Anxiety is a word I hear on a daily basis, a word that for far too many stirs up stress and fear. It can be a daily battle trying to live with anxiety in its many forms, ranging from general anxiety disorder (GAD) to social anxiety to outright panic. What’s more it can leave you feeling isolated and alone. Nine times out of ten the clients I help tell me that they feel their family and friends cannot understand the problems they are going through, especially in the long run.
The good news is that this turmoil you or a loved one are experiencing is absolutely treatable, even without the need for medication. Seeking the assistance of a therapist experienced in dealing with the various forms of anxiety and with whom you can feel comfortable and safe could be the first steps to a better quality of life. Over the past 4+ years I have been able to combine a range of highly effective therapies to help clients through their own personal battles with anxiety and stress in its many forms.
Not everyone can afford the services of a therapist of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from some simple techniques proven to help combat anxiety. Here I’ve put together a list of ideas you can put into practice right now to help tackle problems on a day-to-day basis.
Breathing. When anxiety starts up our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, our heart rate increases and we can also experience dizziness, nausea and sweats. To help combat this we need to control our breathing. A breathing technique clinically proven to lower your heart rate and slow your breath is called heart math or 7 breathing. Inhale for a count of 7, hold the breath for a count of 7, exhale for a count of 7, hold the breath for a count of 7 and repeat another 2 rounds then take a few normal breaths. Repeat the round of 3 another 2 times. Do not attempt this while driving or operating heavy machinery.
Re-orientation. If you are out and anxiety begins to overwhelm you, ground yourself, re-orientate yourself in place and time by asking yourself some or all of these questions:
Where am I?
What is today?
What is the date?
What is the month?
What is the year?
How old am I?
What season is it?
54321. Another good one for when you are out and about, at school, college, work or home.
Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.
Name 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”).
Name 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “TV”).
Name 2 things you can smell right now (or 2 things you like the smell of).
Name 1 good thing about yourself.
Rapid Relaxation. Not the easiest thing to do when anxious but if you can slow your breathing down you will find it easier with practice. Choose a word or colour that for you resonates ‘calm’ even if it is just the word ‘relax’. Take a slow deep breath in and on your exhale focus only on that word. Continue doing this, keeping the breath slow and calm at the same time allowing your shoulders to soften and slacken. Eventually, after practice when you just focus on that special word your mind will help you with the rest, slowing your breathing and relaxing your body automatically. Do not attempt this while driving or operating heavy machinery.
Be patient with yourself as you learn to relax body and mind. It takes practice. While our bodies generally welcome relaxation our minds can be difficult to ‘switch off/slow down’. If we fight our thoughts we create even more tension, therefore we need to learn to encourage the mind to let go and relax.
To find a relaxation class near you have a look at your local library, health shop or school. Maelo Therapies also runs weekly relaxation classes aimed at reducing stress and helping with anxiety. For more information follow the link: https://www.maelotherapies.com/classes There is also a free MP3 download for progressive muscle relaxation on the same link.
Wishing you all the best in your journey. Remember, there is effective help available no matter what your problem is.