Life can get overwhelming. Many of us have so much to juggle. And we begin to see these things as stressful or anxiety producing. Anxiety and stress can be tough to deal with, and can even be debilitating. Much of my work centres around helping people to deal with stress and anxiety.
What is stress? What is anxiety? According to the American Psychological Association, stress an uncomfortable emotional experience that comes with a physiological reaction and may lead to cognitive and behavioural changes. Anxiety is an emotion which brings about feelings of tension, bodily changes and worried cognitions.
So, how do I help people deal with stress and anxiety? In several ways, all of which include changing both body and mind reactions. The most important thing to note is that your body cannot physiologically experience stress/anxiety and relaxation at the same time, and your mind cannot hold both stress/anxiety producing thoughts as well as relaxing ones at the same time, so we work to change both. Here’s a few things that you can do to work with your stressors:
1. Deep breathing. Stress and anxiety bring about changes in your body. You may experience nausea or those butterflies in your stomach. Your heartrate will typically increase. The muscles in your neck and shoulders may tighten. And your breathing gets faster. Deep breathing is an important aspect to stress relief. Now, many people try to train you to breathe a certain way – personlly, I can’t breathe easily through my nose so I just do mouth breathing, and that’s fine. But the one thing I would encourage you to do is to breathe from your diaphram. To do this, put your hand on your tummy and breathe. You should feel your stomach going up and down rather than your chest. This is the best deep breathing you can do. It will calm down your systems and many of the symptomology will go away with time.
2. Do a visualisation. I’ve used the same visualisation with students for a long time. It can be brief or you can take your time with it. Many like to have calming music in the background, and I’ve found multiple youtube videos which have hours of music to use. Here’s my favourite visualisation: Take deep breathes and every time you inhale imagine a calming colour going into your body. Each time you exhale imagine a stressful colour leaving your body. Continue with the deep breathing until you feel that only the calming colour is left. I like to imagine the stressed out coloured air is going into a balloon and then I let it go in the end.
There’s a lot more you can do to relieve stress and anxiety. I’ll continue to talk about this as I ‘blog away’. But these are a good start.