Like my dear, late mother, I've always been a bit of a worrier. I know I shouldn't label things into being but lately I've begun to realise that we weren't just worrying. The knot I feel in the top of my stomach is actually mild anxiety and fear.
Anxiety is at the far end of the worry spectrum. It's when we find ourselves thinking about a future event or situation that hasn't even happened yet and we choose the worst case scenario to focus on.
What's Happening to Me?
Physiologically, once we start thinking this way for prolonged periods of time, our body goes into a state of stress. It doesn't feel safe and so moves into the primitive 'flight or fight' response for our own protection.
Adrenaline and cortisol are released signalling the body and all of our cells to protect itself. Blood and energy are taken away from the centre of the body and major organs like the stomach and moved to the extremities of our body i.e. our arms and legs. Which makes sense, as we are preparing to either run away or stand and fight our attacker. Not time to waste energy on digesting our food. This is why prolonged stress is the root cause of so many digestive problems.
We basically move into survival mode, a high state of alert. We become very narrow focused on that one thing, that one danger because if it were a wild animal, we would need to know its position at all times. In this state we are therefore unable to view things objectively and so can't see other possibilities and options.
Blood and energy from the front of the brain where we create, plan our future and apply intelligent reasoning, is moved to the more primal, impulsive reptilian brain at the back of our head. This allows us to take quick, impulsive action whilst reducing our intelligence.
You can start to see why it's important to overcome anxiety as quickly as possible so we can bring the body back into balance before all of the above and more, begins to affect us, causing more serious problems. We do this by making the body feel safe again and by becoming aware of the present moment.
5 Tips to Break the Pattern of Thought
If you suffer from mild anxiety you need something that will quickly interrupt your pattern of thought as soon as you notice it. These 5 simple tips may help:
1. The 5 Second Rule
Mel Robbins, author of 'The 5 Second Rule' gives us a quick ‘pattern interrupt’ method which I find works well when you literally wake up feeling anxious but don't know why.
Prepare before you become anxious by thinking of something that really makes you feel happy when you think about it. It could be someone you love unconditionally or a beautiful holiday location, a happy event, anything that makes you feel really good when you think about it.
2. Meditate with Your Eyes Open
This little meditation helps me when I feel worried or anxious about something that, in this moment, I can do nothing about. It brings me back to the present and gives me a sense of space in which I can breathe again.
Start with your eyes closed...
Slow down your breathing and breathe evenly into your abdomen and out again.
Still breathing slowly, in your minds eye, take the thing or scenario you are anxious about and see yourself putting it into a very large box and put the lid on.
Now see the box getting smaller and smaller, then push the box to one side so it’s out of your view.
Take a deep breath in and out as you feel the sense of space you now have around you.
Open your eyes and repeat the mantra ‘in this moment all is well’
As you repeat it, continue to keep your eyes open and begin to focus on your present moment.
Slowly look at your surroundings and softly notice the objects and things around you. Notice colours, textures and shapes.
Gently notice your body. Notice your hands.
Notice what is supporting you, be it the floor, a chair or the bed and become aware of your body resting against it.
Gently observe any sounds around you and allow the sounds to simply be there.
Keep breathing slowly and rhythmically into your abdomen as you gently repeat the mantra ‘In this moment all is well’
3. Time for Tea
Some herbal teas are well known for their calming properties. The best teas for worry, anxiety and nerves are:
Binds to receptors in the brain and the nervous system to induce relaxation.
Packed full of amino acids that increase relaxing alpha brain waves without you feeling drowsy.
The smell and taste of menthol helps to uplift your mood and increase relaxation.
Well known for its relaxing properties, lavender also increases the production of dopamine, the pleasure hormone and reduces the stress hormone.
4. Become Your Own Best Friend
Our negative self talk is the biggest cause of anxiety. When we learn to soothe ourselves as if we were soothing a good friend, we can quickly think ourselves back into a relaxed state. You don’t necessarily need to move to thoughts of happiness, generic statements like the ones below are enough to start to shift things.
'Everything will work out just fine.'
'I’ll be ok.'
'All is well'.
'I am worthy'
'I am safe.'
'I am loved'
5. Balance Both Sides of Your Brain
In the late 1980's an organisation called Brain Gym discovered that if we can get both hemispheres of our brain working in synchronicity with each other, our body can only remain in a stressful state for a few minutes.
Hand, arm and leg movements that cross the centre of the body force both sides of the brain to work together. In doing so, the brain and body move out of stress and become more balanced.
Ideally do this sitting down so you can relax:
Cross your ankles, one over the other.
Cross your wrists one over the other and then interlock your fingers, palms facing each other.
Whilst interlocked, rest your hands on your lap
Focus on breathing slowly into your chest.
Remain in this position until your thoughts feel calmer and your body feels at ease.
I hope you find these tips useful. I've also included below a really useful video by Abraham Hicks on how to move out of a negative cycle of thinking like worry, anxiety or depression.
If there is something you do which snaps you out of your worrying thoughts please share them in the comments below!