April isn’t only the start of springtime here, it’s also Stress Awareness Month so I thought I'd share a couple of techniques I recommend to help bring thoughts into check when anxiety or stress strike.
I can remember the first time I used both these techniques; how impactful they were and I still use them to this day.
We’ve all read in the media how meditation helps bring you into a more relaxed, self-aware state and how over time with as little as 10 minutes a day you can help control stress levels, reduce anxiety, improve cardiovascular health and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation.
Having a daily meditation practise is hugely beneficial for your wellbeing and can easily become a non-negotiable part of your day; just like brushing your teeth. When people tell me they can’t find 10 minutes a day for meditation, I know this is exactly the reason they need to - life can be calmer if you take care of your mind and meditation is the perfect first step.
However, experiencing intense moments of stress & anxiety calls for quick, calming techniques we can use in-the-moment for bringing our thoughts back into check and I want to share two of my favourites with you.
One for when anxiety hits and you need an instant calm; the other for when your brain is going wild with everything you need to do when you’re desperately trying to get to sleep.
5 to 1 Grounding Method.
When anxiety hits and you need a fast way to bring your mind back to centre, this technique is brilliant and immediate.
Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth for a couple of rounds.
Slowly look around you and find:
- 5 things you can see.
- 4 things you can touch - this could be a watch or piece of jewellery you’re wearing, your feet in your shoes, the seat beneath you.
- 3 things you can hear - pause and notice what’s going on. It may be passing traffic, people talking, birds, the wind.
- 2 things you can smell - can you smell someone’s perfume in the air? Or perhaps someone’s cup of coffee?
- 1 thing you can taste - this can be as simple as noticing your own mouth.
This 5 to 1 method is a lovely way to bring yourself back to centre when anxiety takes over and is totally discreet from anyone around you.
The Stream Method.
It can sometimes feel that night time is when our exhausted mind chooses to come to life and all the things you were distracted from in the day rise to the surface and demand your attention when what you really need is a good nights sleep.
This method helps to alleviate these thoughts and let them go until morning when you can gather the important ones back up and let the trivial, unimportant ones go.
To begin, close your eyes and breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Repeat for a few cycles.
Keeping your eyes closed scan from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, noticing all the parts of your body on the way down. Notice how you can relax your forehead, your eyelids, your mouth and your jaw. Breathe deeply and release your shoulders, arms, hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet.
Now your body is relaxed and your breathing is slow and steady, imagine yourself walking in the countryside on a beautiful, bright autumn day. You can feel the sun on your face and it’s a peaceful, calm place.
You may hear soft birdsong as you wander and you can hear the sound of running water. Before long you come across a stream trickling by and you decide to sit down. Feel the grass between your fingers, the sun on your face and how the ground feels beneath you and notice how the water is steadily flowing by.
Leaves have started to drop to the ground, you gather a few and one by one you take an interrupting thought and put it onto a leaf. Then you drop the leaf on the water, where the stream gently sweeps it away.
Somewhere downstream you see there’s a patch of long grass where any important leaves will gather for tomorrow and you know they won’t be forgotten, but any thoughts that aren’t good for you to keep will be swept away out of sight.
Do this for all the thoughts that interrupt your peaceful mind knowing the important thoughts will be there tomorrow and the unimportant ones have disappeared.
This exercise is lovely for late night busy minds. We can’t necessarily do anything about these thoughts or tasks and we don’t want to engage the brain into thinking about them. This method takes them out the mind so we’re not churning over possibilities when there’s nothing constructive to be done at that time. Just relax into the visualisation and enjoy the calm surroundings you imagine.
If leaves and streams don’t resonate with you, you can visualise clouds being blown across the sky instead - whichever feels more relaxing to you.
I hope these two exercises help calm your mind and serve you well. Are there ways you can start to reduce stress and anxiety in your life this month?
Let me know how you get on with these methods in the comments or over on my social channels and as always, feel free to share this article with your favourite people.
Until next time, Victoria.