Activities to Help with Anxiety
Finding a way to relax can be a breakthrough in your journey with anxiety, true relaxation marks the body’s ability to regulate the stress hormones properly. Hormone regulation is affected by many other factors than just mental or emotional stress. The body comes well equipped to deal with danger (or stress if you will). In an instance of danger, the central nervous system (CNS) kicks into gear, releasing a hormone cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol. In an actual danger situation, such as the proverbial pulling a car off of a small child or preventing someone from walking in front of a car, the hormones serve their necessary purpose of heightening our responses, and are used up by doing so.
Lower level stress causes a similar release or adrenaline and cortisol, but often without the accompanying ability to release the stress. Think, for instance, when you actually got to slap the rude commenter in the grocery store or take a baseball bat to the headlight of the car that cut you off in traffic (not that you would want to do those things or anything!). This lower level stress reaction is a completely unconscious one, and one that can cause problems if we don’t have an outlet to deal with it. The presence of stress hormones in the body initiates the “fight or flight” response, causing muscles to tense in preparation of exertion, breathing and heart rate to increase, and non-essential functions to cease.
That whole “non-essential functions to cease” part is the most worrisome in non-life threatening situations. In a real life or death situation, we would be glad that we didn’t need to take a potty break, stop to grab a bite or go into labor (should we be pregnant at the time). The interruption in digestion, excretion, immune function and hormones is not beneficial when this stress is low level and prolonged, as it can cause serious issues with other hormones and bodily functions.
In modern life, many people are also either not exercising enough or over exercising, and both increase stress. Physical exertion (heavy lifting and really fast movement) help use up stress hormones in the body, but extreme exertion tells the body that the stress is still present. Our poor adrenals try to keep up with the constant fluctuations in stress hormones, but eventually, even these super glands get tired. Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety, adrenal fatigue (a cause of infertility) and many stress related conditions.
Sit with your legs uncrossed, good posture, and place your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply through your nose into your abdomen for a long count of five seconds (your chest should move only a little). Hold for a long count of two seconds, then breathe out slowly through your mouth for a long count of five. Repeat for 10 to 15 cycles. Stop briefly if you feel light-headed.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Loosen any tight clothing, sit or lie comfortably, and close your eyes. Tense different muscles of your body as much as you can for at least a count of 10 (never so tight or long that it hurts!). Then, slowly release the tension and allow the muscle to relax. Let that feeling of relaxation flow through your body. Start at your feet and move up.
Sit comfortably in a quiet spot. Close your eyes if you like. Breathe in through your nose. As you exhale, say the word ‘One’ silently to yourself. You might like to focus on the sound you make exhaling (like the Sanskrit word ‘Om’). Or, if your eyes are open, focus on an object, exploring its colours and textures. Spend at least 10 minutes meditating, but stay focused.