly and part of the reason is that their mind is constantly racing – “what if?” “How am I going to face that?” ” I’m really scare of (fill in the blank) happening”. Couple that with the modern day need to frequently check Social Media and all of this intense activity just before we go to bed means that the brain is on full steam ahead instead of winding down for rest.
Try this for a few days and notice the difference:
- If you have reminders or tasks to do the next day finalise them early in the evening
- Only listen or watch the News once per day – never late at night
- Shut down your mobile phone, computer, TV at least one hour before you go to bed
- Put your phone out of reach and preferably not in the bedrom at all
- Listen to calm relaxing music for 30 mins before going to bed or take a nice warm bath
- Do not drink alcohol late at night, reduce your alcohol content, and cut down your intake
- Before you go to sleep focus on a goal you want to achieve in the future
Note: When you focus on the goal use a postive intent e.g. “I want to be fitter and healthier by the end of the year” not “I don’t want to be unhealthy”
The reason is explained below in Tip 4.
Our brain is an amazing machine and yet some parts operate simply. Our conscious thoughts are a simple part of the brain and quite logical in operation. We simply think about something and the brains initial response is to take action and deliver that which it thinks we want.
When anxious we may constantly think “I don’t want to feel anxious”, but the brain has to think about being anxious before it does anything else. To illustrate this, try not to think of a pink elephant! It’s impossible.
To help overcome the constant “I don’t want…” I’m afraid that…” “What if…” here is a simple exercise…
Next time you have a negative thought immediately switch to something you would really love to do, something unconnected to the negative thought, e.g. perhaps you really love swimming. You think something negative e.g. ” I’m afraid to go to town in case something terrible happens” – immediately imagine swimming somewhere really beautiful.
Next time you have the same negative thought switch it again and notice that the more you switch the less troublesome the negative thought becomes. It may fade away to nothing or just feel silly to even think of it after a while.
There is a system of energy healing called Reiki. It was created by a Japanese man called Mikao Usui in the 1920’s. You need not even decide whether it’s “woo woo” airy fairy stuff or whether it is something that might help you, because the exercise this time has nothing to do with the energy healing aspect of Reiki.
Usui taught all his students his healing methods but also instilled in them the simple principles by which he lived his life. These five principles can be recited several times every morning before your daily routine begins and will form part of the unconscious mind’s goals. If you apply these simple 5 principles to your daily life you may be surprised at how your outlook on life changes.
They are simple to remember and are shown below…
Just for Today...
I will not worry
Worry deprives the mind and body of energy
I will not get angry
Anger steals our energy for the wrong purpose and also affect out physical body producing ill-health
I will give thanks for
my many blessings
Whatever we may have suffered or pain way may be in there is are always postive things in our life that we can be grateful for
I will do my work diligently
This originally referred to meditation and self care but can be applied to our working environment too
I will be kind to everyone
No matter who winds you up or pushes your buttons, showing kindness disarm their anger and avoids absorbing their negativity.
Anxiety can be overcome and sometimes very rapidly by changing the mindset and telling your mind what you really want. Do not underestimate the power of the 5 simple tips to reduce anxiety. Try them for a couple of weeks and see how you feel – you have nothing to lose, but plenty to gain.
5 simple tips to reduce anxiety – a request.
Have you any simple tips or exercises that have helped you with anxiety and stress? Please post your comments below so that others may benefit from your experience…