Author: Masha Nelson; Home Based Therapist
We are currently experiencing a troubling and uncertain time. In order to come out of this stronger, we need to figure out ways to cope with our anxiety and stress efficiently. During this time, combating our anxiety is equally as important as social distancing. If we do not have control of our minds, it affects our bodies and could eventually make us physically sick. Anxiety directly correlates with stress, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “chronic stress can affect your health, causing symptoms from headaches, high blood pressure, and chest pain to heart palpitations, skin rashes, and loss of sleep.” Experiencing these stressful conditions could make you more susceptible to illness and we’re here to help prevent you from becoming another coronavirus statistic. Below, you will find some of my personal favorite anxiety reducers for staying in control of the body and mind.
- Technically we are machines. The body is designed for all our parts to work together. So just like a car, if something goes wrong and is ignored, it leads to damage. But human bodies don’t come with a “check engine” light, so it’s important to understand our body’s distress signals. Doing routine inventories of your bodily sensations helps you observe what’s going on physically and emotionally. Take advantage of the knowledge that the mind affects the body and use that to heal yourself: such as the link between anxiety and your physical state. At the end of a yoga practice, it is common to lay in a plank pose and release bodily tension. To practice on your own, bring a relaxing awareness to each part of the body, starting with the crown of the head and work down to the toes. This exercise ignites awareness to parts of the body we don’t often think about and helps relieve tension we don’t even know we’re carrying. This exercise can be done sitting or lying down.Try incorporating this technique before going to bed or after waking up to make it a habit. But you can do a version of this technique pretty much anywhere.
To learn more and follow a guided meditation, click here.
- One of the wisest things my mom told me growing up was not to solve problems before bed.As hard as it sounds, it does get easier with time to tuck worries far, far away for the night. Staying up, looking at social media, and Googling your problems will not only take away from your sleep time, but it also feeds anxiety. Making a to-do list for the morning signals to your brain that your worries and concerns are noted and will be dealt with later. Don’t try and focus on how to fix everything, but when, such as tomorrow. Concentrating on the “how” creates more counterproductive anxiety. The best way to pacify the brain is to give it ways to “turn off.” One exercise called “4-7-8” quiets your mind and makes you feel drowsy, so don’t “4-7-8” and drive!
To learn more about this technique, click here.
- Our brain is capable of re-structuring and fixing some of the damages made by internal or external circumstances. The concept is called neuroplasticity. According to William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, the brain has an ability “to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.” The brain heals itself by identifying an issue on one side of the brain and forms a new connection between the brain cells. This takes time, but somehow the brain knows where and how to fix itself!This means the brain can be more powerful than our bodies. When a limb is cut off, our body can’t grow a new one, but our brains make new connections all the time. Harness this power by rerouting your worries into healthy habits. The habit must be hard enough to fully occupy the mind, but easy enough that you don’t give up and jump back into worry. For example, counting backwards from 1000 by subtracting 7. This goes a lot faster after you get the hang of it and can be done without paper or calculator. If this exercise is done every time an anxious loop pops up, the brain will start automatically switching to the exercise without getting lost in anxious thoughts. You know you’ve done this right if you start counting down seemingly out of nowhere. Once this happens, you and your brain are working as a team.
To learn more about rewiring your brain, click here.
As we go forward, we need to learn how to cope and adapt to what is ahead. The best way to prepare is to develop tools to cope with anxiety and remain mindful of what our body needs.