TECHNIQUES FOR MANAGING ANXIETY
7/11 or 5 & 9 BREATHING
Breath is a major component in controlling anxiety. Our breath anchors us, as well as regulating our heart rate and reducing the hormone cortisol that can cause excessive stress levels. Many people do not realise this and do not know how to breathe properly. Breath is used as a focus for the mind in practises such as meditation and mindfulness and when combined with subtle bilateral movement, can bring clarity to the mind and enable us to process negative thoughts.
By closing our eyes and taking a breath in through our nose to the count of 7 (or 5 if preferable / or for children), and then breathing out through our mouth to the count of 11 (or 9 if preferable) for several rounds, we will automatically lower our heart rate and become less panicked. If you can, with your eyes, follow the lines of a window or door frame as you complete the in and out breaths.
You can try to take this breathing a step further and record yourself calmly and slowly reading through the mindfulness passage written below. When you have made a recording on your computer or your phone, find a quiet space and give yourself a few minutes to carry out the practice. It is now yours to have to hand and use whenever you feel you need to take some time out for yourself.
THE 3 MINUTE BREATHING SPACE
You can be seated or laying down, but assume a strong, dignified posture with your feet firmly on the ground. Feel yourself in contact with the ground. Feel the weight going down and the height going up. Now close your eyes.
Step 1 – Noticing
Notice what is going on for you at the moment. Drop into a sense of what is going on for you. Notice feelings in the body and emotions in your physical barometer. Not turning away but noticing your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge whatever it is that’s happening, not turning away, but staying with the physical sense of what’s going on. Noticing where any thoughts and feelings are within your body.
Step 2 – Gathering
Next place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower stomach whilst focusing on the in and out breaths. Focus on the breath going all the way into the body and then all the way out of the body. Allow the hands to move with your chest and your stomach. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back very gently. In your mind say quietly to yourself, “Breathing in. Breathing out.”
Step 3 – Expanding
Now allow your hands to drop, then allow the breath to fill your whole body. Then, as your breath fills your lungs, imagine it moving right through your body, from the top of your head to the ends of your finger tips and your toes. Take the breath to any areas of discomfort or tension, breathing in to any sensations, and then gently breathing out and letting them go. Then imagine the breath filling the space beyond your body. The space that your body takes up. Imagine yourself in your own protective space.
And now take this new expanded sense of yourself forward, feeling safe, protected and secure.
THE Anxiety APPLE
- Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
- Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
- Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not facts. They are just how we feel and react about a situation.
- Let go: Let go of the negative thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to it. You can imagine the upsetting thought floating away in a bubble or cloud.
- Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
This exercise is for when you feel a panic attack coming on. Together with regulating your breathing, try and focus your mind on the following:
5 THINGS YOU CAN SEE
4 THINGS YOU CAN TOUCH
3 THINGS YOU CAN HEAR
2 THINGS YOU CAN SMELL
1 POSITIVE STATEMENT ABOUT YOURSELF – i.e. I am strong and I can handle this.
Repeat until calm.
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