TRICKS TO CALM YOU DOWN — IN 30 SECONDS
ZAP NEGATIVE THOUGHTS IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS
THIS simple mental exercise is extremely effective.
Every time you catch yourself getting caught up in negative internal chatter, hear it out and then say: ‘Thanks for sharing.’ Acknowledging the thought is easier than trying not to hear it.
This technique teaches you to step back and observe your thoughts. It helps put you back in the driving seat.
You can beat the anxieties by acknowledging their existence and sending them on their way.
BREATHE YOURSELF CALM IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES
WE GET so used to being on high alert that we forget being calm and at ease is our natural state.
Relaxation is something you can practise and get better at.
Try this incredibly simple ‘3-5’ breathing technique. Put your hands on your belly take a deep breath in for a count of three and then breathe out for a count of five.
As you breathe in, let your belly expand like a balloon; as you breathe out, let it deflate.
It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly you count; what’s important is that the out breath is longer than the in breath and that you’re breathing into your belly.
What this exercise does is send a message to your nervous system that it’s safe to relax.
Lengthening the out breath and breathing into our bellies gets us out of fight-or-flight mode and in to relaxation mode, while focusing on counting helps to distract and calm your mind.
MAKE TIME FOR 15 MINUTES OF MEDITATION
YOU don’t have to sit crosslegged or wear sandals to meditate. Just think of it as the ultimate ‘ me time’. Who wouldn’t want that?
You need only 15 minutes a day to meditate. How much time do you waste slumped in front of the TV?
Start off with a mindfulness meditation, which involves paying close attention to your breath. This trains your mind to be in the present moment, which is so helpful for relieving anxiety.
One study found that mindfulness meditation helped to reduce activity in the amygdala — the part of the brain responsible for feeling fear — while in another, mindfulness helped 90 per cent of people reduce anxiety levels. Set a timer for 15 minutes. If possible, use a timer app on your phone with a gentle gong sound that goes off at fiveminute intervals.
Sit comfortably (it doesn’t have to be on the floor or crosslegged), with your hands facing upwards on your lap and your eyes closed.
Inhale and exhale normally, focusing on the sensation of air passing into and out of your nostrils. For the first five minutes, after each complete inhale and exhale, count silently: ‘one’ after the first one, then ‘two’ after the next one.
Do this all the way up to ten, though don’t be surprised if you don’t get anywhere close to ten before your mind has wandered off down some thought trail.
As soon as you notice that your mind has wandered, gently bring it back to the breath, starting at one again.
After five minutes, change the count so it’s before the inhales. Though technically it’s the same thing, changing where you place the count emphasises the inhale
more than the exhale, making it subtly different.
Continue for another five minutes, this time losing the count and focusing purely on the sensation of the breath going into and out of your nostrils, throat and lungs.
Immerse yourself in this sensation until the timer goes off at the end of the 15 minutes.
GIVE YOURSELF 30 MINUTES TO WORRY
ONE of the worst things about worrying is that it invades your everyday life. So, let me introduce you to ‘worry time’.
This means having a designated time slot — say 30 minutes a day — that you reserve for worrying, keeping your anxious thoughts contained there.
If you find yourself worrying at any other time, write down the worry and postpone thinking about it until your allocated worry slot.
Choose a time when you know you’ll be alone. Get some paper and a pen and write down all the things you’re worried about.
If there are things you do have some control over, find a way to take action right now. Worry, after all, can be a way of avoiding having to deal with things.
So, for each worry, ask yourself: ‘What action can I take right now?’ If there is no obvious immediate action, can you at least make a plan? Jot down the first three steps of your plan and schedule them into your diary.
But what about the things beyond our control? These still need to be written down — it can help to get them into perspective.
Write about something that’s troubling you. Keep going for at least five minutes. Don’t stop; scribble down anything your brain throws up. Sometimes writing it down can be enough to calm you.
TIME TO THINK ABOUT DINNER
IT’S a little-known fact that having enough good bacteria in our diet — which can be supplemented from vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, avocados and peas and fermented food such as sauerkraut — actually means fewer stress hormones in our body.
While Monday’s fourpage Anxiety pullout discusses this in more detail — complete with delicious recipes — it’s worth trying to add these ingredients to your meals.
The Anxiety Solution by Chloe Brotheridge (Michael Joseph, £12.99). To order a copy for £9.74 (25 per cent discount), visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640. P&P free on orders over £15. Offer valid until April 11, 2017.