Anxiety and Stress. It affects us all. Some of us just a tiny bit before we regain control and continue on our merry way. For others it is debilitating. Whatever is causing the anxiety, panic attacks and stress, it seems there is nothing you can do but fall into a dark pit within yourself.
There are those of us who are overwhelmed with the prospects in life. My kryptonite is the question I ask and stress out over every day. Which one of these 20 different things should I conquer so that I can bring in the happiness (with work) that I crave? I feel like there are so many things that I could do. That I know I could do. We are all very talented and can have success if we find that passion and pursue it with all we’ve got. Easier said than done for some of us.
Next on my list is this overwhelming neat freak that likes to rear its head. I feel like I can’t be creative, organized in my head or focused unless my work space is spotless, and newsflash! Nothing is ever completely organized all of the time. Unless of course you have a personal assistant / maid / fairy following you around at all hours. Even still, you’d find something to nit-pick.
Again something that will always have room for nit-picking, the state of the world. Between politics and the environment, I can’t even function some days. I am dumbfounded at the stupidity and lack of compassion.
And finally is the fear of failure. Feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and lack of intelligence comes pouring down like needles. The fear that someone is going to find holes and things that are wrong in this very article that I am writing right now.
I feel like all of these things are all tearing my attention in a million different directions and hammering self-doubt as they pull and tear. Along with this, in the dark corners of my psyche, I have a feeling of being torn. This is what anxiety feels like to me. I can’t seem to focus, I suddenly just completely forget how to breathe, and a tidal wave of remembered mistakes come crashing down from the oceans of my mind. I am guessing that I am not alone.
To overcome this anxiety within myself, I am about to embark on a journey of discovery. I can do this. I want to heal my soul and calm my mind. I know what to do, and I know how to at least try to get myself on the road to mental well-being.
In yoga the Root Chakra is your root. Located at the base of the spine, it connects you to yourself and to the earth. Survival, Grounding and Stability are all side effects of a healthy root chakra or Muladhara (pronounced Moolah da hara). In order to heal your Muladhara there are a variety of techniques to try. The following are a list of things I do as I work on getting myself grounded, out of my head and anxiety free.
1. Pranayama (Breathing)
You’re having an anxiety attack because you forgot to exhale. I recently read an article explaining just this. We tend to take short labored breaths when we are stressed or having an anxiety attack. We need to exhale completely in order to take in a deep breath. Start by pretending you are gently blowing out birthday candles. Blow all of the air out. Next, take a slow deep inhale through your nose. Do this a few times until you feel calm.
A really simple breathing technique is Balanced Breathing or Sama Vritti. You can sit up cross-legged with a long spine with palms on your knees or you can lay down with your limbs stretched out. Begin by breathing in for a count of four, hold the breath at the top of the inhale for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this for a few breaths and increase your count gradually up to eight. Stay focused on your breathing and nothing else.
Another of my favorite calming breathing techniques is the Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing. We don’t breathe equally with both nostrils. It alternates between them throughout the day and so your left and right brain don’t always get equal oxygen. Nadi Shodhana is scientifically proven to improve brain function by balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It soothes anxiety, stress and promotes clear thinking. You can read about this technique HERE along with a couple of others.
Yoga in general is key to help calm anxiety and stress. Moving the body, instead of retreating to your dark place, is helpful in getting your blood moving. This in turn gets your endorphins going. Just going through a few sun salutations can help a great deal. Here is a link to Gaiam where Rodney Yee (who is one of my favorite yogis) and Colleen Saidman show you how to do a Sun Salutation Sequence
Furthermore, poses like Tree, Eagle, Warrior I, Childs Pose, legs up the wall, Fish and head stand (against a wall is acceptable) are all great poses to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Poses that have you using strong legs or poses where you can hold them for a longer time are all great for this ailment. Pigeon is great for holding and feels fantastic. There are many articles online with lists of poses that help with anxiety. I really like this article by Quentin Vennie over on the Mind Body Green site.
I incorporate a plethora of poses into my own routine but also follow others from time to time. Leslie Fightmaster is one of my go-to yoga teachers on youtube. Her classes are not only free (donations are welcome!) but she has a soothing voice and a multitude of classes for beginner and advanced alike. Here is a video of Leslie teaching a stress and depression class that I like.
3. Color and Light Therapy
With this therapy there are many ways to get light and colors into your life. For light therapy, go outside! Breathe the fresh air and soak in the sunshine. If this is impossible for you because you work in an office all day or live in the northwest, get a light box for seasonal disorder. I have an aunt who uses one and it has done wonders for her. With color, you can wear clothes in healing colors, hang tapestries and paintings or even paint your walls.
Blue – harmony, reduce tension, tranquil, peaceful, cooling and calm
Violet – Inner balance, strength, peace and wisdom. inner peace relieving stress i
internally and externally
Pink – Peace, soothe and balancing energy
Green – Symbolizes nature, soothing, restful and quiet, invites harmonious feelings
White – Clarity, freshness.
For me, meditation is simple and helps immensely. Which is pretty amazing considering my mind overwhelms me so much of the time. It took some time but I learned to turn off the chatter.
Here is an easy technique. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, empty your mind. If you have trouble letting the thoughts go, try imagining them as cars driving by. See them coming, but see them passing you by as you let them go and focus again on being centered and silent.
Mala beads (or beads of your spiritual choice) are a great meditation tool. I like to chant or recite a mantra while I sit with my mala beads. For each bead, you can say a simple uplifting statement (I am strong and grounded) , A prayer associated with your spirituality, a simple mantra (Lam), or a longer mantra like this one called:
Om bhur bhuvah suvah
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat
Om bhoor boo-vah-ha soo-vah-ha
Tut sah-vee-toor vah-rain-yum
Bar-go day-vass-yuh dee-ma-hee
Dee-yo yo na-ha prah-cho-die-yot
Meaning: (Many different translations but something along these lines)
O Divine Mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us.
5. Essential Oils
Essential oils are excellent for treating anxiety and stress. There are many ways to treat yourself (treat yo’ self!) including using an aromatherapy diffuser, mixing some into your favorite carrier oil and massaging into your skin, taking a warm bath with a few drops or even just inhaling a few drops rubbed into your hands.
Here are a few of my favorite scents to ease anxiety.
Sweet Orange – Uplifting
Bergamot – Fresh, uplifting and balancing
Lavender – Relaxing
Clary Sage – Has an antidepressant-like effect
6. Living your Life in Peace, Love and Harmony
Within the teachings of yoga we are taught to be kind to ourselves as well as to others. Practicing the following will set you on the road to loving yourself and others.
Non Violence – Toward yourself or others
Truthfulness – With yourself and with others
Non Stealing – Time, material things
Non Cheating – On yourself or others
Non Greed – Neutralize the desire to acquire and hoard.
Cleanliness – Clean inside and out. Feeding yourself healthy foods and grooming often.
Contentment – Being content with what you have
Disciplined use of Energy – using your energy productively and in a positive way
Self Study – Never stop learning new things. Constant Evolving
Celebration of the Divine – Celebrating your spiritual side. Transcending the ego. Meditation and or Prayer to whatever entity you’d like. (From Buddha, God, Mother Earth, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster!)
Whether you decide to try the therapies above or not, just don’t give up. There is ALWAYS help. From therapists to suicide prevention lines There is always something you can do to change your mind and grab life by the reigns!
Love and Light to you all!