By Shardai Lynn
In that moment when anxiety hits, it can be pretty terrifying! The panic, the pit feeling in the stomach, the tight chest, the fearful thoughts it literally seems like it’s going to last forever and you can feel utterly helpless. More and more people are experiencing this and when anxiety isn’t managed it can lead to depression or it could be a symptom alongside depression and either way learning to manage it is so important.
I have been there, for years I didn’t know why my body was reacting in such a way, I felt out of control. Over time I have learned what helps and what doesn’t and I now have managed to recognise some tools that I could not be without.
These are my top ten tips that help me when my anxiety comes back and are amazing for overall wellbeing…
1. Know what you’re dealing with.
A lot of people feel like their anxiety is something else, maybe something is wrong with their heart or chest because of the effect on the breathing, which can become erratic, and your heart rate can increase, add a worrying mind to the mix and this can lead to all sorts of assumptions, it’s scary stuff. It is always good to know that you are facing anxiety and that you are going to be ok. Trust that the feelings will pass and you will be back to feeling better soon.
Tell yourself this, as many times as you need to!.
Leading on from tip 1, is the mantra!! A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation however I use it to help with those anxious times to channel the extra energy coursing around my body. This is one of the most useful things I have found that helps in the moment of panic and it’s something you can do anywhere and you are in control of.
I have different mantras for different fears or situations, its always good to explore what works for you. You can simply say ‘I am love’ over and over again or something more specific like ‘this will go, this feeling won’t last, I am ok. There are many other mantras that have been used for many centuries ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ or ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ are examples, they carry an energy that can help you to feel calmer and connected to the flow of life.
Feel into it though, there really is no right or wrong with this one, it is all about what feels good to you and essentially what works for you.
3. Belly breath
Sending the breath to the chest can add to that feeling of being breathless and feelings of tightness. Consciously send your breath to your belly – watch as your belly expands as the air comes in. Do at least 10 conscious breaths like this. It’s also good to adapt your posture in this moment so your shoulders are back and your head is up allowing the energy to flow freely.
I like to send worries away with the out breath as if I’m actually blowing away my woes, you can even breathe in positive affirmations with the in breath 🙂
4. Safety box
A little box of treats is a great idea to ease anxiety. In this box you can have anything that makes you feel good and wholesome. Your diary, candles, your favourite book or photographs. Put anything you want in there and get it out as a little bit of safety and comfort when you need it the most.
You can even add a little note in there written when you’re feeling ok to remind yourself that the feelings will pass.
5. Mindful thoughts
Watch your thoughts, Literally! You can visualise your thoughts as little clouds passing you by or maybe on a TV screen that you can change the channel. This helps you to be in the now. Ask yourself, have you ever struggled to act accordingly in the now? We somehow always find the strength to cope, in the moment, you can and you just do! The anxiety usually comes when you worry about a future event. The future is the stress and the future never arrives – you are always in the now and you are more than capable of doing anything, ANYTHING.
Trust in yourself and trust in the moment.
6. Self talk clean up
Once you are mindful of your thoughts you can catch the ones that don’t serve you before they take over, you can literally clean up your self talk! Start by trying to alter the things you say to yourself so that they don’t make you feel anxious and inadequate. You can adapt these habitual thoughts so that they aren’t loaded with negativity.
Simply changing ‘I’ll never be able to do that’ to ‘I can try my best to do that’ or ‘I don’t know what is going to happen’ to ‘I trust things will be ok in the end’. Even thoughts like ️’I’ll be happy once I get my promotion’ can be changed to ‘I am happy now and I am hoping to get a promotion’. It’s better to place your happiness in the moment and not onto a future event.
Be in the now as much as possible and be careful with thoughts that start with ‘I’ll be happy when…’
7. Find a daily practice
Whether it’s going for a walk, doing a yoga routine, a meditation or all of them, get yourself into a ‘feel good’ routine. Anything that will get your body moving or calm your mind, especially to get the stuck energy that is manifesting as anxiety flowing. Physiologically, anxiety and stress is our sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, which was useful back in days when we were being attacked by animals but nowadays our world is so manic and over stimulating that it doesn’t serve us at all.
Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite reaction as it allows these detrimental chemicals to be released. You do this by relaxing and since this can be hard to do it is good to have a daily practice that you commit to, just for you, that can take you to a place of calm.
8. Avoid stimulants
It’s easy to turn to alcohol when you feel stressed out, at the time it feels relaxing and harmless to have a few cocktails or beers – you have that moment of ‘ahhhhh’ and everything seems to unwind. This is short lived though. The toxins in alcohol can actually be a mood depressant and have been linked with anxiety symptoms, especially the next day. We have all felt ‘beer fear’ when you can’t remember the night before, the added anxiety you feel is no coincidence! So be sure before you turn to the booze for comfort.
Coffee is a one to watch too! Sorry, but it is a huge stimulant and can cause the symptoms of anxiety pretty quickly, it’s a no brainer if you are dealing with feelings of anxiety. I would recommend cutting it down completely and seeing if there are any changes – maybe write this down. Then you can introduce coffee back in but take it slowly and only if you really feel the need to.
In the meantime, don’t worry, there are plenty of herbal alternatives around now so you don’t have to go without the ‘perky’ perks.
9. Get it off your chest
Getting things off your chest says it all – literally get your anxiety off your chest. That heavy feeling can be lifted from your chest by simply talking things through. Maybe you need to confront someone about something or you just need a friendly ear. Once you get things out in the open you can feel the lightness. ‘Weight off my shoulders’ is another classic that actually makes perfect sense.
Worried people tend to hunch over as if they have weights on their shoulders, so get these things out and speak up before you are completely weighed down and unable to unload.
10. Unravel the feeling
Something is up! It’s the simple yet complicated realisation that you are anxious because of something. It might seem like you don’t know what it is at first so write down how you feel in the moment. You can write a list of things that worry you and look at how you can make them better. Or look at when your anxiety started and see if that allows you to understand it better. It might be job related which means you may have to try and manage it for now as you can’t change your situation, or it might be something that would be better dealt with so you can move on.
Seeing your worries written down is a great way of accepting them but also managing them and starting a plan to change things for your own peace of mind. Unravel the thoughts, unravel the pattern and be honest with yourself. Knowing you and staying true to yourself can allow for true freedom from the anxiety.
Always seek advice from a professional before you endeavor on a self help path.
Kambo Practitioner and Founder of ‘Stay True – Raising Mind Health Awareness’