Feeling stressed and anxious is normal for us humans. Normal that is if we know why and the levels of anxiety seem appropriate. However, a lot of people experience almost constant levels of anxiety from the minute they wake up, or at certain times of the day. This kind of anxiety is a different and can affect us in a number of ways. It can make us feel really down, as if there is no end to it and nothing that seems to shift it for any length of time. It can send our head into overdrive, thinking about what is wrong, this can lead to quite catastrophic thoughts. It can affect our behaviour, making us fearful of seeing people, going out, scared that we might have a panic attack and isolating ourselves.
This type of anxiety affects our emotions, our thoughts and our physical health over time, it sends the head into overthinking. It’s unlikely that talking about it will help, firstly, because we probably don’t know why we are anxious in the first place but secondly, it just makes us think even more.
We need to focus away from our thoughts, stop trying to work out what’s wrong and help our body feel calmer when we do that the head becomes quieter. There are many things we can try, the ones which work need to be noted and practised on a regular basis. If we can try to notice where we feel the anxiety this can be a good measure if some of these things work.
Then try some experiments and notice after each one if anything has changed. Here are some things to try:
- Squeeze your arms tightly into your body really hard hold for ten seconds then release. You’ll take a big breath automatically then notice what your body tells you, repeat.
- Press the palms of your hands together in front of you and push them against each other, feel all the muscles working, hold for ten seconds than release, repeat and notice.
- Link your fingers together, hold them in front of you and pull, feel the different muscles working hold and release. Try and see which one your body prefers pulling or pushing.
- Sit down and place your hands on either side of your knees, at the same time press in with your hands and push out with your knees, create resistance, hold for ten seconds then release, notice and repeat.
- Stand with your back against the wall, walk your legs out in front of you so you can really feel your leg muscles working, push down through your feet and press your back against the wall, really notice the solid feeling of the floor and the wall.
The main thing is to really listen to what your body tells you about each of these experiments. How can you tell which ones work better than others? If some of these work then set a timer or a post it on the fridge and aim to do them two or three times a day. Even if you only get a break from your symptoms for a few minutes remind yourself that you gave your head and body a break.
Noticing is the first step in mindfulness and so important in knowing what helps.