Tips for reducing anxiety from a leading yoga specialist
Great health isn’t just about what you eat, or how often you work out, truly great wellness comes from looking after your mind as well as your body. If you’re suffering from anxiety at the moment there are ways you can tame it. We’ve turned to yoga expert Hannah Barrett for her seven simple ways to tame anxiety.
Don’t underestimate the power of the breath. Focusing on the breath is a core part of yoga and an important component of mindfulness. Research has found that bringing attention to the breath reduces stress and brings you back to the present. Coming back to the breath helps to remind the brain that right now we are safe and so there is no need to be in fight/flight mode. Pay attention to the way breathing feels, watch your belly rise and fall, and feel your heartbeat. You’ll immediately feel more grounded, and more connected to your body. You don’t even need to take deep breaths or change any of your natural patterns. Just being aware of what your body is doing will deepen your ability to connect to the moment.
Be mindful of your exposure to social media and the news and do a digital detox if it’s starting to make you feel negative. Instead of them making you feel connected and reassured they can make you feel even more anxious and overwhelmed. When you’re feeling stressed it’s hard to rationalise what you’re seeing or reading. Try limiting or fully detoxing your time spent on sites that trigger you.
Research has shown that gratitude can lower levels of stress and even improve sleep. Simply starting the day with a positive outlook can be huge. Use gratitude as a way to start the day by trying to think of at least ten things you are grateful for. If you have children, this is something you can do together as a family (and hearing their responses can be really eye opening!). You can also use gratitude in times when you’re starting to panic to help both ground you and appreciate how much you have in this uncertain time.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Exercise is an amazing way to combat stress. Whether it’s going outside in nature for a walk, doing an online yoga class or dancing around the living room to your favourite playlist. It doesn’t matter how you move, just do something you love. If you find a way to exercise that you love it becomes easy to fit into your life instead of a chore. The added bonus is that exercise releases endorphins which are feel-good chemicals reducing anxiety and enhancing self-esteem. Exercise can also improve your sleep quality which can be negatively impacted during times of stress and anxiety.
If you feel like your mind is going 100mph one of my favourite grounding techniques is the five things game. Notice five things you can see, hear and feel. Sounds very simple but it helps to bring you back to the now. Another helpful technique is counting backwards from 400 in 3’s or 7’s. I find this one useful if I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
Lighting a favourite candle, using essential oils or running a scented bath can help to reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety. Some of my favourite calming scents are lavender, rose, geranium, neroli and orange blossom.
Research has shown that smiling can actually make you happier, it isn’t just the other way round. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. When you smile you release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin which help lower stress, boost your immune system, lower blood pressure and increase longevity!
Hannah is the founder of Strength Through Yoga programmes.