You may think that talking about techniques to combat anxiety is a bit off topic for a blog mostly about frugality and sustainability. However, as a British Wheel of Yoga teacher, I feel qualified to give some advice. Plus, at a time when the world is in a state of high stress, I wanted to offer something readers might find helpful.
These three techniques to combat anxiety are so simple, anyone can do them anywhere. Why not get the whole family involved?
The breath is key
You have probably noticed that your breathing changes when you are anxious. It may become faster and at the same time more shallow. This is part of the well-known ‘fight or flight‘ reaction to a perceived danger. More rapid breathing allows more blood to flow around the body as you prepare to flee.
However, this pandemic isn’t something we can run away from (although most of us can hide and be safe indoors!). Repeated shallow breathing can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and even panic attacks.
If you find yourself waking in the night with anxiety gnawing at you, if you are getting frequent stress headaches or just feel generally worried, I hope these simple breathing techniques will offer some relief.
You can do each on its own or as a sequence.
Three simple techniques to combat anxiety
1# Moving with the breath
This has several effects. When you coordinate your movements with your breath, it is easy to focus your mind on your breathing, which will sooth the anxious chatter in your head. It also allows for deep breathing, as opposed to the shallow breaths you typically take when anxious.
Stand up tall with a long spine. Imagine an invisible cord pulling your spine gently toward the ceiling, whilst keeping your shoulders relaxed.
Focus on a point on the wall in front of you. This will help you to balance. Breathe out, then have a long, slow breath in whilst lifting your arms out to the sides of your body and up towards the ceiling. Do this slowly.
Hold the breath in for a few seconds, then breathe slowly out. Allow a pause for a couple of seconds and then repeat up to 10 times.
If your balance is good, try coming up and down on your toes as you lift the arms and breathe. Conversely, if you have poor balance or mobility issues, this can be done seated. Try to sit upright on a straight backed chair rather than an armchair and focus on creating a good posture.
2# Simple breath control
This is another super simple technique. Start by doing 10 rounds, repeating throughout the day if you start to feel your worries becoming overwhelming.
This particular technique is a good way for a beginner to start meditating, which is brilliant for overcoming anxiety and depression. You can work up to five minutes and beyond if you find it helpful.
Sit in a comfortable, straight-backed chair, or sit cross-legged or kneeling on the floor if you find it comfortable. Close your eyes. Allow your breath to settle into a regular rhythm. Imagine breathing into your belly first and then into your chest.
Start to notice the length of each breath in and each breath out. When you are ready begin a slow count of 4 as you breath in and a slow count of 4 as you breath out.
Notice the natural pause at the top of the in breath and the end of the out breath. You will notice that this naturally extends as you relax into the breathing.
Repeat for at least 10 breaths.
3# Counting the breath
As you count your breaths during this technique, try to focus your attention totally on the task. Each time your mind wanders, be aware and gently bring it back to the count.
This is another technique that can easily become a meditation in itself.
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine long and your shoulders relaxed.
Allow your breath to find its own pattern. Don’t try to control it, just keep your awareness on each inhalation and exhalation.
Now introduce a count. Inhale and mentally count ‘one’, then breathe out and count ‘one’. Breath in again to a mental count of ‘two’, and out again, counting ‘two’. Inhale again to to a mental count of 3, and so on until you complete ten breaths.
Keep your eyes closed and gently bring your attention back to the room. Notice how you feel now.
Using this technique to meditate
I suggest starting by doing just ten breaths. However, you can repeat as many times as you like. When I am using this as a meditation technique I usually set the timer on my phone for about 15 minutes. Proficient meditators can focus on their breath in this way for half an hour or longer.
I hope you find these three simple techniques to combat anxiety helpful in these troubled times. Just a few minutes a day will make a huge difference to your mental well-being.
If you are interested in meditation, I talked about the best free meditation apps in this post. There is information on great yoga books here and a simple yoga routine here. You might also enjoy this post, Eight easy ways to relieve stress.