I know that feeling all too well: the pit in my stomach, the heaviness, and that “can’t catch my breath” feeling. I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I used to just brush it off as “this is who I am”. As if it was part of my personality. Now I see things differently. I believe that anxiety is just like any other symptom(migraines, digestive upset, bloating, etc). It’s a form of communication from the body, telling us that something needs to be paid attention to. So what I do now is exactly that: stop, sit with it, move it out, and pay attention. I get it though, it can be crippling and debilitating and we often just want to push it down so we can move on with our day. Today I’m going to share 5 simple things I do that help my body to release some of that tension, and allow for the stuck energy to move out of my body. I often find these simple tricks help me to release that pit in my stomach much quicker, so that I’m not trying to manage it for days or weeks afterwards.
1. STOP, SIT, BREATHE, TAKE TIME AWAY FROM PEOPLE:
I think the common adage when it comes to experiencing anxiety is to “power through” and try not to think about it so you can move along with your day. That sounds like the “right” thing to do, but often when we practice this way of managing our anxiety, we’re left feeling anxious for days or even weeks afterwards. Because instead of allowing it to pass, we are shoving it down, just so that it will linger or come back up again at another time. As uncomfortable as it is, what I try to do instead is truly sit with the emotions that are coming up, because I recognize that it’s one way my body is trying to communicate that something isn’t feeling right.
There are lots of ways that might resonate with you and how you choose to “sit with it”. Some ways that work for me are:
JOURNAL WRITING: whether you write down a list of all the things you’re grateful for, write down lists of things you want to get out of your brain, or you just sit and doodle, it’s an opportunity for you to sit quietly and allow the space your body needs for your emotions to come to the surface.
MEDITATION: same as journal writing, it’s not necessary to focus on what you’re meditating about, but instead, try to see it as a time and place for your body to express any lingering emotions. You can choose to play some music, or sit in silence. You can focus on a quote or intention that resonates with you, or just try to clear your mind. You can try closing your eyes, sitting up, or lay on your back with your legs up against the wall. It’s an opportunity for calm and relaxation.
BREATHING TECHNIQUES: there are many different ways we can focus on our breathing, and by doing so, we are not only giving our body the oxygen it needs to think clearly, but it’s allowing our mind to focus on something, rather than be scattered with so many different thoughts. You can try this one next time you’re feeling like you need to focus on your breathing: sit cross-legged, or how ever you feel comfortable. Close your eyes, and place one hand on your heart and one hand on your lower belly. Begin to breathe as deeply as you can, in and out at a pace that feels natural for you. As you breathe, start paying attention to the movement of your hands. Ideally, you want to be breathing so deeply, that the hand on your lower belly is moving up and down more than the hand that’s on you heart. Continue to focus on your breathing, while also focusing on which hand is moving more. Try practicing this for 5-10 minutes.
WALKING, YOGA, PILATES, STRETCHING ON YOUR BEDROOM FLOOR
For the record, yoga is NOT the only form of movement for anxiety relief! It’s typically the first thing that’s suggested, and it’s always the thing that my body needs, but it’s not the be all, end all, when it comes to relieving stress and anxious feelings. The point is, we want to move our bodies in some way. Anxiety sometimes builds up in the body, and one way that helps those feelings to release, is to move. If I’m feeling up to it, I will try a yoga class or go for a walk around my block. But sometimes, even that seems like too much effort, and I choose to stay in my room and stretch or practice inversions and handstands against the wall(being upside down is actually a great way to release tension from the body!). It’s all part of movement. Try connecting with your body, and seeing if you can feel what type of movement your body is craving at that particular time. There is no right or wrong.
3. CLEANING AND ORGANIZING YOUR SPACE
Your surroundings are often a reflection of your mental state. I know this is true for me, so something I tend to gravitate towards when I feel anxiety bubbling up or I’m experiencing a racing mind, is cleaning a part of my space that needs a little extra cleaning, or I organize and purge clutter from my workspace. Either way, you’re once again allowing your mind to focus on something(kind of a healthy distraction), and you’re also opening up space to think a little more clearly. So pick a space and start cleaning!
If you follow along with my health journey on Instagram, you know I’m the napping queen! I can fall asleep anywhere, any time, be out for 20-30 minutes, and wake up a new person! But that’s me. I know some people just can’t fall asleep quickly enough, or when they do finally fall asleep, they’re asleep for too many hours and wake up feeling groggy and worse than they did before the nap. Just like with yoga, napping is not for everyone, but if it does work for you, and you enjoy taking naps, it can be a tool that helps us to shut down the momentum of our thoughts spiralling down the rabbit hole(you know what I mean? When your brain makes a mountain out of a molehill, and all a sudden you’re on WebMD trying to figure out if you have a chronic illness! I’ve been there, trust me). Taking a quick nap can sometimes be the perfect way to relax your mind from over-thinking. Try paying attention to your body’s cues: if you are feeling exhausted or worn out from thinking too much, take the opportunity to close your eyes for a few minutes and see how you feel after.
5. FOOD AND WATER (LOTS OF WATER)
One of the main concepts I work with in my practice is the connection between food and our mood. Keeping our blood sugar managed is the basis of our hormonal balance, which also helps to keep our mood balanced. This of course, isn’t often the main reason for anxiety, but the imbalance of everything can contribute to making the symptoms worse. Something that I try to be mindful of, especially when I’m in the thick of a particularly stressful time, is making sure that all my meals contain proteins, fats and fibre(leafy greens are ideal as a fibre source). I also make sure to drink lots of water, because usually some tears are involved and that can make me feel dehydrated, which inevitably leads to a headache. If you’re not feeling like having plain cold water, herbal teas(non-caffeinated) are good options too: peppermint, spearmint, camomile, or ginger are my favourites.