Holistic help for anxiety
One week ago today I was struck down by anxiety. It was a normal morning juggling work and the kids, just like so many others in many ways but for the first time in ages I suffered with an attack of anxiety. Stuck on a crowded train, struggling to keep it together.
It’s no secret that I have struggled with my mood in the past and am very mindful to pay attention to how I am feeling. Because mood is so thought-focussed I find that I can recognise when negativity starts to creep in and am able to address it with various techniques to change my thinking, work on challenging the thoughts and get myself back on track.
Anxiety feels like a different beast. For me it is a very physical response - my heart races, my chest feels twisted and tight, my breath gets short and my head dizzy. I feel faint. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that you have control over these things - maybe because they are physical they feel like they are happening to you rather than being yours, like your thoughts are.
This attack took me by surprise, there was no major stressor that morning that caused it, on reflection I would say that it was likely an accumulation of micro-stressors that built up and pushed me over the edge when the normally quiet train was crowded. I don’t do well in crowds - pretty common for us empaths and it totally ruined my plan to sit with my tea and laptop for the journey. That tiny thing was just the little push.
Having not had an attack like this for while I had to really focus and remind myself that I do have control and have tools from my “holistic toolbox” to bring those physical responses back. With anxiety being such a common complaint these days I thought I would share with you the techniques I use, no drugs in sight.
Breath, or Pranayama
Yoga isn’t just poses or postures, there are 8 limbs in total, one of which is the poses, another is the breath (pranayama).
Breath is something that we can control anytime, anywhere. It is often an indicator or how we are feeling but equally has the ability to change how our body is feeling.
For any feelings of stress or anxiety, try this 2-to-1 breathing technique to calm the nervous system.
Start by just focussing on your breath - close your eyes if you are able and comfortable to do so. Notice how the breath feels, where it is going. If you are feeling anxious you may find you are breathing only to the top of your chest, short shallow breath. Notice this and try to focus on breathing deeper. See if you can breath all the way down to your belly so it starts to rise and fall.
Once you are breathing calmly, begin to mentally count the duration of inhalation and exhalation, letting them be approximately equal in length. The average person is comfortable with a 6-count breath, or 8-count breath—the in-breath and the out-breath last for 3 counts each, or 4. See what works for you.
Continue to let your breath flow quietly and smoothly through the nostrils. Enjoy the tranquility created by this practice of breath awareness, and allow your mind to settle into the counting experience.
When you are ready, begin to deepen your exhalation by contracting the abdominal muscles, pushing additional air out of the lungs. On your next inhalation, slowly and smoothly release the contracted muscles, letting the next inhalation be a little shorter than the last. Gradually adjust your breathing to achieve a 2-to-1 ratio, exhaling for 4 counts and inhaling for 2.
Don’t push yourself further than you feel comfortable. If you extend your exhalation farther than your capacity allows, you will find you gasp on the next inhalation. You’ll need to shorten your next breath slightly in order to compensate.
One way to prevent yourself from overdoing here is to focus on creating a smooth transition between your in-breath and your out-breath, and back off a bit if you feel any urge to gasp for air.
When practiced correctly, 2-to-1 breathing eliminates volatile wastes from the lungs while calming and nurturing the nervous system.
If you do suffer regularly from anxiety this is a great breath to practice for five minutes or so a day.
These really have become one of my go-to holistic tools over the past year, especially for emotions as they are so easy to use and quick to take effect.
For calming I always have either doTerra’s Serenity or Balance oil blends to hand. I also like to make my own calming blends - oils such as chamomile, lavender, frankincense and cedarwood are very calming.
If you are feeling anxious, pop a drop or two of oil on to your palms, rub together than cup the hands and inhale deeply. If at home, the oils can be diffused or you can pop a drop or two on to the soles of your feet.
There are many ways to use essential oils and combinations to help with emotional issues. For a personalised consultation and recommendation, please drop me a message or if you would like to try making your own essential oil blend, come along to one of my upcoming workshops (in person or online) or drop me a message so we can chat.
Obviously this isn’t one I could do immediately on the train but restorative yoga poses that calm the nervous system are a brilliant way of relaxing your body.
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose is so simple, requires little effort, flexibility or strength but is a great de-stresser.
Start by finding a space by a wall with enough room for you to lie down. Wiggle your hips as close to the wall as possible, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position. Adjust until you feel comfortable, arms out to the side or on your belly.
Once comfortable just focus on your breath. Breathe deeply through your nose, letting the breath settle then starting to slow it into a deep even inhale and exhale. Placing one hand on your heart and one on your belly is a great way of mindfully breathing in the pose to feel the deep breath fill and expand your lower belly as it travels past your chest.
Stay in the pose for 5 minutes or more.
If you’re in to your crystals (like me) then there are crystals out there that are linked to helping with stress and anxiety. Whether you believe in their healing properties or not, they can serve as a lovely symbol and reminder when working with calming emotions.
My favourite is rose quartz, it’s a beautiful and is considered a soothing, calming stone, perfect for any emotional difficulties. I personally love a rose quartz heart and think of it as a stone symbolising self love. Let the heart shape and beautiful rose colour remind you that you are worthy and supported.
Hold the crystal in your hand as you focus on your breath as a little way of bringing focus and habit back to your breath, thoughts and emotions.