Life brings us incredible moments of uplifting joy and happiness, but in an instant, it can knock us over the head and send us crashing down with stress. When we are happy, time flies by and doesn’t consume us, but the weight of anxiety can linger and seem unmanageable. Being calm is a choice, and how we handle situations that test our serenity strengthens our distress receptors.
Stress comes in all different forms, on the daily. Perhaps you have a test at school, a big presentation at work, or your career requires public speaking. (OMG, just the thought of talking to a group of more then ten people gives me a rash!) When you put expectations on yourself, the fear of failure can overtake your body, thus creating chaos in the nervous system.
Other fears and unforeseen life situations can cause anxiety, as well. The good news? We are capable of calming ourselves down. The more you practice, the more you progress. I’ve had quite some practice preparing for surgical procedures — major operations that would put me under anesthesia for over five hours. I had to learn to put my focus on my mind and my body because that was all I had control over. Sending every cell in my being signals of strength and wellness to transport me to success before during and after each surgical journey has proven to be powerful — I am living, breathing evidence of that.
Below I’ve rounded up some daily practices and on-the-fly strategies to help combat anxiety and bring you peace of mind:
Laughter, it is indeed one of the most potent and best medicines. Frowning takes more muscles than smiling, but laughter has been proven to relax muscles by increasing circulation in your body. Throw on an episode of I Love Lucy or download a fave comedian podcast to get the chuckles flowing. Feeling anxious about a specific event? Keep a funny photo of your pet in your pocket to pull out in case you need to laugh.
As a fitness leader, I too use exercise as a way to get the serotonin high. Heart-warming, feel-good chemicals are floating around in our body but sometimes we can’t quite get to them. Lately, I’ve found walking outside to be extremely therapeutic. It’s almost trancelike when I find my pace, and each step becomes more relaxing than the next. Physically speaking, breathing fresh air stimulates your cells, cleanses your lungs and helps your immune system stay well. Mindfully speaking, it’s relaxing to be in nature, revel in the beauty and get into gratitude.
I learned this “where are your feet” mantra when I first got sober over ten years ago, and to this day, I still use it. You can do it anywhere you can put your feet on the ground, even in shoes. Feet flat on the floor (barefoot is even better). Take deep breaths inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth. Feel your feet on the floor and repeat in your mind as you breathe, “I am here, where am I, where are my feet, I am here, where are my feet, they are on the floor.” As you say the words, notice sensations, feel connected and focus on grounding each toe to heel.
For the love of peace of mind, disconnect yourself from the TV, internet, news, social media and all of the electronic thingy-ma-bob-its. For me, this is a huge stress trigger. It’s the gateway to the opposite of calm. You may not even realize what your mind is processing when you’re not paying attention to background chatter. The subconscious brain can latch on to just about anything disruptive and take over your happy place. Detach from the pods, phones and pads to give your soul a fighting chance to reboot, relax and welcome the calm back in.
We can create what we see in our mind, including our moods. Conscious creation is a technique I have used often — most recently, before my implant removal surgery. Every day I wrote about how I wanted each procedure to go down. How I would feel from the moment I entered the hospital, how the doctor was so masterful through the procedure, how effortlessly my body responded. I created a vision for post-surgery, recovering without pain, my home filled with healing energy, being able to move each limb freely with a feeling of strength. This practice can come in handy to prep you before entering any situation that causes you to feel nervous.
photo credit: Aziz Acharki