Not all the causes of anxiety can be rectified quickly or easily. I have found through personal (and often painful) experience, there are certain mindsets and patterns of behaviour that take months, or even years, to unpick.
That may not sound very encouraging, especially if you are battling anxiety right now, in this moment.
But fear not, there are some things you can do to lessen your anxiety here and now in the middle of your busy day, or stressful season.
These are some practices that have worked for me:
- Breathing Slow. I know I often write about the importance of slowing your breathing down, but that is because it works! As you relax your breathing and take time to elongate your inhale and exhale (preferably with your exhale lasting longer than your inhale) you are sending a sign to your brain that it need not panic, that you are in control. The brain will pick up on these physical signals and start to dial down the fight or flight response. This practice can be developed and honed through repetition. Maybe try and factor in a time every day when you will practise mindful breathing, sit in the car and take a few moments before you pick the kids up from school, or stop on your lunch break, or before you get out of bed in the morning. You won’t regret it.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. I have noticed a direct correlation between how much caffeine I consume and how on edge I feel. It isn’t exactly a new phenomena! But if you are struggling to maintain your peace and calm try reducing your intake, maybe replace coffee with tea, or tea with peppermint tea, or better still hot water. When I am having a particularly anxious few days or feel particularly stressed I will cut down and only have one to two cups of tea a day. (I could easily drink five otherwise!).
- Go outside. You may not have time in your busy day for half an hour of exercise and the idea of going for a run may feel impossible, but you can go outside. Even standing on your front step and breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sun or rain on your face, will benefit you. If possible go for a short walk – even just around the block. This pro-active decision not only sends a sign to your brain that you are willing to prioritise what you need and not always think about everyone else, but being outdoors also has a grounding, stabilising affect. As we move in the fresh air the concerns of the day settle and we gain a fresh perspective.
- Cancel something. So often we feel we are held hostage by the to-do list, or our diaries. Take a moment to assert control over your life. Look at the next few days and think about your capacity. Don’t listen to all the reasons why you shouldn’t cancel, listen to the voice inside that is telling you to give yourself a break and offer yourself some grace. (It might help to imagine the person you are cancelling on is probably also very busy and might welcome this cancellation or postponement.) We live our lives at such a pace, and sometimes it is good to remember that the world will not end if we go a little slower.
- Write it down. Sometimes my brain is such a jumble I have no idea how I ended up feeling so overwhelmed or overcommitted. My emotions begin dictating what my day looks like, I find myself reacting, not responding. Writing out how I feel and what is going through my mind can be an excellent way of keeping track of what is going on. It can enable me to make sense of thought patterns that were confusing and give me the opportunity to take back control of the messages I am listening to.
- Ask for help. Vulnerability can seem impossible when we are only just getting through the days. But if you can, text a friend or give them a call. Have a coffee with someone you trust. Let them know how you are feeling. You may be surprised to discover you are not alone. You might receive the comfort and support you need.
- Treat yourself. My favourite practice. Be kind to yourself. This doesn’t not have to be something huge. It might look like sitting down and drinking the cup of tea while it is still hot, or lighting the fancy candle, not waiting for a special occasion. Try and factor in some self care into your week. When I started this practice it felt self-indulgent, naughty even but it is essential. Weekly, or even daily practice reminds you that you deserve to be looked after too, that you are a person of worth. For the caregivers this is not something we remember easily. Please hear it from me today: you are enough and you deserve to be cared for too.
- Seek beauty. Beauty is all around, but we forget to stop and look for it. Beauty is restorative and taking a moment to seek it out and soak it in realigns us with the good in the natural order of things. Make a conscious effort to look for beauty in unexpected places, or at unexpected times. Pick up leaves on the school run, arrange your food thoughtfully on your plate, trace the patterns in the rain on the window.
If you are feeling anxious and your week involves doing everything for everyone else, if you are worried about how you are going to manage to meet everyone else’s needs, if you are exhausted and you have lists to keep track of all your lists, take some time to look after yourself too. Try these practices and see which work best for you. Let me know in the comments below or share your ideas for how you manage to control to lessen your anxiety .
If you need an extra reminder of grace in the overwhelm, why not download my 60 second meditation. Print it out and stick it up somewhere you will see it daily, to remind you to take care of you too.