Anxiety Relief: 6 Tools you can use to Calm the Mind

Living through a global pandemic is scary enough, but if you are also someone who deals with anxiety this could be the mother of all triggers. Its literally all the things: being quarantined at home with or without people, job loss, fear of getting sick, uncertainty about what “normal” life even looks like anymore. I have openly shared my struggle with anxiety and I find that knowing I am not alone is sometimes all I need to start to turn the anxiety around. But in case you need something more tangible here are 6 tools that have been working really well for me and I hope they bring you some relief as well:

Checking your inner narrative:

There is so much uncertainty right now and you are not alone in feeling the anxiety and fear that comes from not knowing what is going to happen. But getting trapped in a fear cycle about something that has not happened yet is not helping. You can be proactive about protecting your health by focusing on your wellness. You can take small steps to tackle the scariness around financial strains. Yes, we know that external factors influence your life to some degree, but it is mostly how you interpret external factors that has the greatest impact. It takes a willingness to check that narrative. Find out what is fact vs. fiction and start to rewire your thoughts.

When you get stuck in the cyclic over-thinking, which is a common experience of anxiety sufferers, ask yourself this question: is the endless thinking and worst case scenarios producing anything new? Am I getting any new information? If not, then you know you are trapped in a FEAR (false evidence appearing real) narrative. You can take step back and notice this. Just the awareness that you are in this narrative is sometimes enough to reduce its power.

Exercise: Try this simple journal practice when you are feeling anxious: Write at the top “I am feeling anxious…” and write out what you are feeling and why. Be as detailed as you can. Then skip some space and write this “what I know to be true” and think about what facts do you have that support or challenge your initial thought? What strengths do you have that you may be overlooking? What advice would you give someone else in the same situation?

Resources: The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

 

EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique / Tapping

 

By far the most effective and immediate relief for me has been Tapping, otherwise known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This technique is based on the “combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations, helps to calm the nervous system, rewire the brain to respond in healthier ways, and restore the body’s balance of energy” (for more check out http://www.thetappingsolution.com)

The physical movement of energy through tapping on acupressure points gives my anxious mind something else to focus on. The verbal acknowledgement of what I am thinking/feeling allows me to diffuse its power by voicing it out loud and giving it attention. Just as darkness cannot survive in the presence of light, when you shine the spotlight on the thoughts that are trapped inside your mind you allow them to be seen and thus transformed.

 

Aside from my own experience of almost immediate shifts in my feelings of anxiety, there is incredible research supporting the effectiveness of tapping. A study out of Harvard revealed that “by stimulating the body’s meridian points – the same spots on your body that are manipulated by acupuncturists – you can significantly reduce activity in a part of your brain called the amygdala which controls stress response hormones”. The rounds of tapping and talking have profound effects for me. Sometimes the scripts that come out of my mouth feel meditative in themselves. It’s as if I am letting go and a higher consciousness is letting the words flow. There are scripts you can follow if you are looking for more of a guided experience when you first begin this technique.

Exercise: Get familiar with the tapping points and the next time you notice you are feeling anxious, take a moment to tap. Sit down take a breath and assess your anxiety from 1-10. Give it a number. Then start at the karate chop point and identify your feeling with the basic script… “Even though I am feeling (insert description of your feeling) I choose to love and accept myself. Even though I am (insert feelings) I honor how I feel right now”… then move through the rest of the points. Do at least 3 rounds. Stop and reassess the number from 1-10, did it go down? If not repeat more rounds. 

Mind to Matter by Dawson Church

 

Breath Work:

 

Breathing is our most powerful tool because when we are in an anxious state our breath becomes shallow and creates more of the physical discomfort that makes us more anxious. Relaxing the nervous system is an important part of relaxing the mind. I have tried lots of different methods. Sometimes breathing feels like it’s not going to do enough for me when I am in an extreme anxiety loop or even in a panic attack. But if you can trust that it will help even if not immediately its SO good for your body. It is literally our life force.

Trust that doing this breath work is good for your body regardless. When I keep that mindset it actually works even faster and because I have been using breath work more regularly it has become a self fulfilling prophecy. A newer breathing technique I just learned is called the “Voo breath” developed by Peter Levine. It’s a simple exercise – you take in a deep breath, and on the out breath, make a “voo” sound that has a deep vibrating tone that you can feel in your belly.  It calms the vagus nerve, which according to Psychology Today, can reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and inflammation by activating the “relaxation response” of your parasympathetic nervous system.

Exercise: Try the Voo Breath. Anywhere, anytime! Just start! Take a deep inhale and on your exhale make the sound “VOO”… let it come deep from your belly and feel the vibrations. Repeat. Do for 3-5min.
Resources:
Breathing Apps: Calm or iBreathe

 

Listen to your Inner Voice:

 

For so long I was not able to distinguish my inner guide / intuition from the anxiety voice of ego and fear. If my anxious mind started up I would listen to the irrational fears because it was loudest. All of a sudden the anxious thoughts swirling around start to ramp up into an uncontrolled frenzy like “This virus is so scary, what if I get it. Well wait, am I getting sick? , I feel a tickle in my throat, its happening, I am getting the virus, shit, will I have to go to the hospital? Can I even breath right now, my chest feels so tight. Yes its tight. I better go to the hospital, I can’t go to the hospital its too scary…but if I don’t I could die”. This is real for the anxious mind. It feels so real. The panic that washes over is undeniable. I hate that feeling. It feels like there is no way out.

So many times I have agonized over how I can even begin to trust my “gut” when my thoughts sound the alarm over the smallest thing. This is where Counseling has really helped me unpack these feelings. Working with a therapist is always a good move if you experience anxiety. So through therapy sessions I have learned that we all have a voice of intuition that can be trusted, you just have to turn up its volume while you simultaneously turn down the volume of the fearful dominant voice.

Your inner guidance comes from a place of peace- it’s the gut feeling that gives you an answer or a knowing from calmness. The difference, I am realizing, is to see the voice of fear for what it is and not believing it to be “real”.  So the way to deepen trust in yourself is to practice distinguishing the loud voice of fear from the soft voice of truth. And then working towards strengthening the quiet wisdom from within.

Exercise: Create a mantra to say to yourself that reminds you of the presence of your Inner Voice. One that I use regularly is “I trust my inner voice is guiding me” and “I am willing to quiet my mind and hear the truth from a place of calm” and another “where there is calm there is truth”. 
Essential Oils to Calm the Mind:

Aromatherapy can have immediate effects in calming an anxious mind. Oils work directly in the part of the brain that regulates emotions.  There are a few simple practices you can do anytime with your oils to address feelings of anxiousness. I tend to gravitate toward grounding oils like the tree oils (Frankinsence, Cedarwood, Idaho Spruce or Northern Lights Black Spruce) to get grounded.

For a mood booster or to shift mindset into calm you can lean on your citrus oils (Orange, Bergamont, Citrus Fresh) and to invite peace you can try the traditional calming oils like (Lavender, Peace and Calming, Release or Geranium). If you want more info on the oils I use or details on how to order let me know!
Exercise: To calm that “flighty” fluttery energy or to stop a negative thought spiral I drop 2-3 drops of a tree oil directly into my palm and do deep breathing.
Water therapy:
Taking a hot shower or a bath sometimes disrupts the anxious thought patterns and gives my body a break. Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts can be super relaxing for your body. Epsom salt helps stabilize mood and relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Hydrotherapy is one of the oldest tools in the natural medicine toolkit. Use of water in various forms and in various temperatures can produce different effects on different system of the body. Experiment with cold vs. hot water to see what produces the most productive effects for you!
Exercise: Take a mindful shower. The entire time you are in the shower keep your awareness on the present moment. Feel with all your senses. Anytime your mind wanders or you feel the anxious thought start to creep in, gently send it down an imaginary river. You can allow yourself a shower free from negative thoughts if you choose too. Focus on the Now.
Good luck friends- this is an unprecedented time, but it also offers us an opportunity to address our anxiety and stress ❤️ tell me your experience using the tools above or let me know what else has been working for you!

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