The last few years have taken their toll on human resilience, and our ability to bounce back has been truly tested. From the global pandemic to climate crisis and war, our world has been rocked and our mental health is paying the price.
Jayne Cox is now an executive contributor at Brainz and this article was first published on the Brainz website.
Anxiety is now such a problem that it is estimated that 275 million people suffer globally, with over 8 million people experiencing anxiety disorder at any given time in the UK, according to Mental Health UK.
These estimates may be the tip of the iceberg as most of us have been touched by anxiety in some way and if not personally, we know someone who is living with the debilitating effects.
So, let’s look at three daily tools we have access to that could help alleviate some troubling symptoms.
Breathe for a calmer state
From the moment we are born the foundation of feeling calmer lies with our breath. It’s not enough to just take a breath, we benefit most by building regular breathing techniques and breath work into our daily lives. This can take us from an anxious, fight or flight state to somewhere more balanced, present and peaceful.
There’s a vast array of breathing exercises to try and you can start by simply slowing down your breath and breathing into your belly on the count of two and then pausing before exhaling slowly for the count of four.
Move with purpose
When we feel anxious our bodies prepare to fight or flee from danger. For example, blood flows away from the stomach and digestive system and moves to the muscles, priming them for the exertion ahead.
This is a highly effective means of survival IF we are living like our ancient ancestors who needed to escape or fight a known predator, but it is not so useful for life in our fast-paced and stressful, modern world.
So next time you feel anxious, perhaps with a racing heart and a dry mouth, try walking with the purpose of relieving the feelings of anxiety. When you do this, you are mobilising your body, which mimics escape and utilises the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, that are being pumped around your body in preparation to fight or run for your life.
Practice environmental mindfulness
It’s common knowledge that mindfulness and meditation can be powerful ways to help us calm, relax and even sleep. However, not everyone feels comfortable with being still and becoming aware of themselves, their breath and their bodies.
If you struggle with these practices or would like to try something slightly different, try using your senses and the environment that you are in to practice calming yourself.
You can turn your attention to the colours and shapes that are in the room, the outdoors as you go for a walk, sit in the countryside, or as you travel looking out of the window as a passenger in a car, on a bus or a train.
Notice any smells that are in the air and what about textures, what can you feel when you touch what is around you? And what can you hear, let your attention go to your ears and the sounds, try listening in layers and distances? Start close and reach further and further into the distance.
We human animals are quite remarkable and like many animals, we have built-in mechanisms to help us to calm down when we are feeling anxious and facing fear.
So, whilst anxiety is a complex problem and management takes understanding and time, the next time you feel anxious and fearful, remember, your body often holds the key to a calmer state.