Taking control when anxiety rules your life

Anxiety is such a powerful thing that even just writing the word has made my stomach lurch

Have you ever been anxious? An interview, a first date, making a presentation at work, going somewhere for the first time, having a difficult conversation or sometimes you might not even know what it is. The reality is that most of us feel anxious at some times in our lives, whether its a one-off event or its an ongoing pattern. Some people get it more than others but we all get it at sometimes in our lives. Its not pleasant and you want it to go away as quickly as possible or at least be able to manage it.

Sometimes you can find that anxiety slowly starts to take control of your life and you then can't remember what is was like not to be anxious. 

"Be yourself, take control of your life" - Emma Bunton

"Be yourself, take control of your life" - Emma Bunton

The good news is that mindfulness or meditation practised regularly can help. What a relief! It helps with part of the problem by quietening the overactive mind. Instead of buying into your fearful thoughts, you can start identifying with the silence that exists between every mental action. You can become more resilient and reduce the severity of the physical and physiological reactions to stress which cause anxiety.

You might think you can't meditate because you are too restless, but being patient and kind to yourself, will get yourself off to a good start. It does take time for it to be effective though (I'm just being honest!). Its good to recognise that just starting will have a positive effect. You're on a journey, rather than a quick fix. The main purpose is to focus in the present moment and enjoy every new experience that this brings. The reduction of anxiety is a pleasant side effect.

The geeky bit

If you're interested in the science bit, here it is, if not you can just skip it. When practised regularly mindfulness and meditation actually changes the brain.  I'm not just saying this. The scientists have done their stuff! Over time, the amygdala, the area responsible for our fight or flight response shrinks and the pre-frontal cortex strengthens, which is responsible for planning, logical thinking, problem solving and emotional regulation. There is even research specifically into how it reduces anxiety, tricky to prove, but fascinating!

 Whether you're someone who occasionally gets anxious when doing something new or it's a regular part of your life, here's a couple of techniques that can work for those situations where you need to be in control of your anxiety immediately. Results may vary depending on the level of your anxiety. You can take control whether using these methods or something else. Taking action is always the first, and yes scariest step. You can do it!

Breathing Techniques

Say to yourself:
“STOP, I‘ve got control of this.”
"I can do anything I want to"
Taking a couple of deep breaths and then repeating silently to yourself “I am breathing in peace, I am breathing out tension“, aiming to make your in breath shorter than your out breath. Repeat for 5-6 breaths.

You can also watch my video of this technique.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Place one hand on the upper chest and the other on the stomach.

As you inhale you should feel your stomach rise, but your chest stays still. Make sure you are breathing fully into your stomach.

Inhale for the count of 7, hold for 4 and breath out for the count of 11.

Repeat for a maximum of 10 breaths, as any longer and it may make you feel a bit dizzy.

Read my blog post Meditation can change your life