From my own experience with anxiety and also working with clients struggling with anxiety, I understand how absolutely important self-care is. I am a huge advocate of self-care, every day. Let’s be real though. For a lot of us struggling with anxiety, it’s not as easy finding the energy physically, mentally or emotionally to get started on our self-care. Sometimes we can feel lost, frustrated or even hopeless. We can also tend to get stuck in our busy heads. Knowing what to do or where to start can be a real challenge. I have put down a few practical steps (in order of importance) that have hugely helped me in my own journey.
1. Work with a body based Psychotherapist
Psychotherapy is powerfully healing and can help you to move forwards in your journey to wellness. The right therapist can support you to feel safe and secure and begin to untangle the underlying reasons for current issues in your life. There are many different types of therapists; counsellors, talk therapists, CBT therapists to name a few. I feel it is important to work with a body-based Psychotherapist (that specializes in Trauma) for the simple fact that they are highly trained in this field and therefore able to safely support you through your process. This way you know your transformation is long term and not just a quick fix. Therapy can take time and it can also be challenging which is why it is important to find yourself the right therapist, someone that is compassionate and grounded in their approach and that you can trust to do the deep core work with.
2. Commit yourself to Therapeutic Yoga
Getting into your body is one way of getting out of your thinking head. Yoga is a body based practice that can help us to connect with and cultivate a deeper sense of awareness for our bodies. Hatha Yoga in particular is a gentle yet powerful healing practice that can help us to befriend our bodies. The sustained stretches held in the practice help to release stress and tension stored in the body. With regular practice, we begin to feel ease and safety in our body. Yoga can complement your work in Therapy. If you are new to yoga, working one-to-one with a trained therapist can be a safe and non-intimidating way to experience the practice.
I have personally battled with stress and anxiety. Yoga has supported me physically, mentally and emotionally. It has without a doubt transformed my health. This is what brought me to specialize in teaching one-to-one Yoga. (links to one-to-one Yoga tab) The combination of Psychotherapy and Yoga has worked wonders for me in my own journey to healing. For this reason, I am highly passionate about recommending it to others struggling with anxiety.
I offer a one-to-one Stress and Anxiety Program both face-to-face and online.
3. Get Grounding
Grounding or Earthing is the practice of getting our body in direct contact with the earth and this practice is known to be powerfully healing. According to science, the earth has a negative charge to it. Over time, our bodies build up a positive charge from all of the free radical stress we are constantly exposed to (pollution, radiation, toxins etc.). Through direct contact with the earth we are able to absorb negative electrons that even out this positive charge and return our body to a neutral state. Studies show that earthing helps reduce inflammation, pain and stress. It also activates our parasympathetic nervous system which means we begin to feel calm, relaxed and at ease all of which accelerate our body’s natural healing.
4. Practice long exhale belly breathing (ie the calming breath)
Long exhale belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system in our body (i.e. the ‘brake’ in the body). This has a calming and relaxing effect on both our body and mind. It can also have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so we are less reactive to our emotions.
Start by sitting in a comfortable position, either in a chair or cross legged on the floor where you are able to keep your spine tall. Place your hands on either side of your belly. Close your eyes, take a moment to relax your shoulders and soften your face. Take a slow full inhale in through your nose. Feel your belly fully expand. Pause for a second. Taking your time then slowly exhale all the air out through your nose. Feel your belly gently drop. Allow your exhales to be slightly longer than your inhales. Practice for 3-5 minutes taking your time and savouring each breath. At the end of your practice, remain with your eyes closed. Let your hands gently rest on your thighs and your breathing come back to normal. Feel your body and notice how you feel. Practice 3-4 times a day or whenever you feel overwhelmed or anxious. Practice on an empty stomach.
A daily practice of long exhale belly breathing can be a great tool to reduce anxiety and improve your overall health and well-being.
5. Nourish yourself with healthy fresh whole foods
It is common for us to crave “comfort foods” when we are stressed or anxious but eating the wrong foods like refined sugars, carbs, gluten and processed foods can intensify symptoms of anxiety. It goes without saying that these foods are also bad for our long-term health. Eating a healthy and balanced diet free of toxins can improve gut flora and help increase serotonin levels. Did you know that 90% of serotonin which is a feel-good hormone for our brain is produced in the gut? Keeping our gut healthy is therefore vital to feeling good. Foods such as dark green vegetables, bananas, blue berries, fermented foods, turmeric and high-quality omega 3 fats are known to calm our nervous system and help reduce anxiety.
*Always opt for organic and free range wherever possible.
6. Supplement your health with Magnesium
There is ample research to support that magnesium is crucial for optimum health and that it is needed for every cell function from the gut to the brain. Magnesium is also a powerful relaxation mineral. It can relax our nervous system allowing us to feel calm. It also relaxes our muscles and aids better sleep. The best way to maintain healthy levels of magnesium in the body is to eat magnesium rich foods. Foods that I like to regularly include in my diet are leafy greens, broccoli, winter squash, avocados, beans, quinoa, oats, seeds and nuts. You can also opt to take a high-quality magnesium supplement. Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is also a great way to absorb and get the magnesium your body needs.
*People with severe heart disease should consult their doctor first.
*Always opt for organic wherever possible.
7. Find something you love to do and do it regularly
Give yourself permission to do something you really enjoy doing. Turning our attention to something we love to do can be a great way to get out of our busy thinking heads. Maybe you love to garden, play a sport or enjoy a quite walk. When we are engaged and present in the moment, we end up clocking out of our thinking heads and break away from the exhaustive and repeating patterns of our over active mind (habit of excessive thinking). I love to practice yoga regularly, it helps relax my body, calm my mind and keeps me grounded. I also love to play a bit of racquet sport, it keeps me active (increasing good hormones) and also helps to release excess energy from my body. Find out what it is that you most enjoy doing and find time to do it regularly.