7 Steps to Release Your Anxiety
Last night at 3am I was lying in bed filled with anxiety, before I started my ‘tried and tested’ methods to calm my nervous system, bringing it back into a state of deep relaxation followed by sleep. It occurred to me that not everyone has figured out exactly how to manage their own anxiety yet, and what a difficult place that is to be in.
Believe me when I say this, I suffered for years in silence with anxiety , knots in my tummy, an upset stomach, racing thoughts and lots of nights with little to no sleep.
No matter how mild or severe your anxiety is, even if you don’t have these symptoms but perhaps are experiencing negative thoughts quite a lot, or maybe you find it difficult to get to sleep each night in silence, the methods and tools I will share with you now can help. I will go through lots of different tools, you are welcome to try out for yourself and see which works best for you.
Tool 1) Change the Script
If your mind is racing and you your inner critic is running rampant, or maybe you are dwelling on something that upset you. Change the script. Focus on your good points, your strengths. Change the entire story you are playing in your head over and over, to a more positive spin - best case scenario.
Tell yourself “I got this”. “I am exactly where I am meant to be right now, all is well in my world, I am fully supported”.
Or maybe you need to change the story entirely, if it’s too much to handle right now, then focus on the good. Forget the negative feedback your colleague gave you and focus on all you have achieved in your life so far, or the upcoming camping trip this coming weekend.
Change the script! Stay focused and when your mind wanders back.. Spin it by bringing it back to a positive.
Tool 2) Repeat a Mantra
This can be in English or in any language, whichever you feel most comfortable with.
One I love is from Kundalini Yoga, the Kirtan Kriya which is especially good for calming a racing mind and brilliant for anyone who is a nervous flyer.
It’s the words Sa- Ta- Na- Ma repeated over and over.
With each word you place a finger against your thumb, so by using your hands too, you are giving the mind and body something to focus on.
Sa - Press index finger against thumb (Focusing on Birth)
Ta - Press middle finger against thumb (Focusing on Life)
Na - Press ring finger against thumb (Focusing on Death)
Ma - Press pinkie finger against thumb (Focusing on Re-Birth)
Tool 3) Gratitude
Focus on one thing you are grateful for and keep coming back to it. The key to this is that whatever you focus on should have such a strong emotion of gratitude behind the intention that it will bring a smile to your face. Maybe you are really grateful to having a full hour lunch break by yourself and that headspace was exactly what you wanted, or maybe you are grateful for being brought coffee in bed that morning.
No matter what it is, focus on that one thing (or many) for a couple of minutes and once you feel the emotion vibrating strong throughout your body and your face is smiling, then release the story and bathe in this feeling of gratitude. Allow it shower your entire body with love for as long as can. This way you are changing your frequency from fear/worry/anxiety to love/gratitude/acceptance.
Our thoughts create our reality. So how we think and how we feel creates our personal reality. Watch this fantastic talk by my all-time-favorite teacher Dr Joe Dispenza on how you can change your current life circumstances by your thoughts alone. This is all backed by science for those who need the solid facts.
Tool 4) Guided Body Scan Meditation
You can practice a guided body scan meditation lying down in your bed, and it works wonders in helping you nod off to sleep.
By focusing all of your awareness on specific body parts, what you are doing is slowly allowing your body to fall asleep, closely followed by your analytical mind falling asleep. You are changing your brainwave states from high stress beta waves into relaxed and calm alpha/theta states, bringing you into a deep state of rest and relaxation.
This guided body scan meditation is part of the Yoga Nidra practice and is delivered in a systematic way, that specifically works with the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
It usually takes about 11 minutes to complete, but often you will be fast asleep before you even finish the right side of your body.
It’s great to focus the mind and release any stress or tension from the body. I have a free guided meditation here which you are welcome to try, called Yoga Nidra for Self love. I designed this especially to release stress and self doubt, while bringing you into a state of deep relaxation so that your brain can release a beautiful cocktail of happy hormones (Endorphins/dopamine/serotonin)
You can also search Yoga Nidra Body Scan on Insight Timer/ You tube for lots of options
Tool 5) Take 7 Deep Diaphragmatic Breaths
By taking 7 deep belly/abdominal breaths you are communicating with your nervous system that everything is ok, to switch off the fight/flight/freeze stress hormones and switch on the rest/restore/relax hormones. You can read more on the benefits in this link here.
The beauty of this exercise is that it can be done in the washroom on your break in work, even on the bus ride to an important meeting/interview or lying in bed next to your child or loved on.
Either seated or lying down -
Take a deep breath into your teeth. Imagine that you are inhaling through your teeth and exhaling through your teeth.
Next Take a deep breath into your cheeks. Imagine that you are inhaling through your cheeks and exhaling through your cheeks
Next Take a deep breath into your eyes. Imagine that you are inhaling through your eyes and exhaling through your eyes
Next Take a deep breath into your Teeth, your Eyes and your Cheeks Now. ( One long inhale through all 3, and one smooth long exhale)
Repeat 3 Times
Now you are taking long deep breaths from your tummy, your chest and your collarbones. Breathing into your side and back ribs also. You are breathing through your 8 different sinus points. This is helping your body get the air it needs in order for you to change your physical state into calm.
Tool 6) Slow down your exhales
When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system, freeing you from anxiety and stress.
How you do this is focus all your attention on the exhales.
So allow your natural Inhale to happen
Then count the length of your exhale 1 - 2 - 3
Take a natural Inhale (no forcing or controlling)
Then slowly begin to lengthen the exhale, long smooth breath - counting 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Continue like this to see if you can lengthen your exhale up to the count of 5 / 6 .
You are communicating with your body and mind that everything is ok. It’s a simple practice but an incredibly powerful one. There are many studies linking the vagus nerve breathing technique to helping alleviate symptoms of depression. You can read more about the vagus nerve here.
Tool 7) 3-3-3
I learned this through my teacher Kimberly Ann Johnson, author of The 4th Trimester and I found it hugely healing and beneficial as a short and simple practice that you can do anywhere. You scan 3 objects with eyes open, 3 sensations with eyes closed, 3 objects with eyes open.
It’s based on the healing principles of Somatic Therapy which is a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body and uses both psychotherapy and physical therapies for releasing any form of Trauma from the body.
Wherever you are ...come to standing and with your eyes open slowly begin to scan the room you are in.
Scanning slowly the full 360 degrees, noticing what you see.
Then allow your eyes to pause on wherever they are naturally drawn.
Label what you see - wherever your eyes land - for example Red Lamp, Green Tree,
Wait for a beat,
Then allow your eyes to scan the room again
Do this 2 more times, stopping on 2 more objects
Then close your eyes
Scan you entire body from your feet all the way to your head, looking for sensation in the body.
Here is the Key - look for POSITIVE sensation. SO rather than focusing on your tight hips and sore shoulder, focus on something positive - Warm Feet - Relaxed tummy, Soft face
Repeat this 2 more times scanning the body with eyes closed
Repeat Step 1
Open your eyes and then repeat Step one again
Notice the difference in how you feel in the space in which you stand after.
You have just learned to regulate yourself, creating a sense of safety in your inner and outer world.
Peter Levine, author of ‘Waking the Tiger, healing Trauma” offers 2 body-oriented techniques that can help you feel safe. These are simple methods that you can immediately add to your toolbox for the treatment of trauma. You can try them with this YouTube Video.
Below is a list of additional tips and tricks which can also help alleviate anxiety.
Turn off your TV & Phone devices, lower your blue screen exposure and over- stimulation from screen time
Read a book
Pause what's on your mind until morning - remember a serious 2am thought doesn't seem as important or serious at 10am
Insight Timer is an amazing free Meditation App - 1,000’s of free meditations
Take a mindful walk - labeling what you see - tree, leaves, people, dog,
Ask for help - get a close friend or loved one to reflect back to you all the positive encouraging things about YOU
Tell yourself :
You have survived until now - in fact you have thrived until now
Will you even remember this in 5 years time? Is it ‘that’ big of a deal?
You are a good kind person
You got this. You are stronger than you think and the best has yet to come.
Drink a cup chamomile tea and between sips, focus on lengthening your exhale and breathing slowly.
Reduce caffeine intake
Go for 30 minute walk outside around the block
Listen to Louise Hays 50 Minutes of Positive Affirmations to change your attitude
Move your body , practice 30 minutes of yoga at home or in studio even (especially) if you don’t want to do it
Walk in your feet in the grass - connecting with nature like this feels so good
Swim in the ocean /sea/ river and imagine the water cleansing you from all your worries
Take a Walk in woods - surround yourself with the wisdom of nature and beautiful old grandfather trees
I hope that some or all of the above you find useful in helping you lower any anxiety you may be experiencing. If you have any additional tips or tools to add, I would love to hear them. Please do share in the comments below.
Sending you love and healing.