During these uncertain times of COVID, racial & political unrest, we do not have a lot of control over what is happening. This can make anyone feel anxious.
Anxiety has increased by 75% during the past 4 months. Students are worried about how they will attend school and if they must wear masks to stay safe! Parents are anxious not only about schools, but employment status, politics, and finances! Medications for anxiety and sleep have increased by more than 50%.
However, what we can have better control of is our MIND. To feel a sense of well-being and happiness during troubled times calls for SELF-REGULATION. Having better control of our mind and being able to self-regulate is imperative these days and calls upon us to develop a set of skills that can be trained. These skills involve both the BODY and the MIND.
How do we gain this control and regulation to access our inner resources? Consider these 4 tips to reduce anxiety!
Tip #1 INCREASE SELF-AWARENESS
Self-awareness is the first step in gaining control of your mind and body. We must get curious about what our bodies are trying to tell us. Some of us get clammy and sweaty hands, a pounding heart, a stomachache, tightness in the chest, and feel short of breath and exhausted.
The first is to notice HOW WE FEEL and WHERE WE FEEL IT. We must get curious and comfortable with these first signs our body is giving us that things are getting “out of control” to gain control.
TIP #2 INCORPORATE MINDFULNESS IN YOUR DAY
Practicing mindfulness is a discipline, an intentional way of being still and present, with non-judgmental witnessing. This leads to the purer form of awareness and one’s ability to experience happiness and be grateful for the positive things we have in our life.
There are several techniques that you can choose to practice each day. It is important to try a few and determine one that are a good fit for you. The name game is a quick simple technique where you look around you and name three things you can see, two things you can hear and one thing you can feel. This will help to stop any spiraling thoughts. Light your favorite candle and gaze at the flame flicker, witness your thoughts without judgement.
Find a guided meditation video on YouTube for more structured guidance. Get curious about ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your day!
TIP #3 BREATHE RIGHT
We have all heard to take a deep breath when we feel anxious, right? The way we breathe is very important in self-regulation and calming anxieties. When tension and anxiousness rise, the rate of breath can become faster and shallower. The muscles in the chest become more engaged, triggering thoracic breathing.
This type of dysfunctional breathing in anxious states can become habitual and make us more anxious. To become aware of your breathing, focus on using your diaphragm (the muscle just below your lungs) to be engaged when breathing. This is also called “belly breathing.”
You can practice this by lying down on your back and putting a light book on your diaphragm. See if you can get the book to rise and fall with your breath, while keeping your chest and shoulders as still as possible. This can take some time to practice as well as focus to change habitual dysfunctional breathing patterns.
TIP #4 BODY SCAN TECHNIQUE
A great way to relieve stress is to take time for a body scan meditation. Research has shown that regular practice of taking time to bring your awareness to different parts of your body has a benefit of stress reduction.
Practicing body scan meditation helps to sync our mind and body, pulling us in the present moment. When this is practiced daily, it can also help us identify aches, pains and areas of the body we may not be aware of that is holding tension. Your mind will likely wander during the exercise, when this happens it is important to listen to your self-talk.
Be sure to practice self-compassion in your self-talk when you experience any mind wandering or frustration, and gently bring your awareness back to your body. Over time we can approach daily stressors in everyday life with this same presence, relaxation, and self-compassion.
Sometimes it seems the harder we try to simply relax, the more difficult it is when our outside circumstances remain the same. It is within your power to achieve emotional balance, resilience, keep up motivation and energy while maintaining attention, focus and concentration. But most people are not accessing their inner resources to achieve this state.
Try these tips mentioned above if you have felt like it is difficult to relax. A reduction in racing thoughts, ruminations, excessive worry, feeling physically restless can be achieved with disciplined practice.
Biofeedback is another method of training revealing in real-time how the body is responding to stress and where to put our focus. The use of mindfulness and biofeedback together can be a game-changer in empowering you to GET CONTROL of your mind and body.