Anxiety is the the most prevalent metal health disorder in the United States. Approximately 40 million people over the age of 18 are affected by it. That is roughly 18% percent of our nation’s population.
Countless articles, books and meditations are available to help sufferers ease the pain and psychological discomfort from the disorder. You can read all the articles, do the meditations, study self-help books, but in order to ease the symptoms you have to take positive action on your behalf. If you would like to get back to sleeping soundly and start feeling more relaxed throughout your day, I recommend the following 5 daily practices:
1. Breathe Deeply:
Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. It is virtually impossible to breathe deeply and feel panicked at the same time. It defies the way our body is designed to operate. Abdominal breathing for 20 minutes a day will reduce anxiety and stress.
2. Mindfulness Meditation:
Focusing our attention on the breath is a sure fire way to ease tension in our bodies. While inhaling deeply, focus all your attention on the coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils, and on the warmth as you exhale the breath through your nose. Focusing in this way, automatically takes your thought of any negative thoughts. As you become distracted by intruding thoughts, bring your attention back to the breath. As you practice this for 15 minutes a day, you will soon recognize that your intrusive thoughts will eventually lessen.
Make sure you get plenty of exercise, eat healthy balanced meals, ditch the soda and create evening rituals that will help you to drift off to sleep. Often times as stress increases in our life, our self-care lessens. Ideally the higher the stress in our life the more diligent our self-care should be. The better we take care of ourselves the better we can take care of our loved ones and our to-do list.
4. Feelings are not Facts:
All too often we believe that our feelings of low self-worth, self-doubt, guilt and shame are accurate. The truth however is that your degree of pain is a guide to letting you know just how far you have wandered from the truth of who you are. Your emotions are a powerful system created to let you know wether you are in alignment with your authentic self. If you are feeling joyful, expansive and hopeful it is because you are showing up authentically in the moment. If you are feeling fearful, doubtful and hopeless, it is because there is some false thought or limiting belief that is pulling you out of alignment.
5. Change your Thoughts:
This practice is a tricky one and can be difficult to change. Most of our thoughts are deeply intrinsic, conditioned and largely subconscious. Our thoughts are rooted so deeply in our life experiences that we often have a complete blind spot to them. It is our negative thoughts that are causing our negative feelings. The next time you are feeling anxious, depressed or fearful, ask yourself…what is the underlying thought that is feeding these painful emotions in this moment. Awareness is the beginning of all change. When we can change our thoughts, we will change our lives.
The key to making any changes permanent is to practice them daily. To make any behavior a habit it usually takes consistent effort over a period of time. Studies have shown the period of time to be 66 days for most people. By taking just 15 or 20 minutes out of your day to practice breathing and awareness of thought, you will start noticing a lessening in your level of anxiety. One caveat is that very often when we start paying attention to our feelings and thoughts, they become amplified. It is often in those early days that sufferers give up thinking that the practices don’t work. If you are struggling with increased anxiety, reach out for help but commit to seeing the practices through for the duration and you will see improvements in your ability to relax and enjoy your life.