When we suffer from stress or anxiety, it is all-too-easy to think that it is a mental issue that we need to deal with using our minds, whether that means trying to think things through and rationalize what may be happening in your life, or even reaching for some anti-anxiety pills.
However, it can be tough to maintain a positive mindset, so why not use your body to help? Your mind and body are connected – so you can use a number of physical techniques to reduce your anxiety levels, calm your nervous system, and feel more steady and grounded.
1. Stay Aware Of Your Body
While you may be stressing out about something that is happening in your life your body is quietly getting on with its job. Your physical senses are taking in information, whether that is smell, touch or taste. Experts believe that if you practice mindfulness and focus on these basic senses you can reduce your stress levels. Just gently paying attention to your breathing and letting yourself really feel your physical sensations can help enormously. Feel the weight of your body pushing down on the chair and your clothing on your skin. By doing this, you will free yourself from your anxious thoughts and may find you become aware of more physical sensations as your stress subsides.
2. Relax & ‘Feel’ Your Feet
How often do you think about your feet? They keep you up and walking around every day, but they can also be conduits for stress. This is why having a foot massage can seem to relax your whole body and being. Whether you get a foot rub or use w foot spa or just a bowl of warm soapy water, taking care of your feet can certainly help you relax. However, you can also use your feet to ground yourself by ‘feeling’ the sensation of them on the floor. Go barefoot and feel the carpet or wooden flooring under your feet or maybe go for a walk on some grass and feel the different sensations. Stretching the muscles in your feet and using your fingers to bend and stretch your toes will also help.
3. Use Your Breath To Clean Your Spirit
Scientists have found that your breathing has a real effect on your stress, which is why we tend to shorten our breath when we are under pressure. Pumping the blood faster and boosting the adrenaline is fine when you need to run or fight, but you use the same basis to relax. Breathe out fully so that your lungs are fully empty and then take in a big deep breath. Then slowly release this breath and take in another. Repeat the process so you have take in at least ten good, deep breaths – of course, you can do more if you like. As you inhale and exhale, feel the air flowing into your body, let it flow deep into your lungs, across your shoulders and into your pelvis. Feel your breath coming in as positive energy that is flowing through your body while letting the negativity flow out of you as you breathe out. You should find that you start to relax and feel better.
4. Tense & Relax
Anxiety can create tension in your body, which in turn merely increases the stresses and can cause genuine physical pain. Perhaps you tend to store your stress in your shoulder and neck muscles? You need to try and release this physical tension and if you can’t get a massage you can try this simple tensing and relaxation technique. Lie on your back and close your eyes. Imagine that you are somewhere beautiful. It may be a tropical beach, for example. Let your breathing settle and then start tensing and relaxing your body. Start with your feet, tense them up and hold the muscles for a slow count of five and then relax the muscles. Then move to your calves, up your legs, to your buttocks and pelvis and then tense and release your abdomen, hands, arms and face. Once you have relaxed each part of your body let it relax completely and allow the floor to support you rather than those tired muscles. Consciously tensing and then fully relaxing your muscles in this way can help reduce your stress levels – but be warned – it may relax you so much you drop right off to sleep!
When you were young you probably enjoyed playing with your balance and coordination. Perhaps you skipped, climbed trees, or tried to balance on walls or beams. Balance and coordination have been shown to improve your memory as you are forced to adapt to changing terrain or environments. Centering your body physically can help you to deal with problems – it seems like The Karate Kid wasn’t just balancing for fun! Even balancing on one leg and then trying to move your arms, head and other legs around can help you balance and center yourself. You may feel confident to challenge yourself further, but be careful, don’t overstretch your abilities and end up hurting yourself!