Am I free from anxiety and the experience of stress? Of course not! I am, like you, biologically wired to respond to perceived threats so that I will protect myself.
Do I feel more empowered, less stressed and less anxious now than a few years ago? Yes, definitely! I experience less stress and anxiety than in the past and when it is present I am (mostly) fully aware of it and have a very different relationship with it so that I do not enter that downward cycle where anxiety and stress create more anxiety and stress.
So what are my secrets? ( if you want to, skip to the end for my really biggest secret and information about the free program!)
I have been studying psychology since 2004 and have been practicing as a psychologist since 2008. I can re-frame my negative thoughts and I am actually really good at knowing why I am anxious and stressed and, sure that helps a little, but it does not make the major difference.
My own process of therapy that led me to a deeper connection to my body and my inner voice has made a much bigger difference.
My secrets revealed: the tools I always come back to:
1) Tremoring and shaking. I learned about Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) through my sister who was studying to become a practitioner. I experienced the benefits and it became something I can automatically do whenever I feel agitated and stressed. I learned that we hold stress and tension in our bodies and that it accumulates and can even impact how we hold our bodies and the functioning of our bodies. Animals naturally tremor following stressful incidents as it helps them to release the stress and return to baseline. We could learn a great deal from them!
If you cannot work with a TRE practitioner you can use the principle of tremoring by shaking your body gently. I also came across this in the practice of Qi Gong (another daily practice that is so important to keep me balanced). Keeping the balls of your feet connected to the ground, gently bounce and shake your body while keeping the whole body loose. You may well feel a tingly/zingy feeling afterwards and there is a very good chance you will feel more still and relaxed.
2) Breathing. Deep breathing into the belly only happens when we are relaxed so, knowing this, you can trick your body into believing it is relaxed by consciously breathing deeply into the belly. Focus on really releasing with the exhale. Add a few purposeful yawns for good measure as these also trick the body into a relaxation state and release stress.
3) Grounding. Stress builds up in the body as positive ions and this creates further stress and inflammation in the body. The earth provides negative ions. Before we got too smart and started wearing shoes, laying asphalt everywhere and sitting at our desks all day, we naturally connected to the earth and balanced out those positive ions with the negative ions from the ground. Give it a try as a grounding start to your day or when you are feeling stressed. Feel your connection to the earth with bare feet (on any natural materials, including concrete inside) and breathe in through the feet and legs, feeling as if you are deeply rooted into the ground.
4) Meditation. This practice has become a religion for me as meditation helps me to connect to myself and the divine within and all around me. What is the divine? That’s really up to you. For me it is the collective energy that connects everything and gives life. When I slow down and focus through meditation I not only re-wire new pathways that enable me to more easily connect to this relaxed state again but I also step outside of my very busy mind (some times more so than other times) and connect back to my truth and inner wisdom and guidance when all the noise is stripped away.
My Biggest Secret: To use all of these tools I have first had to learn 1) to notice when I am stressed and anxious instead of suppressing/coping/escaping as had become my norm and 2) to embrace the stress and anxiety instead of to push it away and disconnect.
When you read about embracing anxiety notice what happens in your body? That’s a good way to learn what your usual experience of anxiety is. Tension in the jaw or shoulders, a desire to stop reading this and do something else, a feeling of irritation and resistance, a cold-sweat feeling, fluttery feelings in your belly? These are all indications of anxiety. Next time you feel them, acknowledge them and just notice them. Lift the lid on the boiling pot, take a peek inside and watch how the energy of the boiling subsides to a gentle simmer. It’s all just energy after all. When we suppress it, it often grows but when we acknowledge it, it is released.
My REALLY Biggest secret: I had already learned to start sitting with my emotion and it was definitely making a noticeable difference but it was not always easy and I sometimes still resisted it. Then I started working with Juliet Haines and she introduced me to a practice where I could feel held and supported at all times in a way that then enabled me to feel like I was not alone when I was feeling my emotions.
Juliet is offering a 4 week free online program and if you battle with anxiety and stress and would like to learn how to feel more empowered and less anxious about your anxiety and stress (as well as more calm, more confident, more joyful and more connected to your truth) I can highly recommend signing up. Besides using 4 hours in 4 weeks you have got nothing to lose and potentially a whole lot to gain.
If you are keen sign up here within the next 12 hours as it starts tomorrow!
Also, watch your inbox for information on a free self-nurture challenge that I am creating. I know that times are tough and, for many, there is very little time for self-care but this is when self-care is the most important for you and your ability to care for others.
Self-care is a choice that only you can make.